Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

FY 2020 Appropriations Update – In the House, the Appropriations Committee has begun the mark up process with the goal of passing all 12 appropriations bills in the House by the start of the July 4th recess.  By this week’s end, Defense, Energy & Water, Interior & EPA, and Commerce-Justice-Science will have been marked up at the subcommittee level.  The State/Foreign Operations bill is scheduled to be marked up by the full House Appropriations Committee this week.  Already marked up by the full committee are: Labor-HHS-Education; Legislative Branch, Military Construction & VA, and Homeland Security.  In the House, the Committee is marking up with overall spending estimates taken from legislation developed by the House Budget Committee that would, if enacted into law, raise the non-defense discretionary spending cap by nearly 6% over the FY 2019 level.  If the FY 2020 spending cap is not amended, non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2020 would be forced to decline by nearly 10% below the FY 2019 level.

Given House Appropriations action thus far, major science agencies are being recommended for notable increases above the President’s FY 2020 request for those agencies. 

 Labor-HHS-Education Bill:  For the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Committee is recommending a total of $41 billion, an increase of $2.2 billion over the FY 2019 level and $6.9 billion above the President’s request.  This includes $411 million for the NIH BRAIN initiative and $500 million for the All of Us precision medicine research initiative.

Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill: For the National Science Foundation (NSF) the bill provides $8.64 billion, $1.4 billion more than the Administration’s request and $561.14 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. Research and related activities are funded at $7.1 billion ($1.4 billion more than the President’s request), $586.3 million above the current level. Funding is included within the NSF appropriation for important infrastructure investments related to Antarctica and research vessels. NASA is funded at $22.32 billion, $815 million above the 2019 enacted level. This funding includes: $7.16 billion for NASA Science programs which is $255.6 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.  NOAA is funded at a total of $5.48 billion, which is more than a $1 billion greater than the President’s request and $54.3 million over the FY 2019 level.  Funding is targeted at climate research (17% increase), weather forecast improvement, harmful algal blooms, and fisheries management.  OSTP is directed to prepare a coordinated response to impending climate change.

Energy and Water Appropriations Bill:  For the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Energy and Water bill recommends nearly $7 billion, an increase of $285 million and $1.3 billion over the request.  For ARPA-E, the Energy and Water bill includes $425 million, an increase of $59 million and rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate the program.  For Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the bill provides $2.65 billion, an increase of $273 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and $2.3 billion above the request for clean, affordable, and secure energy and to ensure American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy. 

Interior-EPA Appropriations Bill:  In the Interior-EPA bill, the House Appropriations Subcommittee is recommending $3.41 billion for EPA’s core science and environmental program work, an increase of $105 million above the FY 2019 level and $1 billion above the President’s budget request – within this the bill includes a total of $476 million for Geographic Programs which support the restoration of national significant bodies of water including the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Long Island Sound.  This is an increase of $19 million over the FY 2019 level and rejects the Administration’s original proposal to terminate support for Geographic Programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee could begin marking up its bills in early June with the Labor-HHS-Education bill, even though the panel has not yet decided how it will deal with the existing spending caps for FY 2020. Some observers are reporting that Chairman Shelby is looking to hold spending at the FY 2019 level though he is reported to be also focused on increasing the spending limitations for defense spending.  With respect to the White House, press reports suggest that the Administration is considering advocating for a yearlong continuing resolution for FY 2020 at the current or FY 2019 level. 

Congress Holds Key Climate and Weather Hearings – On May 16, in the morning, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather, held a hearing entitled “Atmospheric Science Research and Forecasting Innovation.”  The hearing examined ways to make atmospheric research more broadly accessible and available to decision makers and the public.  The hearing was also used to assess the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 and the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018.  Witnesses participating in this hearing included: Dr. Waleed Abdalati, Director, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences; Dr. Deborah Bronk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences; Dr. Radley Horton, Associate Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University Earth Institute; and Dr. Erika Washburn, Director, Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

Dr. Hadley discussed the significant impacts the nation incurs from the growing number of extreme weather events – such as tropical storms, heat waves, inland flooding, and droughts – and their threat on the economic livelihood of the nation and the health and safety of impacted communities.  He applauded the advances in scientific understanding and forecasting of extreme weather events that have been achieved.  Dr. Hadley went on to emphasize that continued success will hinge on continued sustained investment in science and in insuring that information is communicated in ways that can be utilized effectively by decision makers.

That same day, in the afternoon, the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, chaired by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) held a hearing entitled, “The Future of Forecasting: Building A Stronger U.S. Weather Enterprise.” In addition to Dr. Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Acting NOAA Administrator, other witnesses included: Dr. Louis Uccellini, Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service; Dr. Shuyi Chen, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington; Dr. Christopher Fiebrich, Associate Director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey; and Mr. Rich Sorkin, CEO of Jupiter Intelligence. More information on this hearing can be found here.

