Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

House to Take Up Five Part Minibus Appropriations Bill – The House leadership has announced that next week they intend to take up a five-part minibus appropriations bill for FY 2020 that will include:  Defense (Defense R&D), Labor-HHS-Education (including NIH), State and Foreign Operations, Energy and Water (including DOE Office of Science), and the Legislative Branch.  This will apparently be the first of several ‘minibuses’ that will be coming to the House floor between now and the end of June.  All five of the bills making up this first minibus have been reported out of the full House Appropriations Committee.  A fact sheet summarizing this minibus, by chapter or division, is available here.

House Passes Four Ocean/Coastal Bills During Capitol Hill Ocean Week – This week Washington celebrated the annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), an annual event led by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation designed to highlight a myriad of marine, coastal, and Great Lakes policy issues.  In the midst of that celebration, the House passed, in a bipartisan fashion, four ocean-related bills that address ocean acidification, the gradual decrease in oceanic pH due primarily to the absorption of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide by seawater, by reauthorizing and updating the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act and by providing avenues to address its impacts through vulnerability assessments, prize competitions, and a National Academies study. The bills were passed were:

·      HR 1237 -- The COAST Act would amend the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 to establish an Ocean Acidification Advisory Board, to expand and improve the research on Ocean Acidification and Coastal Acidification, to establish and maintain a data archive system for Ocean Acidification data and Coastal Acidification data.

·      HR 1716 -- The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act directs NOAA to conduct coastal community vulnerability assessments related to ocean acidification.

·      HR 1921 -- The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act would authorize agencies to establish prize competitions for innovation or adaptation management development related to ocean acidification

·      HR 988 -- The NEAR Act would authorize the National Academies’ Ocean Studies Board to examine the impact of ocean acidification and other stressors in estuarine environments.

House Intelligence Committee Holds Hearing on the Impact of Climate Change on National Security -- On Wednesday, June 5, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence convened an open hearing about the national security implications of climate change. The Committee examined the impacts of a changing climate and associated extreme weather events on U.S. security interests and on economic, political, social, and humanitarian conditions globally.  Among the witnesses were Peter Kiemel, Counselor, National Intelligence Council, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); and Jeffrey Ringhausen, Senior Naval Intelligence Manager for Russia and Eurasia, ODNI. Mr. Kiemel testified that the effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate existing challenges including: the potential for political and economic unrest in some countries; social and political tensions in both partner nations and elsewhere; food prices and availability; countries’ investments and economic competitiveness; stress on US military operations and basing; risks to human and animal health; and the drivers of disruptive human migration.

Mr. Kiemel said, …to inform our judgments, we rely on reports produced by U.S. federal science agencies, peer-reviewed scientific journals, and reports from international scientific organizations. …These scientific assessments…indicate that Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are undergoing a long-term warming trend...Studies indicate rising temperatures can amplify extreme events such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, storm surges, droughts, wildfires, and some tropical cyclones. Other effects, which already are in evidence, include rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ice sheets, thawing permafrost, soil degradation, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, animal and plant species redistribution, coral bleaching, and changes in ocean and atmospheric circulations…We assess that such impacts from climate change almost certainly will have an increasingly significant direct and indirect effect on the social, political, economic, and security challenges faced by the United States and other countries during the next few decades…

Among the specific concerns raised by Mr. Kiemel were:

·      Countries with weak political institutions, poor economic conditions, or where other risk factors, such as political strife are already present probably will be the most vulnerable to climate-linked instability or migration and the hardest pressed to respond to and recover from a crisis.

·      Ocean warming is likely to adversely affect marine fish populations, particularly in East Asia and in the North Sea. Disputes over fishing rights and access have become major points of contention for countries that rely heavily on fishing for food or income.

·      The Arctic—which could contain well over 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas—will draw continued interest in offshore drilling, although large-scale exploitation faces commercial challenges for the foreseeable future.

·      The World Bank estimates that significant levels of warming could push tens of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America to migrate within their countries by 2050.

·      U.S. bases in the Marshall Islands are expected to be flooded annually by 2040, if the global sea level continues to rise at its current rate, according to a study led by the U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. and allied military installations, operations, and supply networks are vulnerable to recurrent climate events such as higher temperatures, rising sea levels, flooding, drought, wildfires, and changing Arctic conditions.

·      China seeks to establish itself as a renewable energy superpower, and touts its more than $100 billion in annual investments in green technologies. China is now the world’s largest producer, exporter, and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles, and controls 29 percent of global renewable energy patents.

