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                                                          February 10, 2018         



Casting aside seven years of spending restraint, Congress approved a budget deal that raises discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years - $165 billion for defense and  $131 billion for nondefense. The deal marked a triumph by Republican defense hawks over deficit hawks, the faction behind the 2011 Budget Control Act that tightened belts across the government. For the Pentagon, the deal is "more generous than even defense hawks in the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill had hoped, at least by a few billion dollars, giving appropriators plenty of cash to fund most pet projects," CQ writes. President Trump tweeted Friday: “We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more." The extra money wont't be available immediately; Congress voted a six-week stopgap measure - maintaining current levels, with some add-ons - to give appropriators time to write an omnibus spending bill. 

MORE FOR R&D? While Democrats failed to win parity for non-defense discretionary domestic spending, the cap-busting budget deal appears likely to benefit some science agencies, ScienceInsider reports.  "Lawmakers in the Senate, for example, have proposed giving the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $2 billion increase in 2018, $1 billion more than a raise proposed by the House of Representatives. The new deal tags $2 billion over two years for NIH on top of about $500 million it would receive in 2018 from the 21st Century Cures Act. The agreement would make an NIH increase somewhere between the House and Senate levels much more likely."

"The National Science Foundation (NSF) could also benefit," according to ScienceInsider. While the House has proposed keeping NSF’s research budget flat in 2018, at about $6 billion, "Rep. John Culberson (R–TX), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NSF’s budget, has said he would move to give it additional funding if Congress raised the caps." Some of the new money is already spoken for, including $20 billion will go toward transportation, water, energy and rural broadband infrastructure and $6 billion over two years to combat the opioid epidemic. The White House has ideas on how the new money should be spent. See below.  

DACA DELAYED - AGAIN: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and many Democratic colleagUes opposed the spending bill in large part because it failed to guarantee a solution for the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. ASEE's partners at Lewis-Burke Associates report: "While the budget agreement resolved many spending issues, Congress must still resolve immigration issues and in particular the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) made a commitment to consider and bring to the Senate floor an immigration bill after February 8 if Congress could reach a budget agreement and keep the government open. House Democrats did not secure a similar agreement from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but Ryan is open to considering an immigration bill that has President Trump’s support." Ryan told reporters: "To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” the Hill reports.

WHAT DEFICIT WORRIES? According to Bloomberg,​ "the ballooning federal budget deficit . . . will force the U.S. to borrow more than $1 trillion this year and risks worsening the frenzy behind the global sell-off in stock markets." Along with the budget deal, Congress suspended the debt limit.

Source: Lewis-Burke Associates

PAYING FOR PERSISTENCE: "The reason that so many students leave college without completing their degrees is not complex—it comes down to finances," DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College in Maryland, told a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on college affordability. Pollard, center photo at left, said several federal strategies could make a big difference: "Increase the amount of Pell grants; tie Pell amounts to inflation; simplify the FAFSA and certification processes; and make workforce development training programs eligible for Pell." Zakiya Smith of the Lumina Foundation, far left, noted that Pell "has not kept up with the rising price of education." She called for a federal-state partnership and said a reauthorized Higher Education Act "should guarantee that new investments will raise institutional quality and improve outcomes with a particular eye on equity." The Urban Institute's Sandy Baum, right photo, pointed out that "a program or an institution that does not support students in completing an education that will serve them well . . . will turn out to be unaffordable," whereas one that "provides a significant earnings premium and opens doors to opportunity . . . is affordable, even if it requires borrowing." 

CORRECTION: Last week's Capitol Shorts gave the wrong state for GOP Rep. Mike Simpson. He's from Idaho. Thanks to the reader who pointed out the error. 


ADMINISTRATION TO OFFER 'ROAD MAP' ON NEW SPENDING: The White House Office of Management and Budget, led by Mick Mulvaney, "plans to modify" its fiscal 2019  budget request "to show the new toplines and send Congress an addendum detailing how the administration wants the additional $300 billion spent," CQ reports, citing an email from a senior OMB official that said the addendum “will include additional FY19 funding for a limited set of administration priorities as well as proposals to fix certain budget gimmicks used to circumvent the spending caps. Separate from our FY19 budget request and addendum, we will also be providing technical assistance to Congress on how we recommend Congress allocate funding under the increased FY18 caps.” The White House will release its budget Feb. 12. See a schedule of agency briefings here.