ARPA-E Request for Information to Scale, Mature, and Advance ARPA-E Funded Technologies -- ARPA-E is seeking information to frame a potential new funding opportunity for public-private partnerships supporting the further refinement, scaling, and piloting of successful ARPA-E technologies. The potential program would collaborate with investors and private sector partners to advance promising technologies developed under ARPA-E awards (prior and ongoing) to pre-pilot and pilot R&D projects. The projects would need to demonstrate scalability, reliability, and manufacturability. Success of these scale-up/pilot projects will establish the path forward to continued private sector development and deployment of these transformational technologies. In addition to the energy-related benefits, this development would establish a new manufacturing base for energy technologies in the United States. For more information on the background of the technology and competitiveness challenges ARPA-E seeks to address, different groups of stakeholders ARPA-E hopes to engage, and potential next steps for such a funding opportunity, visit ARPA-E Exchange. RFI Responses are due 5:00 PM Eastern Time on May 29, 2019.

Task Force on American Innovation Releases Major Report – On May 14, in an event jointly sponsored by House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), the Task for on American Innovation released Benchmarks 2019 – Second Place America?  The report documents that the US share of global R&D is declining while China is on track to surpass the US in R&D expenditures.  South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom and China all have created national strategies to increase government investment in science research. To help sustain US leadership, the report calls for increased federal investments in scientific research and human capital.

The TFAI report comes on the heels of and reinforces the findings of the April 2019 letter/report issued by Norm Augustine and Neal Lane, co-authors of the 2014 report entitled Restoring the Foundation.  The Augustine/Lane letter notes that in 2014, China awarded over 1.7 million bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering compared with about 740,000 in the U.S.  Some 260,000 Chinese students are currently pursuing degrees at universities in the U.S. with an increasing fraction returning home after completing their education or are being driven from the U.S. by wide-sweeping immigration limits.  The report recommends the Nation increase its total R&D investment as a fraction of GDP from 2.7% to 3% within 5 years and 3.3% within 10 years.  Federal basic research should be increased at a sustained real rate of at least 4% per year.  The report makes numerous other recommendations in recognition of the increasing intensity of R&D investment being made by our competitors with particular emphasis on China. 

The BLUE GLOBE Act Introduced – On March 28, Senators Whitehouse and Murkowski, co-chairs of the Senate Oceans Caucus, introduced S. 933, new legislation to advance data collection of the Great Lakes, oceans, bays, estuaries, and coasts.  The Bolstering Long-Term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays, and Estuaries Act, or the BLUE GLOBE Act, would accelerate technology innovation, grow the marine workforce, and develop a better understanding of the blue economy.  The BLUE GLOBE Act would charge existing federal ocean-focused interagency committees to improve domestic and international coordination and enhance data management and accessibility.  It would also establish an Interagency Ocean Exploration Committee to promote exploration and monitoring of the oceans.  The legislation would ensure a high-level ocean committee will continue in the Office of the President, regardless of the administration.

The BLUE GLOBE Act would accelerate ocean data and monitoring innovation by giving new and existing NOAA Cooperative Institutes a stronger focus on technology advancement.  It creates a new innovation prize, and tasks the National Academy of Sciences with assessing the potential for an Advanced Research Project Agency–Oceans (ARPA-O).  The legislation would launch a new Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Tech Force, to coordinate the development of technologies to address IUU fishing.  This measure follows on successful work of the Oceans Caucus to support the passage of four international agreements aimed at combatting IUU fishing and the related enabling legislation. The BLUE GLOBE Act reauthorizes a number of NOAA programs and directs heads of relevant federal agencies to more accurately measure the value of the Blue Economy.  It also looks to indigenous, subsistence, and fishing communities as a source of ocean information.  The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, calls for the creation of a workforce development program to support undergraduate, graduate, and informal education in fields relevant to ocean data and monitoring.

Center for American Progress Releases Aquaculture Report -- As the United States considers expanding the commercial farming of fish, shellfish, and seaweed into federal waters, a new report from the Center for American Progress says policymakers should balance economic opportunity with environmental protection.  The report notes that aquaculture offers major economic benefits, but it should be balanced with regulations to ensure the proper location, farm management practices, and species selection.  As climate change and coastal population growth puts pressure on traditional com­mercial fisheries, aquaculture has offered working waterfronts another avenue of economic opportunity. The report calls on policymakers to carefully consider the differences between unfed aquaculture systems, such as oysters and seaweed, and industrial fed aquaculture projects — including salmon — to ensure sustainable and environmentally conscious aquaculture practices are maintained in any offshore expansion of the industry.

Advanced Manufacturing Legislation Introduced in the Senate – A bipartisan group of Senators led by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and others, introduced the Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act.  This legislation is designed to promote expansion of the national network of Manufacturing USA institutes and strengthen US manufacturing.  The Manufacturing USA program is a national network of 14 public-private partnership institutes with 1,300-member companies and institutions working to keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing. The institutes have generated $2 billion in industry-matched funding to transition innovative technologies from lab to market and to expand the production of goods made in America. The successful Manufacturing USA program is being copied by China, with the “Made in China 2025” plan directly replicating the U.S. institutes. China is making significant investments in its manufacturing capabilities and has committed to establishing 40 Manufacturing USA-like institutes by 2025. This bill continues U.S. investments to develop new Manufacturing USA institutes and strengthen advanced manufacturing resources for the national network to compete globally and maintain U.S. economic and national security. A summary of the bill is available here and the text of the bill is available here.