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                                    April 6, 2019



The bill, which has cleared the Democratic-controlled Budget Committee and could go to the floor in the coming week, raises  spending caps by $176 billion over the statutory limits in fiscal 2020 and by another $180 billion in fiscal 2021, CQ reports. The measure represents the first step toward a bipartisan budget deal that would allow Congress to avoid the severe spending curbs imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. If it passes the House, appropriators will have a basis for writing FY 2020 spending bills. The bill is also the "opening salvo," CQ says, in a spending war between President Trump and congressional Democrats that could drag on for months. While it increases defense and nondefense limits by equal amounts, the defense side ends up getting more because those numbers already were higher. Adding in Overseas Contingency Operations (war) money, the Pentagon would get $733 billion in fiscal 2020 and $749 billion in fiscal 2021. Nondefense would rise to $631 billion for fiscal 2020 and $646 billion for fiscal 2021. The White House wants deep cuts in nondefense discretionary spending. House liberals favor the opposite, and may demand increases in domestic spending in exchange for their votes on the bill. CQ quotes Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) as saying: “There are a lot of talks going on now about things where we can avoid losing significant numbers of votes." Image: "Science" detail from Apotheosis of Washington, U.S. Capitol Rotunda

'RIDDLED WITH WRONGHEADED PROPOSALS': That was Rep. Marcy Kaptur's assessment of the Trump administration's budget for the Department of Energy's science and environmental programs. Opening a hearing of the Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee, the Ohio Democrat decried Trump's 86 percent cut to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funding; elimination of the Weatherization program, and $1 billion cut to the Office of Science. Ranking member Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) acknowledged that the administration's requests "are not as robust as most of us on this committee would prefer," but noted they were part of a presidential budget "that adheres to the current-law budget caps." The Energy Sciences Coalition, which advocates for Office of Science funding, reports that a Dear Colleague letter to House appropriators urging "robust and sustained" support for the office had collected 160 signatures. A similar letter circulated in the Senate had gathered 17 signatures by April 2.

ASEE BACKS $9 BILLION FOR NSF: Written testimony by Society President Stephanie Farrell and Executive Director Norman Fortenberry supports the significant increase for the National Science Foundation recently proposed by the Coalition for National Science Funding. The boost would "help alleviate impacts of historical underinvestment at NSF and advance both core research and education activities and NSF’s Big Ideas for Future Investment." The testimony, submitted to the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee, also urges the panel to provide $973 million for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and "protect STMD’s ability to focus on a broad array of NASA technology challenges." It calls on appropriators to continue support for the space agency's Office of STEM Engagement, which the administration seeks to eliminate.

CHIP SHOT: The Semiconductor Industry Association wants the government to "[t]riple U.S. investments in semiconductor-specific research across federal scientific agencies from approximately $1.5 billion to $5 billion annually to advance new materials, designs, and architectures that will exponentially increase chip performance; [d]ouble U.S. research investments in semiconductor-related fields such as materials science, computer science, engineering, and applied mathematics across federal scientific agencies to spur leap-ahead innovations . . . ";  and "[i]ncrease U.S. investments in STEM education by 50 percent and implement a national STEM education initiative to double the number of American STEM graduates by 2029." The SIA says that although U.S. companies still lead the world with nearly half of global market share, "state-backed competition from abroad seeks to displace U.S. leadership."

EARTH'S GROWING DEPENDENCE ON SPACE: Ellen Stofan (near left), director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, tells the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee "we are entering a new space age, and it is poised to be even more transformational than the first." In the next 10 years, "we will become ever more dependent on our orbital infrastructure to support our way of life here on the ground." Rising sea levels and extreme weather mean that "agricultural activities will require sophisticated data from Earth-observing satellites. And that is just one of many sectors that will require space-based intelligence to make essential decisions to keep our economy moving forward." Former astronaut Peggy Whitson (center), recommends a 10-year plan of continued technology development and testing on board the Space Station, prioritizing expertise beneficial for missions to the moon and Mars; creation of a deep space infrastructure such as the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting station close to the moon; further robotic exploration of Mars; and  development of technologies to utilize local resources on Lunar and Mars surfaces. Brookings's Frank Rose, formerly an arms control official in the U.S. State Department, says "the space environment has become increasingly congested, competitive, and contested." He cites the growth of orbital debris, the emergence of mega-constellations of satellites; the deployment of anti-satellite weapons by potential adversaries; and the rise of China as "an increasingly prominent actor in the civil, commercial, and security space spheres."

ERNEST (FRITZ) HOLLINGS DIES: The South Carolina Democrat, 97, whose barbed tongue could draw laughter and give offense, served 38 years in the U.S. Senate. His legacy includes the 30-year Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which gives tuition support and paid summer internships to some 130 students per year. The latter program has seen 75 percent of its alumni go to grad school and 120 or more get National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. 