TRANSATLANTIC INTERNET RESEARCH: The National Science Foundation is soliciting proposals "for U.S. investigators to conduct foundational and transformative research consistent with the theme of 'Internet Core and Edge Technologies'" in collaboration with European Union researchers. "Research in core networking technologies supports the growing complexity of managing communication paths, and managing computation along those paths." Topics of interest include Software Defined eXchanges (SDXs). Learn more.


Source: National Science Board, 2018 S&E Indicators


GOING FOR GOLD: Among the engineering graduates vying for medals at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are Erin Jackson, 25, pictured on the right, the first African-American woman to secure a spot on the long-track speed skating team. The Florida native, who earned an Olympic berth just four months after taking up the sport, graduated with honors in materials science engineering from the University of Florida and hopes to pursue graduate studies, according to  NBC Sports. Her teammate, Maame Biney, far left, an 18-year-old high school senior and the first black woman to make the Olympic speed skating team, plans to apply to chemical engineering programs for college. (The video of her qualifying trial went viral.) And Dartmouth engineering graduate David Chodounsky, 34, a two-time Olympian, hopes to slalom home with a medal. - Mary Lord


NAE TAPS THREE ASEE MEMBERS: Named to the National Academy of Engineering are, from left to right: Gary May, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, "for contributions to semiconductor manufacturing research and for innovations in educational programs for underrepresented groups in engineering"; Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, distinguished professor, department of civil and environmental engineering, University of California, Irvine, "for contributions to hydrology and hydroclimatology with applications to engineered systems across scales"; and Timothy C Lieuwen, executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute and professor and David S. Lewis Jr. Chair, School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, "for contributions to research and development in low-emissions gas turbine combustion systems and U.S. energy policy." Altogether, the NAE elected 83 new members and 16 foreign members, bringing the total U.S. membership to 2,293 and the number of foreign members to 262. Learn more.

QUICK STUDIES: "The field of machine learning continues to advance at a rapid pace . . . (and) is now being used in a range of applications, including transportation and developing automated vehicles, healthcare and understanding the genetic basis of disease, and criminal justice and predicting recidivism. As the technology advances, it promises additional applications that can contribute to individual and societal well-being." Read the report. 

GLOBAL RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE: There's a growing consensus "that the transition to truly data-driven and open science is best achieved by the establishment of a globally interoperable research infrastructure. A number of projects are looking to establish this infrastructure and exploit data to its fullest potential. Several projects in the United States, Europe, and China have made significant strides toward this effort. The goal of these projects is to make research data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, or FAIR." See the report.

MOVING RIGHT ALONG: A National Academies report notes that "business innovations and technological advances that allow real-time ride-hailing, routing, tracking, and payment have ushered in a new generation of private transit options. These include new types of public-private partnership that are helping to bridge first/last mile gaps in suburban areas. The report also examines ways that private transit services are interacting with communities and transit agencies, as well as resulting impacts and benefits. Learn more.

See also: Aeronautics 2050.


ELATE at Drexel - 2018-19 Application Deadline Extended – February 23
The Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE at Drexel®) program will accept online applications for the 2018-2019 Fellowship Year until February 23, 2018. Through ELATE, women faculty in STEM advance knowledge and skills in strategic finance and management, personal and professional leadership effectiveness, and academic organizational dynamics.

NREWC/ASEE is searching for a candidate to support a three-year proposal focused on investigating and characterizing chemical, thermodynamic and physical characteristics of laboratory prepared and actual bilgewater samples. The purpose of this work is to advance the current understanding of bilgewater emulsion stabilization to guide wastewater treatment research and develop preventative solutions. Therefore, the candidate must have experience in colloidal and emulsion systems. This can include applicable research in Chemistry, Biology, Food Science, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or other related fields. Please visit nrewc.asee.org/current_opportunities for the complete job description.

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. 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. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents the rationale for a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

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