White House and Congressional Leadership Agree to Pass Disaster Relief, 3 Month CR, and Raise the Debt Ceiling

White House and Congressional Leadership Agree to Pass Disaster Relief, 3 Month CR, and Raise the Debt Ceiling – This week the President met with the leadership of the House and Senate and agreed to pass a bill that would provide some $8 billion in disaster relief related to Hurricane Harvey.  To that emergency supplemental appropriations bill, the Senate will add in a three-month continuing resolution to keep the government operating until early December.  Press reports also indicate an extension of the debt ceiling will also be included.  Should all of this come to pass, we will avoid the drama of a government shutdown and/or a U.S. Government default on its obligations.  Under the continuing resolution programs will operate at a level very close to the current (FY 2017) level through the first part of December.  Congress will have to enact additional legislation in December to keep the government operating as well as once again adjust the debt ceiling.

Administration “Concerned” About “Increases” to NSF in H.R. 3354 – On September 5 the Administration issued a formal Statement of Administration Position (SAP) for the FY 2018 omnibus (the so-called Octobus) appropriations bill that includes funding for NOAA, NASA, NSF, NIH, the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, and many other non-defense agencies and programs.  The SAP says that if this bill was presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.  However, as the SAP discusses various components of this mega-appropriations bill, with respect to the funding included for the National Science Foundation, the SAP says,

The Administration is concerned that the bill provides $7.3 billion for NSF, which is $687 million above the FY 2018 Budget request. The [Administration’s] request focuses funding on NSF’s core research programs and undoes some of the large increases to programs that occurred during the previous administration. 

The funding included in this appropriations bill funds NSF at a level nearly identical to the FY 2017 level rather than the Administration’s plan to reduce NSF by over 10%. Elsewhere in the SAP, the Administration notes its appreciation for the House’s support for NASA Science, is critical that the bill only provides NOAA with $50 million instead of the $180 million requested for NOAA’s Polar Follow On weather satellite, and on the House recommendation to dismiss the Administration’s proposed 20% cut to NIH and replace it with a $1.1 billion increase over FY 2017, the Administration is only critical of Congressional language that prohibits changes to the method NIH uses to pay for administrative and facilities costs.  

Prospects for this bill moving in the Senate, in its current form, are not promising.

Administration Nominates new NASA Administrator and NOAA Deputy Administrator – On September 5 the Administration nominated Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA Administrator.  At the same time, the Administration nominated Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet to be the next Deputy Administrator for NOAA.  The Administration is expected to announce its nominee to be the NOAA Administrator within the coming days.

Mr. Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Mr. Bridenstine began his Naval aviation career flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While on active duty, he transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. After leaving active duty, Mr. Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve. He holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. Mr. Bridenstine is currently a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

Dr. Gallaudet was, until his recent retirement, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy whose most recent assignment was Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. During his 32 years of service, Dr. Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change. Dr. Gallaudet has led teams of Navy Sailors and civilians performing such diverse functions as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, assisting Navy SEAL Teams during high visibility counter-terrorism operations, and developing the Navy's annual $52 billion information technology, cyber security, and intelligence budget. Dr. Gallaudet holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and master’s and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, all in oceanography.

Funding Opportunities in the DOD The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) – SERDP will be releasing three solicitations in the coming months for environmental research and development proposals. Projects will be selected through a competitive process.  A Supplemental FY 2018 Solicitation will be released on or about September 14, 2017. Proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms will be requested.  Proposals submitting to this solicitation will be limited to no more than $200,000 and projects of approximately one year in duration. Proposals will be due October 19, 2017 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 Core Solicitation will be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration consistent with the scope of the work proposed. The Statements of Need (SON) referenced by this solicitation will request pre-proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Munitions Response, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms. All Core pre-proposals will be due January 4, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) Solicitation will also be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for work that will investigate innovative environmental approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept. Funding is limited to not more than $200,000 and projects are approximately one year in duration. SEED proposals will be due March 6, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  Details on each of these solicitations will be available on the SERDP website under Funding Opportunities as soon as the solicitations have been released.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Reauthorization of Magnuson Stevens Act -- U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the third in a series of hearings related to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The hearing will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 and will focus on the perspectives of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen on the state of our nation’s fishery laws.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available here