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September 9, 2016



Appropriators will likely have to use a combination of offsets and some kind of across-the-board cut in discretionary spending to fall within mandatory limits, CQ reports. If they maintain current levels, FY 2017 spending would exceed the budget caps by $10 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is working on getting a stopgap spending bill to the floor as early as next week. It would keep the government operating until December 9, allowing a post-election lame-duck Congress to attempt passage of longer-term appropriations measures. House Republicans are split, with some conservatives seeking a stopgap lasting until March. McConnell's plan drew support this week from White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan. 

CHANCES IMPROVE FOR DEFENSE BILL: Although major differences exist between House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, a compromise may be reached before Congress recesses in a few weeks, according to CQ. With an election approaching lawmakers, lawmakers need to show support for the armed forces. The House bill authorizes $400 million more for research and development than the version that emerged from the Senate Armed Services Committee. See highlights of both, and a Heritage Foundation comparison.  Both versions are currently unacceptable to the White House. "Among the lawmakers who may stand to gain the most from the bill’s passage is Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.)," CQ reports. 

'DEEPER DIVE' INTO ENERGY: A House subcommittee hearing Sept. 15 on "The Department of Energy's Role in Advancing the National, Economic, and Energy Security of the United States" will allow "to take a deeper dive into DOE's role in strengthening our national, economic, and energy security," says panel Vice Chair Pete Olson (R-Tex.). The only announced witness is Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, right. Catch a webcast. It's a safe bet he'll at least mention a newly released National Offshore Wind Strategy. The document notes: "Offshore wind technologies have matured significantly over the past 25 years as a result of extensive global research, development, and market growth. With this maturation, significant cost reductions have been realized. This research, development, and growth must continue for offshore wind to compete on an unsubsidized basis. R&D is also needed to adapt existing European technologies to the unique conditions of the U.S. market and enable cost-effective deployment."

The day before, another subcommittee plans a hearing entitled "“Disrupter Series: Advanced Robotics.” Witnesses have not yet been announced, but it will be webcast. 


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock; Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). Click here to see a larger, interactive version with actual numbers. 


'VIRTUAL' U.S.-ISRAEL ENERGY RESEARCH CENTER: Planned for the coming fiscal year - subject to appropriations - it  will "facilitate joint research in energy and related areas," Jonathan Elkind, right, assistant secretary of energy for international affairs, told a recent joint hearing of Science and Foreign Affairs subcommittees. [W]e expect that the center could resemble similar technology collaborations that involve contributions from both partner countries, as well as a private sector matching requirement from within each country to maximize the center’s impact.." It "will build on the extensive engagement that already exists between our two countries through the U.S.–Israel Energy Dialogue," including the upcoming energy water desalination challenge. House members were bullish on eastern Mediterranean energy prospects.

$13 MILLION TO MITIGATE METHANE: The Department of Energy funding will support 12 multi-year research projects intended to develop cost efficient and effective ways to mitigate methane emissions from natural gas pipeline and storage infrastructure. The research will also look to better quantify the sources, volumes and rates of methane emissions. Princeton, the University of Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State, and the University of Pittsburgh are among the winners.  

PERFECT PALS: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) isn't hoping for much in its Partner with Machines portfolio: just "technologies to enable machines to understand speech and extract information contained in diverse media, to learn, to reason and apply knowledge gained through experience, and to respond intelligently to new and unforeseen events." These machines would be invaluable in "cyberspace operations, where highly-scripted, distributed cyber attacks have a speed, complexity, and scale that overwhelms human cyber defenders; intelligence analysis, to which machines can bring super-human objectivity; and command and control, where workloads, timelines and stress can exhaust human operators." It almost goes without saying that DARPA "seeks unconventional approaches that are outside the mainstream, challenge accepted assumptions, and have the potential to radically change established practice." Learn more.

Check out public comments submitted to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on artificial intelligence.

DIAGNOSIS CHALLENGE: This National Institutes of Health competition "calls for new, innovative, and novel laboratory diagnostic tests that identify and characterize antibiotic resistant bacteria and/or distinguish between viral and bacterial infections to reduce unnecessary uses of antibiotics, a major cause of antibiotic resistance. With real-time detection, healthcare providers would be able to identify infecting pathogens and resistance factors within hours, rather than days, and use the knowledge to tailor treatment to each individual." Find out more.


CLINTON-TRUMP MATCHUP: "It is clear from the candidates’ official positions and public statements that they have very different approaches to technology and innovation policy," says Information Technology and Innovation Foundation President Robert Atkinson. "Trump has focused on reducing government barriers in the economy, including taxes and regulations, which would, among other things, affect innovation. But he has been largely silent on innovation as a specific issue or goal. Clinton has spoken more explicitly about innovation, with a particular focus on establishing and expanding public-private partnerships to drive innovation and ensure that its benefits are widely shared.” See how they compare on federal R&D funding, H1-B visas, and more. 

FOR AND AGAINST FOR-PROFITS: The Washington Post reports on the closing of the ITT Tech chain of for-profit career institutions. This is the second high-profile for-profit closure following the Corinthian chain of schools, and it’s drawing fire from schools who say that the Obama administration is sacrificing vocational schools—and their student—in favor of community colleges. Education Department officials, however, say that ITT Tech was not simply the victim of government sanctions; rather, its closing was also a result of poor enrollment and internal financial missteps. Read more here.


PROCEEDINGS of ASEE's 2016 Annual Conference and International Forum are available online.

ALL MAY ATTEND: The Zone II Conference (Engineering Everywhere for Everyone) takes place March 2-5, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, All ASEE members are invited. It promises to be an amazing experience! Submit abstracts by September 16. Visit http://zone2.asee.org to begin the submission process and see what has been planned so far.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Jump-start the semester 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 aims to get teens fired up about engineering with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.