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February 4, 2017



The first budget memo by Defense Secretary James Mattis says the Pentagon will give OMB its requested amendments to the 2017 budget by March 1, reports Breaking Defense. The request will seek a "net increase" over the Obama budget to address “urgent warfighting readiness shortfalls,” but may cut "lower priority programs." By May1, the Pentagon will deliver its proposed 2018 budget. The timing suggests the overall administration budget "won’t be finished and made public until May or even June," according to Breaking Defense. DoD's budget will "focus on balancing the program, addressing pressing programmatic shortfalls, while continuing to rebuild readiness," the memo says. In 2018 will come a 2019-2023 spending plan along with a National Defense Strategy. This will contain an "ambitious reform agenda" plus "“critical investments in advanced capabilities.”

TAILORED NUKE OPTION: The Defense Science Board "has urged the Trump administration to make the U.S. arsenal more capable of 'limited' atomic war," CQ reports. An unpublished December report  "urges the president to consider altering existing and planned U.S. armaments to achieve a greater number of lower-yield weapons that could provide a 'tailored nuclear option for limited use.' The recommendation is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it foreshadows a raging debate just over the horizon."

A BUDGET EXECUTIVE ORDER . . . is in the works at the White House, CQ reports. "Few details were available on the timing or content of the upcoming executive order, except that it relates to the fiscal 2018 budget."

COURT TEMPORARILY BLOCKS TRAVEL BAN: The ruling by a federal judge in Seattle prevents President Trump’s week-old immigration order from being enforced nationwide, temporarily allowing visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries to travel to the United States. The White House reacts

SENATE EXPECTED TO VOTE TUESDAY ON De VOS: The Senate cut off debate by a 52-48 vote, setting up another vote to confirm Betsy DeVos next week, most likely on Tuesday. Two Republicans who have publicly opposed DeVos - Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - nevertheless voted in favor of the procedural move. DeVos, a wealthy Michigan supporter of vouchers and charters, will likely need a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to win confirmation.  

WHITE HOUSE EYES 'MERIT-BASED' VISAS: A draft executive order "would establish a policy of implementing foreign worker programs 'in a manner that prioritizes the national interest and protects, to the maximum degree possible, the jobs, wages and well-being of United States workers,'" CQ reports. That's an approach favored by congressional Republicans. It calls for agencies to "consider ways to make the process for allocating H-1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and brightest.” The draft was published by Vox. During the campaign, Trump vowed to "end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program."

ENGINEER-ASTRONAUT JOINS SCIENCE BOARD: Ellen Ochoa, director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and a veteran of four space flights, has joined the National Science Board as the final member of the class of 2022, the Board announced. She was appointed in late December by then-President Obama. The nation's first female Hispanic astronaut, Ochoa began her career as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories after earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford. She's a co-inventor on three patents. The photo at left shows her playing the flute - some Vivaldi, plus the Marine Corps Hymn, Navy Hymn and God Save the Queen - for crewmates aboard the Discovery. 

THREAT TO GLOBAL SCIENCE? John Holdren, the former White House science adviser, tells Nature he fears that President Trump's immigration stance "could begin to undermine the international science ties that Obama sought to build during his eight years in office — and, in doing so, could make the world less safe. Such relationships also aid the United States, he argues, by helping other nations to improve their ability to respond to global emergencies such as pandemics. 'Our scientific collaborations with China mean we get notice on influenza outbreaks immediately so that we can develop vaccines to target the right strain of the virus months ahead of time,' Holdren says."

STATEMENT BY ASEE'S BOARD: "The U.S. Presidential Executive Order on immigration enforcement, issued on Friday January 27, may have a significant potential impact on many ASEE institutional members, most notably colleges of engineering and engineering technology. . . ." Read the full statement.


CYBERSECURITY AND THE GRID: A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee looked into how the electric power sector confronts cyber risks and what's necessary "to ensure the reliability and resilience of the nation’s electricity transmission." Panel Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said a record of industry efforts to address threats will help determine whether additional measures are needed. Ranking Democrat Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) faulted President Trump for removing the energy secretary from his National Security Council principals committee. Watch the hearing. 

SCIENCE PANEL SCRUTINIZES EPA: No one from the agency is scheduled to testify at a Feb. 7 hearing entitled "Making EPA Great Again." The purpose is to "examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision making activities. Witnesses will discuss how EPA can pursue environmental protection and protect public health by relying on sound science." Physicist Rush Holt, the former Democratic congressman from New Jersey who now heads AAAS, is one of the witnesses. He has voiced concern that there may be attempts to silence government scientific researchers.


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.  Click here for an interactive version.


BOYCOTTS OF U.S. SCIENCE CONFERENCES: They're beginning to blossom, ScienceInsider reports. particularly in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. "Already, 5800 researchers around the world have signed one boycott petition, and some astronomers are asking their society not to hold meetings in the United States."

STARTUPS - WHO'S LEFT OUT? A Harvard business school study finds that "from 1990-2016 women have been less than 10 percent of the entrepreneurial and venture capital labor pool, Hispanics have been around 2 percent, and African Americans have been less than 1 percent. This is despite the fact that all three groups have much higher representation in education programs that lead to careers in these sectors as well as having higher representation in other highly-compensated professions." 


In a statement, ASEE urges that bipartisan support for engineering education and research continue and, if possible, increase. "As educators, we are now training the next generation of designers, builders, and inventors. Robust support for engineering education at all levels and investment in research and development is essential to ensure an entrepreneurial, innovative, secure, and economically vibrant United States for years to come." Read the full statement.


COMMUNITY SERVICE EVENT AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE: ASEE's Community Engagement Division (CED), in collaboration with the Toy Adaptation Program at Ohio State University (OSU), and is organizing the Third Annual service event for all ASEE members. "During this event, we will reverse engineer everyday toys to allow children with special needs to enjoy and use the toys." Participants will also have the opportunity to talk with community and campus partners to learn how to bring this program to their own institutions. Questions: Please contact Malini Natarajarathinam at malini@tamu.edu.

SMART START: The application period opens February 6 for a no-cost, two-week course designed for researchers and innovators who want to deepen the impact of a project, product, or program to improve STEM education at any level in both formal and informal settings. The course will be launched at ASEE's annual conference in Columbus, Ohio. Instructors are Karl Smith, Purdue University professor and emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota, and Dean Chang, associate VP for the Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. Here is a link to the webpage for more information: https://www.asee.org/i-corps-l/smart-start.



The annual ASEE Engineering Deans Institute (EDI) provides an opportunity for engineering deans- and only deans- to gather and discuss the crucial issues facing their schools, colleges, and profession. For a few days, a single-stream program fosters dialogue between deans, industry leaders, and those in important roles in research and government. Deans share best practices, learn about career prospects for their graduates, and develop a voice for engineering education and the role of engineering in society. Social activities and plenty of time for conversation encourage the cultivation of relationships and an intensely rewarding experience.

Early registration rates end March 10, 2017. Click here for more information.

INTRODUCING PRISM PODCASTS: This new feature, produced by Nathan Kahl, debuted with a report on the Mobile Virtual Player, developed by students at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Listen to this and subsequent podcasts here.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Get teens fired up about engineering with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI combines engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.