Federal Science Partners Periodic Update

FY 2020 Appropriations Process Bogs Down – Congress returned from recess this week ostensibly to continue work on the FY 2020 appropriations bills. Initially the House was expected to take up the two remaining bills --Legislative Branch and Homeland Security – before the start of the August recess.  However, it is becoming increasingly likely that these bills will now not come up for a vote in the House before the start of the August recess.

The Senate has not begun their appropriations process due to uncertainty over a potential deal to raise the Budget Control Act’s spending caps for FY 2020 and FY 2021. It is reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) prefers that an agreement be reached on a deal to raise the FY 2020 and FY 2021 spending caps for defense and non-defense before the Senate starts producing its versions of the FY 2020 appropriations bills. 

Reaching an agreement on raising the spending caps remains an elusive goal.  Democrats are pushing for $647 billion in nondefense spending.  That level is 7% over the FY 2019 levels and more than $100 billion over the Administration’s $543 billion request.  In recent days, meetings between House and Senate leaders, Secretary Mnuchin, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and acting OMB Director Russ Vought However have been held to discuss the spending caps and the federal debt limit.
Meanwhile, OMB has told federal agencies to begin preparing for a one-year temporary funding measure that would extend current funding levels. The House Appropriations Committee is apparently drafting a short-term funding measure to extend government operations through the end of the calendar year if negotiators cannot reach a larger deal before appropriations lapse.
Presently the Federal Government is using so-called “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. According to new projections, the date when the government will exhaust those measures and reach its borrowing limit could now come as early as the first half of September. This adds new urgency to both the budget negotiations and the need to pass a measure to lift the debt limit.  The Speaker has indicated she prefers the debt limit measure be coupled with an agreement to raise the FY 2020 and FY 2021 budget caps. Congressional leaders originally sought to tackle the debt ceiling and budget caps together, but lack of a bipartisan agreement to raise the caps could force a separate action to avoid a U.S. debt default.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Glacial Meeting and Its Impact on Sea Level Rise and Climate – On July 11, the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing entitled, Earth’s Thermometers: Glacial and Ice Sheet Melt in a Changing Climate.  The hearing focused on the latest information with respect to glacial and ice sheet melting going on in the Arctic, Antarctic, and in other areas with glaciers.  The panel consisting of preeminent scientists who highlighted what was known about glacial and ice sheet movement and melting, the implications such melting will have on coastal and inland areas in terms of severe weather conditions and changes in climate.  The panel also identified where our scientific knowledge was limited, and the kinds of key questions or problems science has yet to address that would be important for policy makers to make sound decisions.   Dr. Robin Bell, Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University and President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) along with four other scientists provided expert testimony to the Committee.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

House Science Committee Chair Seeks Information on Executive Order to Reduce Federal Advisory Committees -- Following President Trump’s July 14, 2019, Executive Order on Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory CommitteesChairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent letters to the Department of Energy (DOE)Department of Homeland Security (DHS)Department of Transportation (DOT)Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),and National Science Foundation (NSF) requesting information on how this Order will be implemented and how it will impact their ability to solicit independent, transparent advice from experts.  Chairwoman Johnson said, in part:

 I am puzzled by the Order’s apparent presumption that one third of the FACA committees established at agencies’ discretion have exhausted their usefulness…While this Order is unlikely to reduce federal spending, it will certainly make the advisory process more opaque to the American public. As Chairwoman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, it is of utmost importance to me that science agencies continue to solicit expert advice in a manner accessible to the public. FACAs are a critical element to ensuring federal agencies operate in the best interest of the American people and an invaluable piece of the American science and technology enterprise.

 A copy of the letters can be found here.

 NSF Releases Statement on Commitment to Secure, Open International Research Collaboration – On July 11 the NSF released the following statement:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) contributes to our nation's economic strength and national security through basic research. The Foundation is committed to sustaining the United States' position as a global innovation leader. The values that have driven NSF and its global research partners for decades are openness, transparency, and reciprocal collaboration; these are essential for advancing the frontiers of knowledge.  Our science and engineering enterprise, however, is put at risk when other governments endeavor to benefit from the global research ecosystem without upholding these values. Faced with such a risk, NSF is responding with the following actions:

·       NSF has long required researchers to disclose all other sources of support, both foreign and domestic, and we are working to create a streamlined process to improve the reporting of that support. A clarification of our policy guidance for researchers on requirements to disclose foreign and domestic support is out for public comment right now to ensure researchers understand these requirements.

·       NSF wants to ensure expert input into issues related to open science and the security of science. Thus, the agency has commissioned the JASON advisory group to conduct a study this summer with a final report likely by the end of the calendar year. This study will recommend ways for NSF to better protect its merit review system and for grantee institutions to maintain balance between openness and security of scientific research.

·       NSF has also issued a policy stating that personnel employed at and IPAs detailed to NSF may not participate in foreign government talent recruitment programs that may jeopardize the integrity of NSF's mission and operations.

AMS 2019 Summer Community Meeting – On August 13 and 14 on the campus of the University of Albany in Albany, New York, the AMS will bring together professionals from academia, industry, and government (i.e., the Enterprise) to discuss broader, strategic priorities, identify opportunities to collaborate, and share points of view on pressing topics.  A key focus is always on how new science and technology innovations can be leveraged by the Enterprise to continue enhancing forecasts for users globally as well as how to improve communication of forecasts in our rapidly changing world.  For more information on this meeting including the agenda, registration information, and accommodations click here.

NOAA Fisheries Issues Call for Cooperative Research Proposals -- The Cooperative Research Program (CRP) provides opportunity to compete for financial assistance for projects seeking to improve and strengthen the relationship between fisheries researchers from NMFS, state fishery agencies, and universities and the U.S. fishing industry (recreational and commercial) in the Gulf of Mexico (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX), South Atlantic (FL, NC, SC, GA) and Caribbean (USVI and Puerto Rico).  The program bolsters partnerships by providing a way for involving commercial and recreational fishermen in the collection of fundamental fisheries information in support of management and regulatory options. A copy of the solicitation can be downloaded from here.