In this issue:

 

 

ASME DOD TASK FORCE MEMBER TESTIFIES BEFORE DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
Dr. Kendra Sharp, a member of ASME's Inter Sector Committee on Federal Research and Development (ISCFRD) Department of Defense (DoD) Task Force, testified before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on May 20th.  Dr. Sharp is an Associate Professor at Oregon State University's School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Dr. Sharp's testimony focused on three primary funding areas within the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 DOD  budget: Engineering (RDT&E); Science and Technology (S&T); and the University Research Initiative (URI). Her testimony also outlined the consequences of inadequate funding for defense research.

Noting that the FY 2011 budget request for defense S&T of $11.8 billion, $1.65 billion less than the FY 2010 appropriated amount, a 12.2 percent reduction, Sharp observed that, "The FY2011 request, if implemented, would represent a significantly reduced investment in Defense S&T. We strongly urge this Subcommittee to consider additional resources to maintain stable funding in the S&T portion of the DOD budget."  Sharp went on to outline the consequences of inadequate funding for defense research, including a degraded competitive position in developing advanced military technology versus potential peer competitors that could harm the United States' global economic and military leadership.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has publicly stated that he intends to target some reductions within the Defense budget. Reflective of this pronouncement, the FY 2011 Defense budget would make cuts in certain advanced technology development programs, missile defense programs, the Army's Future Combat Systems, and Navy shipbuilding operations. This follows successful efforts in FY 2010 to end the F-22 stealth fighter plane.  Secretary Gates is seeking similar phase outs for the C-17 cargo planes and the F-35 stealth fighter backup engine.  Lawmakers, so far, have not indicated that they share the Secretary's vision for these proposed cuts.

Dr. Sharp's entire statement is available at: View PDF

Paul Fakes covers public policy Defense issues for ASME.  He can be reached at FakesP@asme.org. ****

 

 

LAWMAKERS FAIL TO GARNER TWO THIRDS MAJORITY IN HOUSE TO PASS COMPETES BILL
This week, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would authorize $48 billion over three years in funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  This is the second time that this bill has been brought to the House floor and has not been passed in as many weeks.  As reported in the April 30th Edition of Capitol Update, this bill, entitled "The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010," seeks to accomplish the goals set out from the original America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), a gradual doubling in funding for the NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST by fiscal year 2017.  It is likely to be brought to the floor again next week.

In short, this bill would:

  • Support short-term programs like Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees to address the immediate need of small- and medium-sized manufacturers to access capital to make necessary updates to become more efficient and stay competitive;
  • Support mid-term programs like Regional Innovation Clusters to strengthen regional economies and advance the work done in a given field by leveraging collaboration and communication between businesses and other entities;
  • Invest in basic research through reauthorization of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST);
  • Reauthorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology development; and,
  • Authorize Energy Innovation Hubs to help advance the U.S.'s transition to a clean energy economy.

The bill would also expand, strengthen and align Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs at all levels of education by:

  • Providing grants to increase the number and quality of students receiving undergraduate degrees in STEM and to improve the STEM learning outcomes for all undergraduate students.
  • Providing grants to implement or expand research-based reforms in master's and doctoral level STEM education that emphasize preparation for diverse careers in the STEM workforce
  • Establishing fellowships to provide recent doctoral degree graduates in STEM fields with the necessary skills to assume leadership roles in STEM education research, program development, and evaluation of education programs.
  • Ensuring greater coordination of STEM education programs across federal agencies.
  • Increasing participation by women and minorities in STEM fields to strengthen and diversify the STEM workforce
  • Ensuring that smaller institutions, including minority serving institutions, are integrated more fully into research partnerships with research universities

On May 18th, Chairman Gordon reintroduced "The American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010," originally H.R. 5116 after the bill was pulled from the House floor following the successful adoption of a motion that sent it back to the Science Committee and instructed it to reduce the authorization from five years to three years, and freeze spending at FY 2010 levels.  The Motion was adopted by a vote of 292-126.

Despite the setback, Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon remained committed to passing this reauthorization.  "This legislation is too important to our nation's scientific and economic leadership to let it fall victim to political gridlock," said Chairman Gordon (D-TN).

The reintroduced bill is identical to H.R. 5116 with two exceptions: it would reduce the authorization period from five to three years, taking its cost from $84.5 billion to $48 billion, and it would have adopted language from the Motion to Recommit banning the use of the authorized funds to pay the salary of federal employees disciplined for looking at pornography at work. It also would have included the 52 amendments to H.R. 5116 adopted on the House Floor.

To learn more about how you can support the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, please go to http://www.capwiz.com/asme/issues/alert/?alertid=15006936.

Recently, ASME President Amos E. Holt partnered with the presidents of 27 professional societies to endorse a reauthorization for the America COMPETES Act.  To read this letter please click here View PDF

****

 

 

NRC: STRONG EVIDENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE UNDERSCORES NEED FOR ACTIONS TO REDUCE EMISSIONS AND BEGIN ADAPTING TO IMPACTS
As part of its most comprehensive study of climate change to date, the National Research Council (NRC) on May 19th issued three reports emphasizing why the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.  The reports by the Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, are part of a congressionally requested suite of five studies known as America's Climate Choices.

