A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to Hold Two Full Committee Hearings This Week – On Tuesday March 28 the House Science Committee will hold a full committee hearing on prioritizing basic research at the Department of Energy.  The witnesses will be:  Dr. Steven Koonin Director, Center for Urban Science and Progress, New York University; Dr. Venky Narayanamurti Benjamin Peirce Research Professor of Technology and Public Policy, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University; and Mr. Nicolas Loris Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation.  In the Committee’s recent Views and Estimates for FY 2018 Report to the House Budget Committee, they said: “The Committee seeks to prioritize basic research and science at the DOE national labs consistent with H.R. 589, the "Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act," which has already passed the House this Congress. The Committee seeks to enable researchers in all 50 states to have access to world-class user facilities, including supercomputers and high intensity light sources. Government subsidies that pick winners and losers diminish competition and rarely benefit the American taxpayer. A better role for the government is to support investments in basic scientific research in our universities and national labs…. The Committee will seek to prioritize Basic Energy Sciences, Advanced Scientific Computing Research, and Fusion Energy Sciences offset by reducing Biological and Environmental Research…”

The next day, March 29, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on climate science.  The witnesses for this hearing will be:  Dr. Judith Curry, President, Climate Forecast Applications Network; Professor Emeritus, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. John Christy Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, NSSTC, University of Alabama at Huntsville; State Climatologist, Alabama; Dr. Michael Mann Professor, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University; and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. Professor, Environmental Studies Department, University of Colorado.  In that same Views and Estimates report, the Committee said: “Hundreds of millions of dollars in saving are available by reducing NOAA climate change programs and big, government satellite system costs.” For NASA, the Committee will emphasize the Space Launch System and Orion programs in support of manned space flight. The Committee intends on maintaining “…the overall level of investment in NASA by reducing NASA Earth Science funding to $1.45 billion, the level authorized in Committee­ approved H.R. 2039 last Congress, and reallocate the resulting $471 million to Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, the Orion Space Exploration Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, the Commercial Crew Program, and Exploration R&D.”

Both of these hearings are expected to be streamed live from the Committee’s website

Senate Commerce Committee Majority Submits Views and Estimates to Senate Budget Committee – In a letter dated March 10, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee submitted their Views and Estimates for FY 2018 for the agencies and their programs under their jurisdiction.  For the National Science Foundation, the Committee expressed its support for accelerating the commercialization of university research through the Innovation Corps program, supporting STEM education activities, the BRAIN initiative, increasing resilience to disasters, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity research.

For NOAA, the Committee expressed its pleasure that funding for JPSS and GOES-R satellites had stopped increasing.  They expressed level funding within the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) with particular support for the National Integrated Drought Information System.  The Committee expressed its interest in funding research to operations activities.  For the Sea Grant program, the Committee also expressed its support as it fosters community and stakeholder driven research that is beneficial to the Committee’s members.  The Committee’s letter also focused on the improved distribution of Congressional Knauss fellows among Senators from both parties.

For NASA the Committee emphasized the importance of NASA focusing on the agency’s core mission priorities related to expanding human space exploration, traditional sciences, aeronautics, and related research areas.

 DHS Announces $35M Funding Opportunity for New Center of Excellence in Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS). Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities.  These two related funding opportunities are posted at www.grants.gov. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 4, 2017.  DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $35 million through a cooperative agreement.  The overarching goal of the Center will be to research and develop solutions, protocols, and capabilities to support the identification of potential biological threats within the DHS operational environment that could disrupt critical infrastructure supply chains and the operational activities conducted at ports of entry, land borders, and other critical nodes within the supply chain.

The S&T COEs are university consortia that work closely with DHS operating components to conduct research, develop and transition mission-relevant science and technology, and educate the next generation of homeland security technical experts. This COE will be required to engage with operational components and fully understand the operational environment to help better identify technical and training gaps. Each COE is led by a U.S. college or university and has multiple partners from universities, commercial industry, DHS, Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, and other federal state and local agencies.  The notice of funding opportunities for the Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense Lead Institution and Partner Institution are available at grants.gov.

 Funding Opportunity Announced by DOD for MURI Program – The DOD Multidisciplinary Research Program of the University Initiative (MURI) has released a federal funding opportunity (FFO) for FY 2018.  The MURI program supports basic research in science and engineering at U.S. institutions of higher education that is of potential interest to DoD. The program is focused on multidisciplinary research efforts where more than one traditional discipline interacts to provide rapid advances in scientific areas of interest to the DoD. DoD’s basic research program invests broadly in many specific fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge. The FY 2018 MURI competition is for a wide variety of topics listed in the FFO supported by the Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.  Download the FFO here.