Final appropriations legislation enacted today provides steady or increased funding to research programs at science agencies that have been operating on stopgap spending from the outset of fiscal year 2019.
The House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over science agencies have now finished filling out their leadership positions. These “authorization” committees conduct oversight of federal R&D programs and are gatekeepers for science policy legislation. Funding is handled through separate appropriations committees, which have also finished organizing for the current Congress.
Several federal agencies are working to curb foreign nations, particularly China, from using talent recruitment programs and other methods to capitalize on the fruits of U.S.-financed R&D. In the latest major development, the Department of Energy announced last week that it will restrict its employees and future grantees from participating in recruitment programs operated by “sensitive” countries.
Over the past two years, Congress passed legislation updating and endorsing a wide range of federal R&D activities, including marquee bills focused on quantum information science, energy research, weather forecasting, and hazard preparedness.
Efforts by Congress and the Department of Energy to spur the development and commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors have gained steam in recent months, though some moves have received criticism.
The Democratic takeover of the House has brought new leadership to the appropriations subcommittees that write spending legislation for federal science programs, while the top members of the counterpart panels in the Senate are unchanged from the previous Congress.
The Trump administration’s new Missile Defense Review argues there is a pressing need to develop and test a variety of advanced anti-missile technologies to respond to an increasing range of international threats. Administration officials indicate they plan to press ahead with a network of space-based sensors for detecting enemy missiles as well as explore more unproven systems such as space-based interceptors.
Scientific societies, university associations, and industry groups are urging the Commerce Department to tread carefully as it implements new export controls on “emerging technologies” deemed critical to national security, warning that establishing broad protections could stifle U.S. research and innovation.