November 2, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan recently informed the White House National Space Council that the Department of Defense (DOD) is “moving out” on plans to create a Space Force. The concept of a U.S. Department of the Space Force was initially floated by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) as an entity within the Air Force. In the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress specifically directs DOD to conduct on study on the prospect.

Vice President Pence, who is also chair of the National Space Council, released the final report over the summer. The findings of the study include an extensive list of supportive actions the Trump administration proposed to bolster the space force. These actions include: creating a unified combatant command, U.S. Space Command; creating a Space Operations Force to support the U.S. Space Command; creating a joint Space Development Agency to ensure the Space Force has cutting-edge warfighting capabilities; and creating a new civilian position at DOD, an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, reporting to the Secretary of Defense, with responsibility and accountability for standing up and scaling up the U.S. Department of the Space Force.

While the Administration cannot order the creation of a new military department without congressional authorization, Deputy Secretary Shanahan explained that there is a legislative proposal in the works that will be submitted to Congress as part of the FY2020 budget process. The proposal contains six recommendations that have been approved by the Space Council. Those recommendations are:

  • Forming a United States Space Command to control our space forces and develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures for military space operations.
  • Establishing the Space Force as a separate and distinct branch of the military whose mission will be to organize, train, and equip combat space forces.
  • Calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a Space Force and provide funding for the United States Space Command.
  • Launching a joint review by the National Space Council and National Security Council of existing space operational authorities for meeting national security objectives, informed by DOD’s assessment of the authorities required.
  • Creating a Space Development Agency to ensure Americans in the Space Force have cutting-edge warfighting capabilities.
  • Creating collaborative mechanisms with the Intelligence Community to improve unity of efforts for the development of space capabilities and operations.

Before it is submitted to congress, the proposal will go to the President for final approval.


The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently approved a plan for oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. This would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off the coast of Alaska.

“American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security. Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement.

BOEM’s approval is not a guarantee for the project, the drilling company must still obtain several other permits, and heed federal standards such as restricted drilling into the hydrocarbon-bearing zone, which may occur only during times of solid ice conditions; seasonal restrictions on activities and vessel traffic to reduce potential disturbance to Cross Island subsistence whaling activities; and obtaining all required permits from other state and federal agencies.

Unlike offshore drilling projects in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, this new project would involve creating an artificial island roughly five miles off the coast to host the drilling rather than using a traditional mobile drilling rig. The oil that is recovered would then be sent to the continental U.S. through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

Earlier this summer BOEM published an Environmental Impact Statement examining the potential impacts of this drilling proposal.

To view BOEM’s Record of Decision, Letter of Approval for the project and related documents, click here:


Continuing with the climate change discourse galvanized by the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has released its own report pushing for stronger use of technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the air. The report calls for “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) to play a larger role in siphoning CO2 out of the air and sequestering it in efforts to mitigate climate change.

“Negative emissions technologies are essential to offset carbon dioxide emissions that would be difficult to eliminate and should be viewed as a component of the climate change mitigation portfolio,” said Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University and chair of the committee.  “Most climate mitigation efforts are intended to decrease the rate at which people add carbon from fossil fuel reservoirs to the atmosphere.  We focused on the reverse – technologies that take carbon out of the air and put it back into ecosystems and the land.  We determined that a substantial research initiative should be launched to advance these promising technologies as soon as possible.”

The report explains that there are already four land-based NETs that are ready for deployment: reforestation; changes in forest management; changes in agricultural practices that enhance soil carbon storage; and bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration. These technologies are competitively priced with other emissions mitigations strategies, however they also each come with their own set of downsides. The report also examines direct air capture and coastal blue carbon as two additional NETs with strong potential capacity to remove carbon, but explains that these two technologies are currently limited by high costs.

To read the report in full, click here:


The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced its new Quantum Computing and Information Science Faculty Fellows (QCIS-FF) program aimed at developing a “well-trained workforce capable of pursuing advanced research and development in quantum technologies.” The goal of the program is to grow the academic research capacity of America’s workforce in advanced quantum computing and/or communication. The program aims to accomplish this through more targeted hiring of tenure-track and tenured educators in quantum computing.

The QCIS-FF program is part of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas initiative that started in 2016. The initiative is a set of 10 long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering. The QCIS-FF program falls under the “Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Revolution” goal that seeks to advance quantum technologies, including quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum simulations and quantum sensors. Quantum science has seen an elevated profile in recent months with the Trump administration listing it as a top priority following a summit on the topic earlier this fall. The NSF has already granted $31 million in awards through the Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE)-Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems (TAQS) effort and $6 million for quantum research and technology development as part of the RAISE-Engineering Quantum Integrated Platforms for Quantum Communication (EQuIP) effort.

Funding for the QCIS-FF program includes full academic year salary plus benefits of newly hired tenure-track or tenured faculty for up to three years. Proposals must specifically address the following points:

  • The commitment of the department, school, and university to building, growing, and sustaining a long-term interdisciplinary effort in QCIS;
  • The integration of the quantum faculty with the rest of the department;
  • How the new hire enhances cross-departmental research collaborations such as those across physics, mathematics, material sciences, electrical engineering, and computer and information science;
  • How the new hire enables creation and support of educational programs in QCIS, including cross-disciplinary course offerings at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

For further information about the QCIS-FF program and to apply, click here:

For further information about the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas Initiative, click here:


The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the launch of its Water Security Grand Challenge in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water.

“The Grand Challenge will incentivize new technologies aimed at solving one of the most important global challenges of our time – providing access to clean, safe, and secure water,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “EPA looks forward to partnering with DOE to help bring clean and safe water to communities across the country and find innovative ways to transform non-traditional water sources into resources.”

Through a series of prizes, competitions, early-stage research and development opportunities and other programs, the Water Security Grand Challenge hopes to accomplish the following goals for the U.S. by 2030:

  • Launch desalination technologies that deliver cost-competitive clean water
  • Transform the energy sector’s produced water from a waste to a resource
  • Achieve near-zero water impact for new thermoelectric power plants, and significantly lower freshwater use intensity within the existing fleet
  • Double resource recovery from municipal wastewater
  • Develop small, modular energy-water systems for urban, rural, tribal, national security, and disaster response settings.

For more information about the Water Security Grand Challenge, click here:


The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX), a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) recently announced a new prize competition. The “KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis” is a competition to identify new solutions that can replicate the functions of a healthy kidney and provide patients with an alternative to dialysis.

The competition is comprised of two phases, with phase looking for potential solutions or components of solutions, and phase two looking for the demonstration of a prototype solution or component. Solutions must address a minimum of one of the following areas:

  • Replication Kidney Functions
  • Improving Patient Quality of Life
  • Improved Renal Replacement Therapy Access
  • Addressing Engineering Challenges
  • Ancillary Technologies
  • Biomaterials Development
  • Biological and Immunological Modulation
  • Biosensor Development and Other Safety Monitoring Functions

There can be up to 15 winning entries for phase I, with prizes of up to $75,000 each. Phase II will have up to three winning entries with prizes of up to $500,000. The submission period for the competition will end on February 28, 2019 at 5pm.

For more information on the competition, click here:

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