March 25, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


NNMI DISCUSSED AT NIST FY17 BUDGET HEARING

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing on “An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the National Institute of Standards and Technology for Fiscal Year 2017.” Top among discussion was the role the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) plays in advancing American manufacturing and its importance at NIST. While Republicans and Democrats both agree that it is important to invest in advanced manufacturing, there were differing opinions as to from where those investments should come.

Subcommittee Chair Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) opened the hearing with a brief overview of NIST’s responsibilities and the $1 billion NIST Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request, a $5.5 million increase from what was appropriated in FY2016. While Subcommittee Chair Comstock praised NNMI for its accomplishments and future promise, she also indicated concern with the Administration’s request to increase funding for NNMI by 88 percent from FY16 to FY17, as laid out in the President’s Budget Request.

Full-Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) also expressed concern with the NIST FY17 budget request, stating that the Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation (RAMI) Act had already authorized $250 million in funding to be transferred from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) account to NIST for NNMI activates and recommended that future NNMI funding should first come from DOE’s EERE account, as authorized in RAMI, before more funding is appropriated to NIST.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT) firmly offered her support for the Administration’s budget request to further fund NNMI through NIST, noting NIST’s unique ability to hold open topic competitions for manufacturing institutes. Since unlike other agencies that fund NNMI institutes (i.e. DOE and DOD), NIST is the only agency not dedicated to a specific mission, allowing for a broad range of manufacturing advancements. Ranking Member Etsy also touched on the important role NIST plays in expanding advanced manufacturing and technology transfer activities in the United States, expressing her support of the Administration’s budget request to increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), in addition to NNMI.

For more information on the hearing, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS NASA BUDGET CHALLENGES

Members of Congress questioned NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a Space Subcommittee hearing titled “An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for Fiscal Year 2017,” held on March 17, 2016.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) set the tone of the hearing in his opening remarks, saying “Unfortunately, this administration has once again done a disservice to NASA, its employees, and our nation by providing a budget request that ignores the budget agreement, requesting mandatory funding for NASA. I had hoped that the administration would demonstrate leadership by proposing a realistic budget, but instead we were presented with a list of unfunded priorities.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “This $19 billion budget request is a strong endorsement by the President of the important role that NASA plays in advancing America’s R&D enterprise, and I appreciate his willingness to attach a high priority to NASA in this, his last Federal budget request. That is not to say that it is a perfect NASA budget request or that I agree with all elements of it.  But it is a good starting point for Congress’s deliberations. Because that is what our focus should be today—what do we want NASA to accomplish and what are we willing to invest in NASA so that it can achieve those objectives.”

The administration’s proposal does not adhere to the budget caps agreed to in the Budget Control Act. Therefore, to fully fund the request, significant tax increases would be needed, in addition to dramatic cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, student loan programs and veterans benefits. All of which have slim chances of passage in the current environment. 

The proposal also suggests cuts to key exploration programs similar to previous years’ budgets. NASA’s FY17 proposal would strip $987 million from the Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule, which are being developed for deep space destinations such as Mars. The budget also recommends cuts to Planetary Science of $240 million, while continuing to disproportionately grow Earth Science budgets at a rate of 70 percent since 2008.

For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, visit https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/space-subcommittee-hearing-overview-budget-proposal-national-aeronautics-and


JOHN KING, JR., CHAMPION OF BROADENING PARTICIPATION IN STEM, CONFIRMED AS EDUCATION SECRETARY

The Senate confirmed John King, Jr. as Education Secretary on March 14, 2016 by a vote of 49 to 40, promoting the former teacher and New York Education Commissioner from Acting Secretary to Cabinet official. King will be responsible for implementation of the newly minted K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Implementing and regulating the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be King’s primary responsibility as Secretary. During the confirmation process, most of the questions Senators asked revolved around various aspects of the law’s implementation. Several sections of ESSA aim to strengthen K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Although the Senators focused on matters other than STEM education as well, King will nonetheless oversee some of the largest sources of federal funding for STEM education at the nation’s K-12 public schools.

In particular, as the cabinet-level official responsible for carrying out ESSA, King will be in charge of two major programs of federal grants to the states: one for teacher training and preparation (ESSA’s Title IIA) and another for school improvement and well-rounded educational opportunities for students (ESSA’s Title IV). Altogether, the two grant programs are authorized in ESSA at a level of $4.7 billion annually, although that amount is likely the high end of what Congress will actually choose to appropriate each year. States have flexibility under the law to apply the grant funding to a number of areas, among them improving access to, and the quality of, STEM education, as well as the creation of STEM-focused specialty schools.