·      Extreme heat will add to global health threats in the coming years by contributing to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among the elderly. Warming trends, in combination with more rainfall and flooding, are likely to increase the frequency of water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted by insects and snails. Extended transmission seasons of important vector-borne diseases are likely to occur across a potentially larger geographic range.

Additional information about this hearing, including the testimony of the ODNI witnesses is available here.

House DOD Appropriations Report Directs DOD to Prepare for Impact of Climate Change on Departmental Facilities -- In the report that accompanies the House’s version of the FY 2020 DOD Appropriations Bill, the Committee reacted to the report DOD issued earlier this year on the effect climate change is having on DOD facilities.  In the FY 2020 report the Committee said, “The Committee notes the Department’s January 2019 report, ‘Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,’ found more than two-thirds of the military’s operationally critical installations are threatened by climate change. The Committee is disappointed that the report failed to provide installations specific resilience plans or cost estimates for mitigation activities as required by Section 335 of Public Law 115–91. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act which contains a list of the top ten most climate vulnerable bases within each Service and provides a cost estimate to mitigate the risks at each of these bases.

Science and Security Bill Introduced – On May 30, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep Frank Lucas (R-OK), the Ranking Member of the same committee along with other four other Representatives introduced the bipartisan HR 3038, Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019The bill promotes standardization of federal agency approaches to academic espionage while maintaining collaboration and a welcoming environment for foreign talent at our institutions of higher education. The bill requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to establish an interagency working group of science, intelligence, and security agencies under the existing authority granted to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The group would evaluate existing mechanisms of control of federally funded research and develop a policy framework to address the security needs of agencies and federal grant recipients. SASTA also establishes a roundtable, convened by the National Academies, to facilitate an ongoing dialogue among federal science and security agencies and academia on these topics and to share best practices through public reports. The following organizations have endorsed the legislation: Aerospace Industries Association; American Association for the Advancement of Science; American Council on Education; Association of American Medical Colleges; Association of American Universities; Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Brown University; Case Western Reserve University; Council on Governmental Relations; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; The Ohio State University; Princeton University; Rutgers University-The State University of New Jersey.

Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Foreign Threats to Taxpayer Funded Research – On June 5, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), held a hearing to examine the threat of foreign actors – such as China – to use the relative openness of the US academic environment to inappropriately access research and technology to be used to enhance their own technological prowess at this Nation’s expense.  Representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health testified on the guidelines and investigatory practices employed to deal with the small, but growing number of cases.  Senator Cornyn (R-TX) announced his intent to introduce legislation in the near future that would mandate a more rigorous interagency process to guard against cyber and other intrusions of our research enterprise by foreign actors.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Seeks Nominations for its Science Advisory Board -- EPA invites nominations of scientific experts from a diverse range of disciplines to be considered for appointment to the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and four SAB committees. Nominations are due by June 24, 2019. Appointments will be announced by the Administrator and are anticipated to be filled by the start of Fiscal Year 2020 (October 2019).  More information on this opportunity can be found here.

ONR Announces ROTC Cybersecurity Training Program – The Office of Naval Research (ONR) seeks a broad range of applications for augmenting innovative solutions that directly maintain, or cultivate a diverse, world-class STEM workforce in order to maintain the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ technological superiority. The goal of any proposed effort must provide solutions that will grow a capable and trained workforce with the skills to defend against emergent cyber and electronic warfare threats. Funding efforts will be targeted primarily toward projects addressing the technical skills taught to university students enrolled in ROTC programs; these ROTC programs are not restricted to any particular Service.  While this is effort is targeted primarily toward students enrolled in ROTC programs it can also include civilian students. Project scope may range in size and complexity.  More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.

NOAA Fisheries Announces Saltonstall-Kennedy Funding Opportunity -- The Saltonstall-Kennedy Act established a fund (known as the S-K fund) to provide grants or cooperative agreements for fisheries research and development projects addressing aspects of U.S. fisheries, including, but not limited to, harvesting, processing, marketing, and associated business infrastructures. Under this authority, grants and cooperative agreements are made on a competitive basis to assist in carrying out projects to expand domestic and foreign markets related to U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries. The objective of the S-K Research Program is to address the needs of the fisheries and fishing communities in optimizing economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fisheries and practices, dealing with the impacts of conservation and management measures, and increasing other opportunities to use existing infrastructure to support keeping working waterfronts viable. U.S. fisheries include any fishery, commercial or recreational, that is, or may be, engaged in by citizens or nationals of the United States or other eligible applicants. Proposals submitted to this competition must address at least one of the following priorities: Promotion, Development, and Marketing; Science or Technology that Promotes Sustainable U.S. Seafood Production and Harvesting. More information on this funding opportunity can be found here.