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June 23, 2017



The Trump administration's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and research at the Department of Energy drew harsh criticism from leading appropriators. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), far left, who chairs the panel that sets spending levels for NIH. said the NIH cuts "could cost nearly 90,000 jobs nationwide and result in a $15.3 billion loss in economic activity," including nearly 1,700 jobs and $292 million in his state. "A cut to NIH is not a cut to Washington bureaucracy; it is a cut to life-saving treatments and cures . . . ." He was also "deeply concerned" by the administration's plan to slash overhead payments - so-called indirect costs - to 10 percent.

STICKING WITH 2017 NUMBERS: At a hearing on the Energy Department budget. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), near left, said "Senate Republicans have agreed to mark up our appropriation bills to the same overall number that Congress approved in the Omnibus appropriation bill we passed in May,” CQ reports. He referred to the spending bill funding the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Such a move would reject cuts to the department's R&D agencies, including the Office fo Science, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy - the latter targeted by the White House for elimination. "“The federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year,” Alexander is quoted as saying.

. . . HOUSE IS A DIFFERENT STORY: In that chamber, appropriators plan to adhere to "a topline of $511 billion, the number that the House Budget Committee is eyeing for domestic programs. That nondefense level would represent a cut of more than $7 billion compared to fiscal 2017," CQ reports.  

INTERNAL RESISTANCE? "Cabinet secretaries under pressure from alarmed lawmakers increasingly are asserting they will advocate for spending levels above the administration's May budget blueprint," according to CQ. "The lack of clarity from secretaries comes as top appropriators worry about the effects the delayed budget process will have on fiscal 2018 spending as a whole, creating an anxious atmosphere around fiscal matters on the Hill."

COSTLY CONTRACTION: While proposing to shrink budgets and the federal workforce, the office of White House budget director Mick Mulvaney would swell by 8 percent. “In this budget climate, that increase is somewhat unique,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., chair chair of a House appropriations subcommittee, as quoted by CQ. "Mulvaney said new funding and personnel are needed to carry out plans to slash regulations and overhaul the entire federal bureaucracy," CQ says. He's proceeding to do just that, regardless of what happens to appropriations. Government agencies have been instructed to come up with plans to reduce their ranks in line with the FY 2018 White House budget.

DEFENSE TAB WOULD BUST BUDGET CAPS: Pressure is building on Congress to lift the caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. This week, House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) proposed a defense authorization costing $640 billion, plus "about $65 billion for war accounts," CQ reports. That's altogether $37 billion more than the president requested. "More importantly, the base budget figure is $91 billion more than the budget cap in law allows," CQ says. The House Budget Committee, meanwhile, wants to split the difference between Thornberry and the administration and set the base Pentagon budget at $621.5 billion.

HYPERSONICS AND CYBER: A provision of the Defense Authorization bill moving through the House aims to ensure that "both foundational research and developmental testing resources are adequate and well funded, and that facilities are made available in a timely manner to support hypersonics research, demonstration programs, and system development."  Another provision would "establish the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program, setting aside 5 percent of the available funding for pursuit of associate degrees in cyber and authorizing $10.0 million in fiscal year 2018 for such scholarships. . . . [A]dditional opportunities under the program will be beneficial in continuing to address Department requirements for a qualified cyber workforce. Further, the committee encourages the Department to . . . focus on institutions with high-quality computer science, engineering, and cyber security programs, including historically black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions, as a way to expand the pool of talented applicants."


'TRUMP TO RESEARCH - DROP DEAD': That's the headline on a Harvard magazine editorial denouncing the administration plan to slash overhead reimbursements at the National Institutes of Health and possibly other agencies. It recalls a famous New York Daily News headline crystalizing then-President Gerald Ford's perceived callous disregard of New York City's financial plight. Harvard's overhead reimbursement from the feds amounts to 27 percent of total federal support. "Higher-education advocates point out that curbing or eliminating indirect-cost payments would decimate many public universities’ research," the editorial states. Rep Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Science Committee, lines up with the White House. "Over time, universities have included items like university presidents’ salaries and benefits, and new university buildings in the indirect costs of federally funded research," he writes in the Washington Times.

$20 MILLION FOR OIL & GAS RESEARCH:  The Department of Energy says the money will go toward "cost-shared oil and gas research projects to increase recovery efficiency from unconventional oil and gas wells and to prevent offshore spills and leaks." DOE "seeks projects that will . . . support a more environmentally responsible, secure, and resilient U.S. energy infrastructure, while enhancing economic competitiveness and national security." Learn more.

ATTENTION, YOUNG BIOMEDICAL RESEARCHERS: The National Institutes of Health has launched a website in connection with its Next Generation Researchers Initiative, which aims to "bolster support for early-stage and mid-career investigators to address longstanding challenges faced by researchers trying to embark upon and sustain independent research careers." 

A BUMP UP: National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering grantees "can now request supplemental funding for projects that may have important application to Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias." The deadline is July 3, 2017. Learn more.

STUDENT RESEARCH AT NASA: The space agency's University Student Research Challenge "will provide students, from accredited U.S. colleges or universities, with grants for aeronautics projects that also raise cost sharing funds using crowdfunding platforms. This challenge, which is being run as a pilot project, seeks students who have an aeronautics-related project idea and have the passion to develop that idea. The project must be relevant to the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) Strategic Implementation Plan." Learn more. 


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Click here for a larger, interactive version.


KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK: A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests "that the work of scientists and engineers in goods- and services-producing establishments is an important pathway for increasing productivity and earnings, separate and distinct from the work of scientists and engineers who perform R&D." The abstract is here.


DEANS' FORUM: If you're at the Annual Conference, you might plan to attend "Public Policy Challenges for Colleges of Engineering," featuring members of the ASEE Engineering Deans Council Public Policy Committee. The Tuesday afternoon panel will discuss national issues facing colleges of engineering and the challenges of advocating for engineering to the U.S. Congress.

ASEE is partnering with Liaison to offer a Centralized Application Service. This new EngineeringCAS is similar to an engineering graduate school version of the Common App. EngineeringCAS will allow schools to configure a portion of the application to meet their specific institutional data needs. It combines software and services to allow domestic and international students to research and apply to multiple participating engineering programs; streamline manual administrative tasks (e.g., apply screening metrics, verify admissions exam scores, etc.) to help you reallocate valuable admissions resources; optimize the collection of data to help you understand enrollment trends (e.g., applicant geographic, demographic, and undergraduate origin data, etc.); and save you time so you can focus on making strategic admissions decisions. Liaison will be hosting a series of webinars about the new service.  Sign up for a session and find more information about joining the CAS. In addition, please stop by Liaison’s booth in the exhibit hall at the ASEE Annual Conference.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL ASEE INTERNATIONAL FORUM will be held on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 on the final day of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. The International Forum brings together engineering professionals from academia and industry from around the globe who are engaged in novel engineering education initiatives to share information on successful models, experiences and best practices. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Mike Murphy, dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology.  Click here for more information.

NEW PODCAST: Prism's Jennifer Pocock offers a tasty tour of Columbus. Listen 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.