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June 16, 2017



Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (left) faced stiff resistance to the Trump administration's proposed 30 percent cut to his agency's budget. E&E News reports that while Pruitt emerged largely unscathed, "his hard-cutting budget . . . is likely in tatters." Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) who chairs the House Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee, called the cuts "untenable," according to CQ. “In many instances the budget proposes to significantly reduce or eliminate programs that are vitally important to each member on this subcommittee.” Under the budget, EPA’s Office of Research and Development, which conducts the bulk of the agency’s research, would receive around $277 million, a reduction of 43 percent compared to 2017, and lose 624 full-time positions, Nature reports.

The grilling of Pruitt occurred the same week that the National Academies issued a report praising Science to Achieve Results (STAR), which it described as EPA's "primary competitive extramural research program." (See more below.) EPA's National Center for Environmental Research, which manages STAR, is led by ASEE member James H. Johnson, Jr., dean emeritus of engineering at Howard University. 

UP NEXT WEEK - INTERIOR AND ENERGY: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is likely to encounter skeptical lawmakers in testifying about his department's budget before both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources  and House Natural Resources committees, The Hill reports. So will Energy Secretary Rick Perry when he goes before the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Energy committee.

HOUSE PLAN WOULD HIKE DEFENSE, CUT NONDEFENSE LESS THAN TRUMP: Budget Chair Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is trying to "win the support of House defense hawks, deficit watchers, appropriators, committee chairmen, conservatives and moderates," CQ reports. Her committee "is considering allowing up to $620 billion in base discretionary defense spending in fiscal 2018 — some $70 billion above the $549 billion defense cap that is written into law. The higher figure would represent a compromise between a $54 billion increase proposed by Trump, which would bring defense spending to $603 billion, and the $640 billion that is being sought by defense hawks." The panel is also discussing "a $511 billion limit on nondefense discretionary spending, lawmakers said. That would fall $5 billion below the $516 billion statutory cap." Trump asked Congress to cut nondefense spending by $54 billion to offset the defense increase. "None of the numbers is final," according to CQ. "Any plan adopted in the Senate would likely be different, in part because of a rule in the Senate that proscribes exceeding the statutory discretionary spending caps."

WHITE HOUSE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney "left the door open to backing a new budget deal to change topline discretionary spending levels in fiscal 2018, even if those levels diverge from the budget plan President Donald Trump sent to Congress last month," CQ reports. "Mulvaney indicated the White House might consider a new budget agreement that senators are set to negotiate in the coming weeks or months, if such a deal would pave the way to provide extra funds for Trump’s favored spending programs like national defense, border security and veterans programs." But Mulvaney says he wants to do that "without adding to the deficit.” Without a new budget deal, the caps in the Budget Control Act will remain in effect, meaning sequestration could be in store. 


'DREAMERS' ARE PROTECTED--FOR NOW: The Trump administration won't take action against “Dreamers,” many of them students, who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a candidate, President Trump had promised to end the program. But White House officials said Friday morning that Mr. Trump "had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them," according to the New York Times. The administration officially rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, which had been blocked in the courts. See a Department of Homeland Security fact sheet.

TRUMP CURBS PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CUBA TRIPS: "The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel," the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control says in a fact sheet. Such travel is defined as "educational travel that: (i) does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program; and (ii) does not take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact." Group people-to-people travel, "under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges . . . " is still authorized. Travelers "must maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba." The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued. See the L.A. Times's coverage.

A FOCUS ON INNOVATION: That's the "first unique priority" of new Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the former congresswoman (R-N.M.) who recently stepped down as president of the South Dakota School of Mines. She "wants the service to retake its claim as the military’s innovation pioneer. To do that, it will have to renew investments in basic and applied research that in the past have enabled massive gains in stealth, computing technologies and composite materials," Defense News reports.

$12 MILLION FOR CARBON STORAGE: Two funding opportunites aim "to advance new geological carbon storage projects that enable safe, cost-effective, and permanent geologic storage of carbon dioxide":  Partnership for Offshore Carbon Storage Resources and Technology Development in the Gulf of Mexico ($8 million) will "facilitate offshore geologic CO2 storage in the Gulf of Mexico by combining the capabilities and experience of industry, academia, and government into one or more partnership(s)"; Technology Development to Ensure Environmentally Sustainable CO2 Injection Operations ($4 million) "will address key knowledge and experience gaps in carbon storage technology."

HELP WANTED - EEC DIRECTOR: The National Science Foundation's Engineering Directorate seeks a director of its Division of Engineering, Education and Centers, a so-called rotator position. "The EEC Division integrates disciplinary basic research and education conducted in other divisions of ENG and across NSF into strategic frameworks critical to addressing societal grand challenges and to promoting innovation." 


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


A 'REGULATORY RESET' is how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos describes the agency's decision to pursue a do-over of "two of the Obama administration's primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges," Inside Higher Ed reports. "The gainful-employment regulation, which is already in effect, aims to penalize programs whose graduates’ loan payments exceed a set percentage of their earnings. The defense-to-repayment regulation, which was set to take effect July 1, gives borrowers who say they have been defrauded by their colleges a simpler process for having their loans forgiven by the federal government." 

2017 WEPAN AWARDS:  Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) presented its 2017 Awards June 13 at the Change Leader Forum in Westminster, Colo. The honorees "demonstrate extraordinary service, significant achievement, model programs, and exemplary work environments that promote a culture of inclusion and the success of women in engineering." See the full list

LIFE ON MARS: Read Elon Musk's "Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species."


TOUGH TO ASSESS: A National Academies panel acknowledges it had a difficult task evaluating the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which the Trump administration wants to eliminate. "While six years is not long enough to produce observable evidence of widespread deployment of funded technologies, there are clear indications that ARPA-E is making progress toward its statutory mission and goals." The panel also says: "The agency is not failing and is not in need of reform." One success story recounted in an appendix is SLIPS, the brainchild of Harvard materials scientist Joanna Aizenberg, right. Her team "developed a slippery coating technology that can be used for a number of commercial applications, including oil and water pipelines, wastewater treatment systems, solar panels (to prevent dust accumulation), and refrigeration (to prevent ice buildup), as well as many other energy-relevant applications." The research led to a startup, Slippery Coatings. Read the report.

'MANY PUBLIC BENEFITS' have resulted from Science to Achieve Results (STAR), a competitive Environmental Protection Agency research program managed by the National Center for Environmental Research and integrated into the Office of Research and Development. A National Academies report says STAR "funds research to address critical gaps in knowledge in areas of science that are relevant to the agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment. . . . EPA should continue to use STAR to respond to the nation’s emerging environmental challenges."


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.