HIGHLIGHTS OF DEVELOPMENTS IN WASHINGTON IMPACTING THE PHYSICS COMMUNITY FROM FYI, THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS BULLETIN OF SCIENCE POLICY NEWS
Richard M. Jones, Audrey T. Leath
DOE LAB MANAGEMENT: As the Energy Department prepares to compete management contracts for several of its weapons labs, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) plans a series of hearings this summer to explore the management of DOE's national laboratories.
NANOTECH BILLS: Full Senate approval is likely for a bill to authorize an expanded federal role in nanotechnology R&D. The House overwhelmingly passed similar legislation in May, but there are differences in the two bills that will need to be worked out in conference.
FY04 APPROPRIATIONS BILLS: House and Senate appropriators have been busy trying to complete as many FY 2004 spending bills as possible before the August recess. Although House-Senate conferences have not yet been held to agree upon final funding levels, appropriators in either the House or the Senate - or both - have made progress on funding bills for the following departments and agencies: DOE (FYIs #87, 95, 96), DOD (FYI #89), Homeland Security (FYI #90), USGS (FYIs #91, 94), NSF (FYIs #93, 103), NIST (FYI #98), and NASA (FYI #104).
NASA HEARINGS: Recent hearings explored the implications of the shuttle Columbia accident on NASA's space transportation plans, the space agency's cooperation with its Russian counterpart, and its ability to hire and retain high-tech workers.
VISA RESTRICTIONS: An issue that continues to receive attention from the science community is visa restrictions for foreign students and scientists. A July hearing by the House Government Reform Committee explored this topic, and a survey of the impact of visa restrictions on U.S. graduate physics departments was conducted by AIP's Statistical Research Center.
NUCLEAR POWER: Several hearings over the summer showed renewed congressional interest in nuclear power, and concern over the number of American students entering the nuclear science and engineering field.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS, TESTING: In its DOE funding bill, the House did not provide the Administration's full funding requests for exploring advanced nuclear weapons concepts or reducing the time it would take to be ready for nuclear testing. The House bill conflicts with the Senate bill on these topics.
CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN: A new Administration document on climate change was released on July 24 by a panel that included several Cabinet secretaries and the president's science advisor. The document is intended to provide a strategic plan for climate change research, but not provide policy recommendations.
HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS ADVISORY PANEL: At an advisory committee meeting on federal high energy physics research, federal officials focused on the many large-scale facilities that have been proposed in the physical sciences, the need for interagency cooperation and performance measures, and the trend toward increasing internationalization of large research facilities.