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                                    May 26, 2018



The Senate Apropriations Committee unanimously approved a fiscal 2019 spending plan that increases domestic programs at the expense of homeland and border security, CQ reports. While adhering to the caps in the February bipartisan budget deal, the Senate allocations "more evenly distribute nondefense funds" than those set by House appropriators. The vote reflects cooperation between the panel's new chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, near left, and ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. The House, meanwhile, plans to take up three spending bills - covering energy and water, the legislative branch, military construction and veterans programs - as a so-called minibus package in early June, hoping to complete action on at least a handful of bills before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, says CQ.

See Lewis-Burke Associates' comprehensive report on the allocations and the Senate Appropriations Committee's action on Department of Energy spending. The Association of American Universities reports that "House and Senate appropriators both released 302(b) funding allocations this week. Key differences between the chambers include a higher Labor-HHS-Education allocation in the Senate ($179.288 billion to the House’s $177.1 billion)."

APPROPRIATORS HIKE ENERGY SCIENCE, ARPA-E: An early beneficiary of the Senate panel's largesse is the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which would get $6.65 billion in FY 2019 -  $390 million above the current level and $1.26 billion more than the amount requested by the Trump administration. A committee press release quotes Energy and Water Subcommittee chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) as saying: "“I would tell President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget that science, research and innovation is what made America first, and I recommend that he add science, research and innovation to his ‘America First’ agenda.” See a summary Photo - Michigan State University Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB)

Lewis-Burke Associates reports that in comparison with the House, "the Senate bill maintains a more balanced portfolio of funding across all applied energy programs.  The House bill prioritized fossil and nuclear energy research and development at the expense of renewable energy and energy efficiency research and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  Instead, the Senate bill would increase funding for ARPA-E by six percent, maintain flat funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency, fossil and nuclear applied energy research programs and provide a small increase to grid modernization efforts.  The Senate bill also emphasizes continued support for crosscutting initiatives across DOE that address grand challenges.  These include the energywater nexus, grid modernization, subsurface science, cybersecurity, advanced materials, and a new one called Beyond Batteries.“

HOUSE-PASSED DEFENSE BILL A NEAR RECORD: "[W]hen the war costs are taken out, the core defense budget in fiscal 2019 would be the largest since World War II," CQ reports, citing Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. See the list of amendments adopted during floor debate on the $708.1 billion measure. Also, see a summary and the committee report

CONCERN OVER GALLAGHER MEASURE: University of Maryland's government relations team is warning faculty that a provision in the House defense bill could "impact our research community." The provision was added in the form of an amendment by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). The Maryland team says in a letter that the measure would require individuals "to certify that they are not associated—currently and/or in the past—with foreign talent or expert recruitment programs in China, North Korea, Russia, or Iran. China's Thousand Talents Program is an example of what the amendment author intended as a foreign talent recruitment program. If the individual has participated or is currently participating in such a program related to these countries, they may not be able to receive Department of Defense funds for educational or academic training or research."  The American Institute of Physics' FYI quotes Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee as saying the measure "could have a 'very strong chilling effect' that would hamper recruitment of students from targeted nations" who might otherwise contribute to the United States.

MINORITY RECRUITMENT: Also of interest in the House defense bill: an amendment requiring a Pentagon study "to determine how they can attract and recruit individuals from institutions of higher education, including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Asian American and Native American Pacific and Islander Serving Institutions with educational backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cybersecurity."

'SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS' IN R&D are contained in the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, which cleared the Armed Services Committee this week, according to a summary. The measure, which also tops $700 billion, "increases R&D spending by $1.2 billion, the majority of which is for science and technology spending with an emphasis on high priority emerging technologies like hypersonics, artificial intelligence, space, cyber, and directed energy. . . . (It also) boosts funding for promising new technologies and concepts such as distributed, low-cost, autonomous . . . systems . . . on land, in the air, on and under the sea, and in space and cyberspace."

DREAM ON? A group of GOP moderates is just five signatures short of the number needed to force a House vote on what Politifact calls "a lasting solution for Dreamers who have benefitted from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program protecting some young immigrants from deportation." The moderates' discharge petition, which would likely gain support from a majority of Democrats but only a minority of Republicans, is opposed by the GOP leadership and GOP conservatives. It would set up a June 25 vote on a "queen of the hill" rule, whereby the House would vote on four immigration measures.

UNLIKELY TO GET OFF THE GROUND: Such appears to be the case with NASA's proposed education cuts. The administration's FY 2019 space agency budget "proposes the termination of NASA’s Office of Education and its portfolio of domestic assistance awards (grants and cooperative agreements), and instead prioritizes funding toward supporting an innovative and inspirational program of exploration" NASA Administrator James Bridenstine told Senate appropriators. But subcommittee Chair Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) countered that the budget "arguably sidelines the very programs at NASA that capitalize on its success and benefit involvement in STEM education from kindergarten to graduate students. NASA education activities such as Space Grant, EPSCoR and the Minority University Research Program have broad support, particularly on this committee. Rather than eliminating opportunities, NASA should find more ways to encourage our future leaders."


MORE GROUPS OPPOSE VISA PLAN: The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that 56 "leading scientific and educational organizations are calling on the Trump administration to shelve a visa proposal that would significantly expand the amount of personal information collected from millions of people applying to enter the United States." The new requirements "would have a chilling effect on science researchers, academics and students seeking to pursue advanced studies, contribute to scientific and engineering research innovations and participate in collaborations in the United States, the organizations stated in a joint letter sent to the U.S. State Department as part of the public comment process." 


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