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                                     April 14, 2018



As appropriators proceed to carve up the federal FY 2019 R&D budget, a term from the past has reappeared in the spending lexicon: rescission. Armed with alarming new deficit numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, House fiscal hawks want President Trump to pick up one of predecessor Ronald Reagan's "favorite tools" and renegotiate the recently enacted $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds government for the rest of FY 2018. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va,) writes in the Washington Times: "Under the 1974 Impoundment Act, the president can propose the rescission or deferral of funds in any spending bill, and Congress will have 45 days of continuous session to either approve of those cuts or not. Even better, rescission only requires 51 votes in the Senate."

The House will take up new spending cuts “if there is an opportunity for this,” says Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to the Washington Examiner. Shown at right with Trump, McCarthy is the choice of outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as the next GOP leader.  Politico reports that White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is developing a rollback proposal that could slash anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion dollars from the omnibus. An OMB statement says the administration is pursuing such "commonsense" measures as "rescissions of unnecessary spending using existing authorities."

TRILLION-DOLLAR DEFICITS? "The Congressional Budget Office’s latest semiannual budget and economic outlook for the next decade set off alarm bells throughout Washington, warning of a return to $1 trillion annual deficits and a record debt burden in sight, topping the previous World War II-era high," CQ reports. "Overall, deficits are set to rise by $1.58 trillion more than CBO estimated last June, before several major legislative initiatives were signed into law."

LAWMAKERS' SPENDING PITCHES: The House appropriations panel that funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) holds a "members' day hearing" on Tuesday, allowing members to speak briefly about their spending priorities.

Read an updated Congressional Research Service report on federal R&D and Congress. 

EXASCALE AND QUANTUM COMPUTING: While Congress will massage the numbers, Energy Secretary Rick Perry's budget testimony this week sheds light on administration priorities for FY 2019. These include an "unprecedented investment" to deliver an exascale computer for the Office of Science in 2021 "and a second machine with a different architecture by 2022." The budget reflects "the emerging urgency of building our competency and competitiveness in the developing area of quantum information science," advancing application of "quantum computing techniques and quantum sensing to grand challenge science questions."

BATTERIES AND BEYOND: Perry also says: "Energy storage is an important area of focus" -- not only battery R&D but a new “Beyond Batteries” initiative that "focuses on advances in controllable loads, hybrid systems, and new approaches to energy storage, which are essential to increasing the reliability and resiliency of our energy systems."

FRIEND AND FOE: “Many in academia have been unwilling to accept reality and unwilling to take any defensive measures to protect their researchers’ work, their universities’ scientific assets, and taxpayers’ investments,” House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Lamar Smith told a hearing this week on foreign espionage in research. The American Institute of Physics' FYI reports that the Texas Republican called for "improving cybersecurity, educating researchers about espionage threats, and further screening foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. while also 'maintain[ing] the open and collaborative nature' of academic R&D. "Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) touched on similar themes, saying that academic institutions 'cannot be blinded by naiveté or ignorance when distinguishing between friend and foe.'" But she stressed that ”the solution is not to shutter the doors of American universities and colleges to students, researchers, and professors from foreign nations."

COMPOSITE POWER: Engineering professors Hota GangaRao, of West Virginia University, near right, and David Lange, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will testify Wednesday at a hearing on how U.S. fiber-reinforced polymer composite products "offer durable, sustainable, and cost-effective solutions in infrastructure applications as diverse as dams, levees, highways, bridges, tunnels, railroads, harbors, utility poles, and buildings." The hearing will "review a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report on overcoming barriers to the adoption of composites in sustainable infrastructure."


ARCTIC ADVENTURE: "Opportunities for Engineering in Navigating the New Arctic" will be among topics explored at the upcoming meeting of the National Science Foundation's engineering advisory committee. A Vision for Navigating the New Arctic is among NSF's 10 Big Ideas. See the agenda for the meeting.

Photo: Konrad Steffen, CIRES/University of Colorado at Boulder

QUICKER ROUTE TO IUCRCs: NSF's Engineering and Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorates are offering industry and university teams an accelerated proposal process for Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers. The program aims for "truly collaborative . . .  partnerships that explore use-inspired basic research ideas of direct value to the industry sector being served and that leverage the expertise of academic researchers." Find out more.

. . . AND TO JOINT U.S.-U.K. RESEARCH: NSF's Engineering directorate and Britain's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council "will allow US and UK researchers to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single review process." Learn more.

SKILLS DEVELOPMENT IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING: The National Institutes of Health encourages grant applications to "establish new or to enhance existing team-based design courses or programs . . . that address innovative and/or ground-breaking development, multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary education, the regulatory pathway and other issues related to the commercialization of medical devices, and clinical immersion." Learn more.


Source: Congressional Research Service


BARRIERS TO PROGRESS in engineering education include "aligning government and higher education goals, the challenge of delivering student-centered active learning to large student cohorts, the siloed monodisciplinary structure of many engineering schools, and faculty appointment and promotion systems that are not perceived as rewarding teaching achievement." So states a recent study commissioned by MIT to inform its New Engineering Education Transformation initiative. MIT and Olin College "were both cited by the majority of thought leaders consulted . . . to be the ‘current leaders’ in engineering education. Other highly-rated universities" included Stanford, Aalborg University, and TU Delft. Emerging leaders? Olin again, along with Singapore University of Technology and Design,  University College London, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Iron Range Engineering. 


ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference April 29 to May 2. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. Registration is now open. Find out more.

LETTER SUPPORTING SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN STEM: Over the past year, there has been a proliferation of targeted attacks on scholarly work that addresses diversity and inclusion in STEM education, including work in engineering education specifically. Many of these attacks have appeared on conservative outlets and in broader alt-right media and social media networks. When specific faculty members are targeted, they and their colleagues are often subject to harassing and threatening calls, emails, tweets, and more. ASEE supports our members and all academic researchers in the face of these attacks on academic freedom. Read the full statement here.

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