The Senate’s bipartisan bill, released today, differs significantly from the House-passed America COMPETES bill, dropping the COMPETES name altogether and striking a different tone on scientific merit review.
Two committees are staking out divergent stances on funding for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs—with the House and Senate Small Business Committees both advancing bipartisan proposals to increase the fraction of agencies’ extramural R&D budgets allocated to these programs, while the House Science Committee appears united in opposing increases that would take resources away from other R&D programs.
After missing a goal for achieving a high-energy-yield fusion reaction by 2012, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is taking a step back to determine whether fusion ignition by laser is possible by 2020.
Over the past two months, a House Science Committee bill designed to tighten the NSF’s management and financial oversight of its large research facilities has moved quickly from introduction to full House passage.
Yesterday the White House threatened to veto the House defense appropriations bill and the Senate CJS appropriations bill that funds four federal science agencies. The chambers are actively considering both bills on their respective floors this week, but White House opposition and partisan controversies connected to the bills threaten to derail them.
At its May meeting, the National Science Board praised National Science Foundation Director France Córdova’s proposed set of nine new ideas for the agency – including six “research big ideas” and three “process ideas” that she believes will lead to transformative discoveries.
The Department of Energy recommends that the U.S. remain a member of the international ITER fusion project through fiscal year 2018 and then reassess its participation. The department notes that without budget increases for the Office of Science, the required U.S. contributions to ITER could delay other facility construction projects, such as the pending upgrades to x-ray and neutron user facilities which an advisory committee just finished assessing.
In May, the National Science Board elected planetary geophysicist Maria Zuber as chair and computer scientist Diane Souvaine as vice chair. With France Córdova serving as National Science Foundation Director, top leadership positions at the foundation are now all occupied by women for the first time.
NOAA would see a 3.2 percent funding cut under the House bill and a 1.3 percent cut under the Senate’s. Both would fund the president’s full request for flagship weather satellite programs and boost the National Weather Service slightly above the requested level. NOAA research, however, faces cuts to well below the president’s requested level.
Following the president’s request for a 5.2 percent funding increase for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in fiscal year 2017, the House and Senate proposals are a field apart. The House is proposing a 10.3 percent overall cut but would spare laboratory research, while the Senate would provide a slight 1.0 percent increase.
Last month, the House passed its version of the annual defense policy bill. The legislation contains various controversial components, including a provision which directs the Missile Defense Agency to begin development of a space-based missile defense system.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committee would increase NASA spending in fiscal year 2017, reversing the president’s proposed discretionary cuts to the space agency including some of the proposed cuts to the Science Mission Directorate.
Two low-probability but high-impact events—massive solar storms and human-caused electromagnetic pulses—have recently climbed higher on the list of policymaker concerns about threats to critical infrastructure, resulting in the White House releasing a National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan and Congress considering bills on both subjects.
Senate appropriators are proposing to hold funding for NSF research steady in fiscal year 2017, while House appropriators would increase it by less than 1 percent. Appropriators from both chambers would leave decisions about how to divvy up the $6 billion research account to the foundation.
About one month after the Senate Appropriations Committee reported legislation with middling spending for four of the main science agencies in fiscal year 2017, the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week cleared its bill and committee report. Like in the Senate, the House committee includes no significant spending increases for the four agencies’ research accounts.
Although the House and Senate remain supportive of the Office of Nuclear Energy overall, they continue to stake out divergent stances on nuclear waste disposal via appropriations bills for the Department of Energy – with the House still pushing for approval of the Yucca Mountain repository and the Senate again advancing a pilot program to consolidate waste at an interim storage site.
At a budget hearing for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the chairman of the House Science Committee grilled the agency’s head with aggressive questions about a 2015 scientific paper the agency led which concluded that the slowdown in global warming observed since 1998 has been overstated.
During a House Science Committee hearing convened to examine the Department of Energy’s domestic and international fusion research programs, members asked pointed questions about the beleaguered ITER project and probed what the department could do to support additional approaches to fusion energy generation.
Last month the U.S. signed an ambitious but non-binding global climate change agreement which Secretary of State John Kerry and other international leaders negotiated under the auspices of the U.N. in Paris last December. The deal leans on the “best available science” as a guidepost for nations’ future greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Led by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the House is calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Defense to look into utilizing commercial sources of space-based weather data to augment the nation’s weather forecasting capabilities.
Both the House and Senate fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills for the National Nuclear Security Administration would provide just shy of the requested $12.876 billion and would match the request for the three main subaccounts. However, there are some notable differences beneath these topline agreements.