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                                    May 5, 2018



House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), right, plans to release his version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act May 7. The full committee will consider the measure May 9. A summary states: "America’s security is challenged by our strategic competitors’ advances in artificial intelligence, space and counter-space capabilities, cyber, influence operations, and hypersonics, among others." Thornberry emphasizes "policy and programs to advance artificial Intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing, and other critical national security technologies"; fully supports innovation efforts of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to ensure our technological superiority and dominance over current and future threats; advances hypersonic and directed energy weapons research, development, and transition efforts within DoD." Thornberry says "additional funds" will be provided to accelerate AI, machine learning programs, as well as directed energy, and hypersonics programs. The measure will also fund R&D "to counter weapons being deployed by Russia that are in contravention of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty." Regarding China, his measure "prohibits any U.S. government agency from using risky technology produced by Huawei or ZTE, two companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence apparatus."

THREAT TO ELIMINATE SCO: The section of the NDAA drawn up by the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee directs the defense secretary "to submit a plan by March 1, 2019 to eliminate or transfer the functions of the Strategic Capabilities Office. Defense One reports​ that the SCO "has drawn praise for accomplishments like modifying the anti-aircraft, anti-missile SM-6 interceptor to sink ships" and quotes Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper, former head of the office, as saying that if SCO is eliminated, "[e]ither programs would slip or we would have to restart the development on our own.” The subcommittee measure also: requires DOD to brief Congressional defense committee on using quantum sciences; requires DOD to submit a budget justification for all SBIR/STTR activities; and directs the under secretary for Research and Engineering to establish an Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Policy and Oversight Council.

RESCISSION COULD POSE 'MAJOR HARM' TO STUDENT AID: The White House has scaled back the amount it wants to slash from the $1.3 trillion FY 2018 omnibus to $11 billion, Politico reports. However, the rescission package, due next week, could still freeze spending through the summer on affected programs while Congress weighs its response. If these programs affect student aid, the timing poses "a significant possibility of major harm being done to students," says the American Council on Education. In a letter to appropriators, the group notes: "Under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, once a special message from the Administration is delivered to Congress, federal agencies are required to impound the funds identified until the process is resolved. Congress has up to 45 legislative session days. . . to act on this request. Due to the nature of the congressional calendar in an election year, if the full 45 days is taken, a decision on the rescissions may not occur until late in the summer or early in the fall." Federal student aid promised by institutions should be going out July 1 for the coming academic year. "Any changes at this point will be deeply harmful to students and their families."

PANELS TO VOTE ON SPENDING BILLS: First up on Monday will be the House Energy and Water subcommittee, which recommends appropriations for the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On Wednesday, May 9, it will be the turn of the Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee, which will recommend spending levels for the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

See ASEE's advocacy letters to appropriators on provisions in the CJS and Defense spending bills of concern to engineering educators. The letters were prepared with help from ASEE's federal-relations partners at Lewis-Burke Associates. 

U.S. BENEFITS FROM ITER: Following French President Emmanuel Macron's star turn before a joint session of Congress April 25, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) penned a strong endorsement of a shared endeavor: the international fusion project, known as ITER, being erected in France. He warns against attempts to cut funding: "Though located in France, ITER is truly an American research project. More than 80 percent of total U.S. awards and obligations to ITER fund researchers and facilities here in the United States. As of December 2017, the U.S. ITER organization has awarded more than $975 million in research and engineering funding to approximately 600 U.S. laboratories, companies, and universities. . . If Congress underfunds the ITER project, it will jeopardize American leadership in fusion science."  


NSF-AIR FORCE COLLABORATION: National Science Foundation Director France Córdova and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson will sign a letter of intent next week "to create a new partnership for collaboration on scientific research to bolster national security." NSF says "The partnership will foster an increased exchange of research information, support expanded collaboration in common research areas, and identify opportunities for complementary activities in 'research pathways' comprising basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development. The partnership will also facilitate long-term planning of each organization’s research strategy, and sharing of best practices for portfolio shaping and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce development."

CRACKDOWN ON CHINESE RESEARCHERS? During a week in which the United States and China each laid out tough terms to resolve trade disputes and avoid new tariffs, the New York Times reports that the White House "is discussing whether to limit the access of Chinese citizens to the United States, including restricting certain types of visas available to them and greatly expanding rules pertaining to Chinese researchers who work on projects with military or intelligence value at American companies and universities." While the "exact types of projects that would be subject to restrictions are unclear, but the measures could clamp down on collaboration in advanced materials, software and other technologies at the heart of Beijing’s plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, known as Made in China 2025." 

MAKING ROOM FOR YOUNG RESEARCHERS: The National Institutes of Health's neurological institute "plans to pare back the number of investigators it supports who have $1 million or more in NIH grants," Science reports. "The policy 'will allow us to fund more early stage investigators and help people who just missed the pay line [funding cutoff] and are about to drop off the radar screen,' says Robert Finkelstein, extramural research director at the $2.1 billion National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)." 


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Click here for an interactive version. Source: Federal R&D Funding, by Budget Function: Fiscal Years 2016–18, Detailed Statistical Tables | NSF 18-308 | April 2018

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). 


UTK DEAN TAPPED AS INTERIM CHANCELLOR: Wayne Davis, right, dean of engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, takes office Monday as interim chancellor following the removal of Chancellor Beverly Davenport, who was demoted to a faculty position.  Davis, who had previously announced his retirement, "Davis has agreed to serve in the role for six to 12 months."  

WEST POINT PROF NAMED DEAN AT COOPER UNION: Col. Barry L. Shoop, professor and head of the department of electrical engineering and computer science at the U.S. Military Academy, is credited with "leadership in educational pedagogy and curriculum development as well as demonstrated capacity in building innovative, diverse, and cross-disciplinary initiatives."

EUROPE'S R&D TAB: The European Commission proposes  spending €100 billion (about $120 billion) on research from 2021 to 2027 under its next continent-wide science funding program, ScienceInsider reports. "That is less than some research groups had hoped for. Still, they say it is a good—but not great—opening bid in what are expected to be lengthy negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Union’s member states on a final spending plan."

AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN TECH: The Urban League's State of Black America report contains a Digital Inclusion Index, which "answers the question, 'Are the new job, business and educational opportunities created by increased digitization of our world being equally shared?'  It is calculated based on three values: digital skills and occupations (35%), digital access (35%) and digital policy (30%). . . . African Americans are far less likely than whites to be employed in social media and technology companies – less than 5% of the workforce, vs. more than 50% for whites. Less than 6% of total Black employment in 2017 was in the tech industry, vs. 8.5% for whites."

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