ESSA also establishes a new STEM Master Teacher Corps, “a state-led effort to elevate the status of the STEM teaching profession by recognizing, rewarding, attracting, and retaining outstanding STEM teachers, particularly in high-need and rural schools.” The President requested $10 million for the STEM Master Teacher Corps in his fiscal FY2017 budget request, and King will oversee the formation of this small but significant new program.

For additional information, go to http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/king.html?src=hp


FACT SHEET: SPURRING AFRICAN-AMERICAN STEM DEGREE COMPLETION RELEASED

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a fact sheet entitled “Spurring African-American Stem Degree Completion.” The fact sheet focuses on the role that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played in meeting the STEM challenge, as engines of economic growth and ladders of advancement for generations of African Americans.

For more than a century, HBCUs have been leaders in educating African-American college graduates who excel in their fields. A recent report from the National Science Foundation revealed that 21 of the top 50 institutions that educate African-American graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in science and engineering, are HBCUs.

The contributions of HBCUs do not stop there:

  • Even though our nation’s HBCUs make up just 3 percent of colleges and universities, they produce 27 percent of African-American students with bachelor's degrees in STEM fields.
  • In 2011, HBCUs conferred one-fourth of the bachelor’s degrees in education awarded to African-Americans.
  • Xavier University, an HBCU, awards more undergraduate degrees in the biological and physical sciences to African-American students than any other university in the nation.

HBCUs have implemented proven practices to assist students in STEM fields to obtain rich professional experiences, research opportunities, and mentorships; navigate through courses and financial challenges; and drive students to post-baccalaureate success.

African-American and Latino college enrollment is up by more than a million students since 2008. While these institutions have made considerable progress, there is more to be done. Students of color still have low degree completion rates and low representation in STEM fields, where needs for professionals and technical personnel are growing tremendously. African-American students, like their Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian counterparts, are underrepresented in STEM programs and courses of study compared to their overall college enrollment rate. African-Americans received just 7.6 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees and 4.5 percent of doctorates in STEM.

The complete fact sheet may be read at: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-spurring-african-american-stem-degree-completion


NASA SELECTS AMERICAN SMALL BUSINESS, RESEARCH INSTITUTION PROJECTS FOR CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected 137 research and technology proposals from 117 American small businesses and research institutions that will further enable NASA’s future missions into deep space, while also benefiting the U.S. economy right here on Earth. Proposals were selected according to their technical merit and feasibility, in addition to the experience, qualifications and facilities of the submitting business. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential.

The agency received 323 proposals in response to its 2015 solicitation for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. From those, NASA selected 134 SBIR Phase II general proposals, with a total value of approximately $100.5 million, and three Phase II select proposals, valued at approximately $3.8 million, for contract negotiations under Phase II of the SBIR program.

Selected proposals from these small businesses will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology. A sampling of proposals demonstrates the breadth of research and development these awards will fund:

  • Software for single-operator, multiple unmanned aircraft systems missions that could assist NASA and the commercial space industry in managing multiple rover and spacecraft missions.
  • The ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) process will directly print parts in one machine at one time, eliminating part movements from process to process and vendor to vendor. UAM offers the potential for lower-cost, more reliable systems over other 3-D printing techniques such as laser-based systems. 
  • Development and commercialization of environmentally robust frequency combs that will enable the search for exoplanets. An optical frequency comb is a tool for precise measurement of color across the light spectrum.
  • Sensors for real-time cryogenic pipes monitoring that could be used not only for space launch facilities, but also for chemical refineries and production plants.

For additional information, go to http://sbir.nasa.gov/solicit-detail/54564


IEA REPORT: DECOUPLING OF GLOBAL EMISSIONS AND ECONOMIC GROWTH CONFIRMED

A recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) has confirmed that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) – the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions – stayed flat for the second year in a row, according to analysis of preliminary data for 2015.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1 billion tons in 2015, having remained essentially flat since 2013. The IEA preliminary data suggest that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role, having accounted for around 90 percent of new electricity generation in 2015. In fact, wind alone produced more than half of new electricity generation. In parallel, the global economy continued to grow by more than three percent, offering further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.

In the more than 40 years in which the IEA has been providing information on CO2 emissions, there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness. But the recent stall in emissions comes amid economic expansion: according to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP grew by 3.4 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in 2015.

The two largest emitters, China and the United States, both registered a decline in energy-related CO2 in 2015. In China, emissions declined by 1.5 percent, as coal use dropped for the second year in a row. The economic restructuring towards less energy-intensive industries and the government’s efforts to decarbonise electricity generation pushed coal use down. In 2015, coal generated less than 70 percent of Chinese electricity, ten percentage points less than four years ago (in 2011). Over the same period low-carbon sources jumped from 19 percent to 28 percent, with hydro and wind accounting for most of the increase. In the United States, emissions declined by two percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.

To download annual energy-related CO2 emissions data, visit:  http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/

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