FLYING INTO STORMS: The National Science Foundation wants "viable ideas" for a new storm-penetrating aircraft. T-28 (left, above) flew for 30 years from the South Dakota School of Mines before it was retired in 2005. While NSF has looked at an Air Force A-10, it has specific requirements developed by a 2017 community workshop. Among them: altitude range of up to 40,000 feet; endurance of 5 hours or more; 2 or more engines; ability to survive 2-inch hail, moderate turbulence, and icing; and carry a payload of at least 2,200 pounds. Learn more

'DEEPLY TROUBLED': National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins has apologized to two Iranian graduate students denied access to NIH after they were asked to disclose their citizenship, the Washington Post reports. In an email Friday to the “NIH Family,” Collins said he “extended a personal apology" to a Georgetown University graduate student who was interrupted during a presentation that was part of an application for a postdoctoral job and escorted from the campus. Another non-U.S. citizen had to miss the first day of a two-day meeting. "I am also reaching out to that person to express regret,” Collins wrote.

PHOTONICS AND MILITARY MEDICINE: The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) plans to offer "a small number of individual awards" for research and development aimed at using lasers and other light source technology applications in military medicine and combat casualty care, including photobiology, surgery, and closely related materials sciences. The efforts proposed may be basic or applied research, and "must offer unique capabilities, not substantially funded by other DOD or other agency programs." Learn more (FA9550-19-S-0002). Image: SUNY Polytechnic

MORE ON CONVERGENCE: The National Science Foundation has put out FAQs on its Convergence Accelerator Pilot. Find them here.

DECLINING SUPPORT FOR HBCUs: The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics reports: FY 2017 marked the third year in a row of decreasing S&E obligations to HBCUs, down 17% from FY 2016 and down by one-fourth, or $100 million, from the $408 million obligated in FY 2014. In FY 2017, total R&D support to all HBCUs was $234 million, a 9% decrease from the $258 million obligated in FY 2016. "Among other minority-serving institutions, high-Hispanic-enrollment institutions (HHEs) received $1.7 billion in federal obligations for S&E support in FY 2017, a 1% increase from FY 2016. Support to HHEs for R&D amounted to $1.5 billion, up 3% from the FY 2016 total. R&D obligations accounted for 89% of total federal S&E support to HHEs. By comparison, R&D accounted for 76% of the S&E total obligations to HBCUs and for 92% of all federal S&E support to higher education institutions. 


Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at NSF


A FUNDAMENTALLY NEW CONTEXT for understanding the current state and possible future of domestic energy markets has been presented by the stagnation of total domestic energy consumption over the last 15 years, states a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report also says:  Domestic energy markets—fossil and non-fossil—increasingly will be influenced by energy and industrial policies promulgated abroad as foreign governments seek to enhance the competitiveness of their own industries. Domestic energy production and the policies that influence it are poorly suited for stimulating U.S. manufacturing activity. Dominant narratives concerning the employment impact of a particular project or investment lack statistical rigor and can be a flawed way of assessing their value to society, but they remain an important component of local and national energy politics. Although innovation is central to the past, present, and future of the U.S. energy system, quantifying and understanding energy innovation remains fraught with difficulty. 

THE HUAWEI STORY: The Chinese tech giant plows a reported $15 billion to $20 billion per year into R&D, Foreign Policy is told. "Some 80,000 people, or nearly half Huawei’s workforce, are dedicated to research and development; tens of thousands alone work at Huawei’s huge corporate campus in Shenzhen." Also: "Over the past few years, telecoms engineers have regularly gathered every few months to hash out the evolving technical standards that will govern all aspects of 5G. And Huawei has simply flooded the zone, sending more engineers to those meetings than any other telecoms company and making more technical contributions to the still-evolving standard than anyone else."


REEF RECOVERY: A new report from the National Academies cites "a growing body of research on coral physiology, ecology, molecular biology, and responses to stress" that reveal potential tools to increase coral resilience. Some of this knowledge is poised to provide practical interventions in the short-term, whereas other discoveries are poised to facilitate research that may later open the doors to additional interventions. "The complex nature of corals and their associated microbiome lends itself to a wide range of possible approaches."




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New Two-Part Webinar Event: Engineering Inclusive Classrooms

Join us for a new two-part webinar event to learn actionable strategies for engineering inclusive classrooms. During this event, Dr. Tershia Pinder-Grover (University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering) will explore classroom climate, discuss key principles behind inclusive teaching, and provide attendees with techniques for engineering inclusive classrooms. Registration is free for ASEE members! Learn more and register for Parts 1 and 2 at http://www.asee.org/webinars

Department Chairs' Best Practices

Register for the 2019 Chairs Conclave–taking place June 16th in Tampa, FL–to connect with department chairs and learn the best practices of successful chairs. Topics covered include leadership skills, department culture, faculty evaluations, and entrepreneurship for chairs. The Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today–seating is limited–at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.


The 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be held April 14–17, 2019, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City, Va. (future site of Amazon’s HQ2). ASEE members qualify for a discount.
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