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March 4, 2017



The Trump administration proposes to increase discretionary defense spending by $54 billion next year - to $603 billion - and cut an equivalent amount from the nondefense discretionary side. Details of planned cuts include an "18 percent budget reduction" below current spending at the sprawling Commerce Department, home to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Today's Washington Post details proposed 17 percent cuts to NOAA, including "steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs." 

Overall, the portion of the budget that funds basic science would see a 10.5 percent cut for fiscal 2018. The result, ScienceInsider reports, would be "a potential squeeze on the $31 billion National Institutes of Health, the $7 billion National Science Foundation, the $5 billion Office of Science at the Department of Energy, as well as all other civilian science programs." Newly sworn-in budget director Mick Mulvaney, upper left, is expected to present an outline - dubbed the "skinny budget" - March 16. One big hurdle stands in the way of this plan: "To reach its defense spending goal . . . the White House will need to persuade Congress to change a 2011 law, known as the Budget Control Act (BCA), that was designed to maintain a balance between military and civilian spending." Already, defense hawks are saying the proposed Pentagon hikes are too small. They also object to the administration's plan to cut foreign aid. Pushback to domestic cuts is also expected from new agency heads. 

LESS URGENCY ON NEW TRAVEL BAN: The White House is taking its time redrafting the now-frozen executive order that blocked arrivals from seven mostly Muslim countries. This coming week is "the earliest" it will be unveiled, a White House official tells the Associated Press. Other reports suggest it will apply only to future visa applicants from targeted countries. According to ABC, it "won’t include a blanket ban on citizens from Iraq," thus reducing the number of affected countries to six: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen."  

AGENCY HEADS RESIST CUTS: As Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt gained a reputation as a strong opponent of the agency President Trump appointed him to lead: the Environmental Protection Agency. But this week, CQ reports, Pruitt "told a group of mayors he will resist administration proposals to slash grant spending for Superfund cleanups and drinking water infrastructure." Also, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "told agency employees in a brief address Friday he's 'going to fight for the budget. I looked at the budget, I’m not happy. And I think I’m going to win at the end of the day and make sure that . . . our values are articulated, too.'”

TRUMP SIGNS TWO WOMEN-IN-STEM BILLS: One, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, calls on the National Science Foundation to support women in developing commercial applications of their research. According to the Congressional Budget Office, "implementing the legislation would have no cost because it assigns no specific tasks to the NSF." The second, Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act, instructs NASA to report on its work in this area and "identify how NASA might develop a program to engage female students in kindergarten through high school studying science, mathematics, and technological subjects with current and retired astronauts, scientists, engineers, and innovators," according to a CBO summary. The measure "would have no significant cost because NASA is already undertaking such efforts."

HBCUs - FOLLOWING THE MONEY: An executive order signed by President Trump directs federal agencies that regularly work with Historically Black Colleges and Universities "to create annual plans to help the schools reap more benefits from those relationships,' the Christian Science Monitor reports. It also creates a President's Board of Advisors on HBCUs and shifts the White House Initiative on HBCUs from the Department of Education to the White House. “By being there, we will greatly enhance the chances that HBCUs will be prioritized in the federal budget and critical jobs initiatives,” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, tells CSM. But Ivory A. Toldson, president of Quality Education for Minorities,points out in a New York Times op-ed that the money for HBCUs will continue to flow from the Education Department, which is "responsible for the distribution of approximately $700 million annually in grants, contracts and appropriations to those schools." The new arrangement leaves Secretary Betsy DeVos "with significant power." 

A FAN OF 'MERIT-BASED' IMMIGRATION: President Trump is praising Canada's immigration policy, which USA Today reports "focuses more on immigrants who can contribute to the economy than those with little more than family ties." Trump tweeted "Nick Adams new book, Green Card Warrior, is a must read. The merit-based system is the way to go. Canada, Australia!" On Fox & Friends, conservative author Adams criticized "multi-culturalism" and immigrants who enter the country to "milk us."

DISAPPEARING DATA: The White House "recently deleted all of the data on its open data portal, which served as a public clearinghouse for data on everything from federal budgets to climate change initiatives," the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says, citing a recent report in The Hill newspaper. "This is a red flag, since for eight years, the Obama White House championed the practice of making government data freely available to the public in order to promote transparency and accountability, to serve as a resource for researchers, and to allow innovators to create new tools and services that spur economic activity and solve social problems." 


NSF DIRECTOR & I.G. TO TESTIFY: The House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology plans a hearing March 9 "to provide an overview of the National Science Foundation’s . . . research and STEM education portfolio and priorities, and to update the committee on oversight matters, including progress on implementation of accountability and transparency policies, a national interest requirement, large facilities management reform, and other provisions included in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA)." Director France Córdova and Inspector General Allison Lerner will testify. (Image at left is from the February Prism cover illustration by Francis Igot.)

APPROPRIATOR'S ADVICE TO SCIENTISTS: Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.) whose panel funds NSF, NASA, NIST, and NOAA, tells Science's Jeff Mervis: "“If they want to protect research and space exploration . . . they have to insist that members of Congress reverse the looming bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Those mandatory programs are devouring a larger share of annual federal revenue. If we don’t address this financial crisis, there won’t be any money for science.” 



The R&D numbers below, provided by the Coalition for National Security Research, are drawn from the defense appropriations bill to be considered on the House floor next week. The bill is separate from FY 2018 budget proposals coming soon from the Trump administration. Lawmakers cut basic research 1.4 percent below FY 2016 enacted levels, but provided more for research overall than the sums in the Obama administration's final request and earlier versions of House and Senate FY 2017 bills. 


LONE STAR GRAD SCHOOLS: In a new report, the Rand Corporation urges Texas to "consider increasing state research program funding" at public universities. "Over the 10-year period we examined, growth in graduate engineering degrees in New York (67 percent), Florida (62 percent), and California (40 percent) outpaced growth in Texas (21 percent) . . . .[E]ngineering jobs in the state have increased an estimated 30 percent in 10 years." The report also recommends that Texas "consider programs to strengthen the pipeline of domestic students, including underrepresented minorities, into science and engineering graduate programs."  


GET INTERPERSONAL: A new National Academies report says federal agencies and foundations should invest in research examining: how interpersonal competencies may be related to student success in 4-year colleges; how intra- and interpersonal competencies may be related to student success in community colleges; and how intra- and interpersonal competencies may be related to student success in 2- and 4-year STEM programs and majors. Work to date offers promising evidence that the competencies of sense of belonging, growth mindset, and utility goals and values (those linked to achievement of a desired end) "are related to college success and are malleable in response to interventions."


LIBERAL STUDIES IN ENGINEERING: Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. With NSF and Teagle Foundation support, Professor Louis Bucciarelli, MIT, has posted four Liberal Studies in Engineering modules on the edX Edge platform, which can be accessed here.

ASEE hosts a number of case studies on this topic, a project also supported by Teagle. View them here.

PUBLIC POLICY COLLOQUIUM PRESENTATIONS NOW ONLINE: Click here for all materials from the two-day meeting of engineering deans.


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.

PRISM PODCASTS: Listen to the 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.