May 26, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON "NANOTECHNOLOGY: FROM LABORATORIES TO COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS"

On May 20th, the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing entitled “Nanotechnology for the 21st Century” to examine the current state of nanotechnology research and development (R&D) as well as future opportunities and challenges. In addition, the hearing participants discussed policy issues surrounding nanotechnology applications and activities, federal funding levels for nanotechnology R&D, and key legislative initiatives including the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

At the request of Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study and released a report entitled “Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health” earlier this year (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-181SP). That report examined current issues related to nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing and identified various concerns, including:

  • The valley of death – gaps in funding or support for technology development andmanufacturing development;
  • The lack of participation in setting standards for nanomanufacturing and nanotechnology;
  • The lack of national vision for nanomanufacturing capability; and,
  • The need for integrated framework to help assess and address the environmental, health and safety implications.

The report also discussed the need for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) to increase public awareness about the benefits and risks of nanomanufacturing.

The first witness, Timothy Persons, Chief Scientist for the GAO, discussed the need for a national nanomanufacturing strategy, consistent federal research funding, and public-private partnerships to advance the technology.  The second witness, Dr. Lloyd Whitman, Interim Director for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, described the same needs if the U.S. wishes to remain a global leader in nanotechnology.

To read the witnesses’ prepared testimony, as well as to view an archived webcast of the hearing, go to http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-technology-nanotechnology-laboratories-commercial-products

 

SECRETARY MONIZ ANNOUNCES MEMBERS TO NEW COMMISSION ON NATIONAL LABS

Last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, a congressionally-mandated committee that will evaluate the effectiveness of the Energy Department's 17 national laboratories. The Commission is being established pursuant to the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

The Commission will be co-chaired by Jared Cohon, President Emeritus and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and T.J. Glauthier, President, TJG Energy Associates, LLC. This independent Commission will examine if the priorities of the labs are in line with the broader strategic priorities of the Energy Department. The Commission will conduct a two-part study and present the first phase of its study by February 1, 2015.

In addition to the co-chairs, the Commission includes:

  • Norman Augustine, Chairman of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, NASA and Former Chairman, Lockheed Martin
  • Wanda Austin, President and CEO, The Aerospace Corporation
  • Charles Elachi, Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA
  • Paul Fleury, Frederick W. Beinecke Professor of Engineering and Applied Physics, Yale University
  • Susan Hockfield, Professor of Neuroscience and President Emerita, MIT
  • Richard Meserve, President, Carnegie Institution for Science and Chair of the Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB)
  • Cherry Murray, Dean, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)

 

NEW DATA ON SCIENCE EDUCATION IN THE STATES

The newly updated, online, interactive state data tool allows policymakers, educators and other users to discern trends in education, science and research in each of the 50 states. This free resource supplements the state data in the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators report, a wide-ranging source of information and analysis of the nation's position in science and engineering education and research. The biennial report is published by the National Science Board, the policy making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The tool features 59 state indicators of state performance in education, the scientific workforce, research and development (R&D) investments and activities, and high-tech business. It offers tables, charts and graphs, and permits users to view and customize data in multiple ways, such as making comparisons with other states, looking at 20 year trends, and translating financial information from current into constant dollars. The tool is a valuable resource for educators and state policymakers in understanding their state's educational landscape and for corporations and economic development officials interested in a state's workforce or technology-based business potential.

The state data tool includes indicators on:

  • Elementary and secondary education - achievement and expenditures;
  • Higher education - degrees, spending, and costs;
  • Workforce - higher education credentials and science and engineering workers;
  • Financial R&D inputs - levels of R&D activities and public support;
  • R&D outputs - new doctorates and research activities; and,
  • Science and technology in the economy - business activities and capital investments.

For most indicators, the states vary widely. For example:

  • The number of science and engineering bachelor's degrees awarded in a state ranges from 9 (Alaska) to 39 (Vermont) per 1,000 individuals age 18-24.
  • The share of a state's workforce employed in science and engineering occupations ranged from 2.2 percent (Mississippi) to 7.6 percent (Virginia).
  • The amount of R&D performed, as a share of a state's gross domestic product (GDP), ranged from 0.3 percent (Wyoming) to 8 percent (New Mexico).