"These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "But the nation also needs the scientific community to expand upon its understanding of why climate change is happening, and focus also on when and where the most severe impacts will occur and what we can do to respond."

The reports released this week include:

  • "Advancing the Science of Climate Change," which focuses on the scientific evidence regarding human-induced climate change and future research needs;
  • "Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change," which assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and taking other actions to reduce the magnitude of climate change; and,
  • "Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change," which focuses on options to improving the nation's capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.

A summary of each of the three reports may be read at http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=05192010

Still upcoming is the fourth and final panel report, "Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change."  After the four panel reports are released, the Committee on America's Climate Choices will issue a final report in 2010 that will integrate the findings and recommendations from the four panel reports and other sources to identify the most effective short-term actions and most promising long-term strategies, investments, and opportunities for responding to climate change.

For additional information about "America's Climate Choices," please visit http://americasclimatechoices.org.

To view a video of the briefing at which the reports were released, visit http://www.vodium.com/goto/portal/pn100882/launch.asp.

Robert Rains covers public policy Climate Change issues for ASME.  He can be reached at RainsR@asme.org.

 

 

NRC REPORT: NASA'S DECLINING RESEARCH FACILITIES COULD PREVENT AGENCY FROM MEETING IMPORTANT MISSION GOALS
A new report recently issued by the National Research Council (NRC) has concluded that  the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) abilities to meet major mission goals such as advancing aeronautics, exploring the outer planets, and understanding the beginnings of the universe are being seriously jeopardized by a steady and significant decrease in the agency's basic research capabilities.

"Solid basic research has always been a critical component for advancing NASA's missions," said John T. Best, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and technical director of the Plans and Programs Directorate at Arnold Engineering Development Center, Arnold Air Force Base.  "To ensure future success, it's imperative that NASA restore and maintain its basic research laboratories."

Among the report's findings and recommendations are the following:

  • NASA's deferred maintenance budget has grown from $1.77 billion in 2004 to $2.46 billion in 2009, presenting a "staggering" repair and maintenance bill for the future, and NASA is spending well below accepted industry guidelines on annual maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.  NASA should find a solution to these issues before any catastrophic failures occur that could seriously impact missions and research operations.
  • To restore these laboratories, NASA should strike a better balance of funding and leadership between long-term research and development and short-term mission programs. These areas would be improved if they were managed separately.
  • NASA should improve the quality and equipment of its basic research laboratories to make them at least comparable with those at the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, top-tier universities, and corporate laboratories.
  • NASA should increase resources to its aeronautics labs and facilities. Funding for NASA's aeronautics programs has been reduced by 48 percent from fiscal years 2005 to 2009, impeding NASA's ability to advance U.S. technological leadership in this area.

The report examined laboratories at Goddard Space Flight Center, Glenn Research Center, Langley Research Center, Ames Research Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  With the exception of a new science building at Goddard, over 80 percent of the research laboratories at those facilities are more than 40 years old and need significant annual maintenance and upgrades.  The report concluded that laboratory equipment and services are inadequate to address immediate and long-term research needs, and the agency is increasingly relying on contractors to support the labs and facilities.

A press release summarizing the report may be viewed at http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12903

The entire 112-page report may be read on-line at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12903

Paul Fakes covers public policy Defense issues for ASME.  He can be reached at FakesP@asme.org.

 

 

HOUSE PANEL EXAMINES DOE'S NUCLEAR ENERGY R&D ROADMAP
This week the House Committee on Science & Technology held a hearing entitled "Charting the Course for American Nuclear Technology: Evaluating the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap."

The hearing explored the Administration's strategy for research and development to advance clean and affordable nuclear technology.  Among the issues considered were how the federal government can enhance the safety and economic viability of nuclear power and what programs it recommends for managing nuclear waste, advancing reactor design, sustaining the existing nuclear fleet, and minimizing risk of proliferation of nuclear materials.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Bart Gordon noted, "The Roadmap outlines four R&D objectives. First, establish solutions that can improve reliability and safety of the current fleet of reactors and extend their life expectancy. Second, advance reactor technology to both improve affordability and performance.áThird, develop sustainable and efficient nuclear fuel cycles. And fourth, understand and minimize the risks of proliferation and terrorism."

Witnesses included Dr. Warren P. Miller, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy.  Dr. Miller explained how the Roadmap's four R&D objectives would be achieved, noting "Nuclear energy is a key component of a portfolio of technologies that can be used to help meet the nation's goals of energy security and greenhouse gas reductions. This roadmap will guide research, development, and demonstration activities to help ensure that nuclear energy remains a viable option for the United States."

The DOE report concludes that "The capital cost of new large plants is high and can challenge the ability of electric utilities to deploy new nuclear power plants." Members and witnesses discussed the role that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) can play in reducing capital costs and improving the safety of nuclear power. SMRs are smaller than conventional reactors and have the potential to achieve lower proliferation risks and more simplified construction.

To read the DOE's Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap report please click here http://nuclear.gov/pdfFiles/NuclearEnergy_Roadmap_Final.pdf.

The hearing charter, available at http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2010/Full/19may/Hearing_Charter.pdf

Statements of the other hearing witnesses may be viewed by going to http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2818 and clicking on the appropriate link.

 

 

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.

EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.