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September 18, 2015



House Republicans have yet to agree on how to proceed with a stopgap appropriation -- a continuing resolution, or CR -- needed to keep the government open beyond September 30, CQ reports. A group of conservatives wants to attach to the measure a provision defunding Planned Parenthood. A separate bill to strip the organization of federal support passed the House yesterday, but some conservatives may not be appeased, since it  lacks the leverage with the Senate and the White House of a CR. The Office of Management and Budget, meanwhile, is reviewing agency shutdown plans.

SENATE SEEKS A BIPARTISAN 'COMPETES': Senate Commerce Committee staff - drivers behind a reauthorization of the landmark America COMPETES Act - are said to be aiming to produce a bill by the end of this calendar year that will win bipartisan support. Doubts persist that a bill will emerge that universities will want to support, since the Senate version would have to be merged in conference with the House-passed measure, which has drawn researchers' opposition. A freshman House Democrat, Derek Kilmer of Washington, took up the cause of a bipartisan COMPETES this week in an op-ed.  


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. To see an enlarged and more readable version, click here.


CLOSING THE TECH GAP: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says Russia and China are "developing platforms designed to thwart our traditional advantages of power projection and freedom of movement.  They’re developing and fielding new and advanced aircraft and ballistic, cruise, anti-ship, and anti-air missiles that are longer-range and more accurate." Both also "have advanced cyber capabilities and strategies ranging from stealthy network penetration to intellectual property theft." Decrying the current budget impasse, he says passage of a longterm continuing resolution would be "merely sequester-level funding under another name." 

NEW APPROACH TO MANUFACTURING: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting "proposals that will allow the manufacturing of small (20 pounds or under) Department of Defense (DoD) composite parts at costs competitive to metal using a new composite material format and novel reconfigurable forming/molding process(es) that enable fabrication of multiple part configurations." The aim, says program manager Mick Maher, is to "reduce the weight of military systems by making composite parts as affordable as metal, eliminate the lengthy and costly re-tooling burden, and open new design space for small composite parts,” Read the announcement. 

'IMPORTANT TO REASSESS': Budget cuts require the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to make sure it's "putting money where it needs to be to make sure we have the Air Force we need in 20 years," says AFOSR Director Thomas F. Christian, shown during a visit to alma mater Georgia Tech. Speaking to the Coalition for National Security Research in Washington, he said the office works closely with other research agencies in the U.S. and overseas. The U.K., he notes, is investing heavily in quantum. Current AFOSR topics: engineering complex systems; materials for extreme environments; autonomy; remote sensing; hypersonics. The agency prides itself on establishing longterm relationships with researchers. "We don't fund the proposal. We fund the person." He worries about the impact of restrictions on attending conferences.

SEEKING A 'LIFT' FROM STUDENTS: NASA is reaching out to students for "innovative ideas for generating lift using inflatable spacecraft heat shields or hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (HIAD) technology." Teams of 3-5 (undergrad and-or grad students) should submit white papers by Nov. 15. "Concepts may employ new approaches such as shape morphing and pneumatic actuation to dynamically alter the HIAD inflatable structure." Read more.

MENTORING INCENTIVE: The National Science Foundation's Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program is offering supplemental money to awardees to support "bringing Research Participants (RPs) into the laboratory over the summer to participate in research aligned with the EFRI-supported research goals." Research Experience and Mentoring funds "may also be used to extend the duration of structured mentoring into the academic year." Learn more.


A 'LEAP-FROGGING' DRAGON:  In advance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit next week, Steven Aftergood of the American Federation of Scientists has gotten hold of a couple of timely documents. A Congressional Research Service report on China's economy revisits that country's plan to increase R&D spending and its goals of  “indigenous innovation, leapfrogging in priority fields," including space, aerospace development and manufacturing, renewable energy, computer science, and life sciences" A study published by the U.S. Army War College identifies "three prime candidates" for classified Chinese programs: laser fusion; a navigational satellite system; and  hypersonic vehicle technology.

DIGITAL TRANSPORT: The National Journal reports on a proposal by the In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy and In­nov­a­tion Found­a­tion to cre­ate a “Race to the Di­git­al Top” to pi­lot in­tel­li­gent trans­port­a­tion tech­no­logy in six cit­ies, engaging busi­nesses, uni­versit­ies, re­search in­sti­tu­tions, and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.


BREAKING UP: "[T]here is now greater appreciation for the importance of chemical and biological processes that can occur in the fractured rock environment," says the National Academies blurb for Characterization, Modeling, Monitoring, and Remediation of Fractured Rock. "This report describes how existing tools, some only recently developed, can be used to increase the accuracy and reliability of engineering design and management given the interacting forces of nature."


FORTENBERRY TO ADDRESS HISPANIC ENGINEERING DEANS: Norman Fortenberry, ASEE'S executive director, will be a featured speaker at the 2015 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Deans’ Summit November 13 at the Hilton Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, MD, in conjunction with the annual SHPE National Conference. Panelists from national engineering diversity organizations will participate. Register by September 30. 

HELP WANTED: "The College of Professional Studies (CPS) at Northeastern University seeks a seasoned and innovative academic leader to serve as the Founding Director of the Lowell Institute School (LIS). It is the first school dedicated to degree completion in the STEM fields, and will recruit and engage veterans, students transitioning from two year programs, and working professionals to complete their academic degrees." Learn more.