The state data tool (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/state-data) is produced by NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. It supplements the latest edition of Science and Engineering Indicators (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/), a 600-page volume that is the most comprehensive federal information and analysis of the nation's position in science and engineering education and research. The Indicators report was released in February 2014.

 

NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REPORT MISSING KEY ASSESSMENTS

A recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) report to congressional defense committees describes, but does not assess, the role of the nuclear security complex sites. The act required that NNSA's report include an assessment of the role of the nuclear security complex sites in supporting a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent; reductions in the nuclear stockpile; and the nuclear nonproliferation efforts of the nation, which GAO refers to in this report as key NNSA activities. NNSA's report does not include such an assessment.

The report describes activities such as certifying annually that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable. NNSA officials told GAO that a prior 2008 report that assessed the role of the nuclear security complex is still valid and the act did not require an update. GAO notes, however, that NNSA's report to Congress does not cite the 2008 report as support for its assessment and provides no other information that would constitute an assessment.

NNSA's report to congressional defense committees identified seven opportunities for efficiency, but it did not, as required by the act, provide an assessment of how these efficiencies could contribute to cost savings or strengthening safety and security. For example, NNSA's report cites the establishment of two new offices, the Office of Acquisition and Project Management in 2011 and the Office of Infrastructure and Operations in 2013, as efficiency opportunities but does not provide an assessment of how these offices have contributed or will contribute to cost savings or improved safety and security. In addition, some efficiency opportunities noted in NNSA's report, such as the capabilities provided by the new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, involve projects or strategies that GAO has previously reported face challenges, which, if not addressed, may impact NNSA's ability both to achieve cost savings and strengthen safety and security.

GAO has recommended that, when reporting on efficiencies and cost savings in the future, NNSA establish a methodology for estimating the savings derived from potential efficiencies and track savings resulting from efforts. NNSA disagreed, stating that the act did not require, as GAO recommends, that efficiencies be linked to cost savings. GAO believes its recommendation remains valid.

To read the 25-page analysis, go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-434, and click on the View Report link.

 

SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING ON "A REVIEW OF THE PIPELINE SAFETY, REGULATORY CERTAINTY, AND JOB CREATION ACT OF 2011"

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials convened on May 20 to receive testimony related to the pipeline safety program of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). PHMSA's pipeline safety program is currently authorized by the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, which will expire on September 30, 2015. The Subcommittee received testimony from PHMSA, the Association of Oil Pipelines (AOPL), the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), the American Gas Association (AGA), and the Pipeline Safety Trust on PHMSA's progress in implementing the 2011 Act.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 made several reforms and established new requirements for pipeline transportation. The Committee explored PHMSA's progress in implementing the reforms, requirements, and programs established under the law, which included topics relating to pipeline integrity management systems, leak detection, auto and remote-controlled shut off valves and a number of other safety regulatory reform issues. 

Cynthia Quarterman, the Administrator of PHMSA, addressed the Pipeline Safety Reform (PSR) initiative, which includes 26 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations.  She also discussed the important pipeline safety successes of the past year.  Mr. Donald Santa, President and CEO of INGAA, talked about the need for regulatory certainty and the need for early reauthorization of the necessary legislation.

For additional information, including the witnesses' prepared statements and archived webcast of the hearing, visit: http://transport.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=379545

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES SECOND-EVER SELECTUSA INVESTMENT SUMMIT

The Obama Administration also announced on May 20th that the second-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit  (http://selectusa.commerce.gov/selectusa-investment-summit) will take place March 23-24, 2015, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. The SelectUSA 2015 Investment Summit will connect businesses and investors from around the world with U.S. economic development organizations at the state, regional, and local levels. Participants will benefit from unique networking opportunities; one-on-one meetings; moderated panels; and, discussions on the latest information on business investment.

Along with the White House, the U.S. Commerce Department today also released a new report highlighting progress on the SelectUSA program and the growing attractiveness of the U.S. investment climate.

A fact sheet on today's announcement is available here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/20/fact-sheet-report-white-house-roundtable-investing-america

To view the economic report on investment in the United States, please visit:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/winning_business_investment_in_the_united_states.pdf

More information about the 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit can be found at:
http://selectusa.commerce.gov/selectusa-investment-summit

 

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

 

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org