The Week of January 15

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Start your week fully informed with a preview of what's ahead in science policy and funding along with a recap of last week's news.

The Week of January 15

The Week Ahead


Trump at Camp David

President Trump confers with Republican congressional leaders at Camp David on Jan. 8.

(Image credit – Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House)

Congress Must Again Extend Government Spending

With federal government spending expiring Friday, Congress’ main task this week is to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government up and running. A final deal to close out fiscal year 2018 will not be ready by the end of the week because congressional leaders have neither agreed to the contours of a budget deal nor resolved disagreements on other outstanding political matters such as disaster aid funding and the status of young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Instead, congressional leaders are expected to seek yet another spending extension, probably through mid-February, to buy more time for negotiations. CQ reports that both parties in Congress are floating proposals to lift caps on discretionary spending by levels of 10 percent or greater, but leaders have been unable to resolve how to balance defense with nondefense spending within any increase, with Republicans preferring a larger boost for defense spending and Democrats insisting on dollar-for-dollar parity for nondefense spending. Should congressional leaders agree to a boost in discretionary spending, science agencies would benefit.

DOD Research & Engineering Nominee to Face Senate Committee

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearing for Mike Griffin, President Trump’s nominee for under secretary of defense for research and engineering, is scheduled for Thursday. A former NASA administrator, Griffin has extensive experience as an engineer and administrator in the space and defense sectors, and his nomination is not expected to meet with serious obstacles. The under secretary position is a new addition to the Defense Department organization and is due to be implemented by Feb. 1. DOD Strategic Capabilities Office Director William Roper will also appear at the hearing for his nomination to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, a position that also entails responsibility over Air Force science, technology, and engineering activities. In addition, the committee will hear from Phyllis Bayer, the nominee for assistant secretary of the Navy for installations, energy, and the environment; and John Henderson, the nominee for assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and energy.

Science and Engineering Indicators Set for Release

The National Science Board will release its biennial tome of statistics and analyses on the global R&D landscape, titled “Science and Engineering Indicators 2018,” on Thursday. The report analyzes how the U.S. scientific and engineering enterprise compares to other nations, and will include information on R&D investment levels, STEM education, workforce trends, and public understanding of science. National Science Foundation Director France Córdova and Geraldine Richmond, an NSB member who chaired the report committee, will participate in a release briefing also taking place Thursday. The event will be webcast.

National Academies to Begin Astrobiology Strategy Update

A National Academies committee charged with developing a new astrobiology strategy for NASA will be holding its kickoff meeting in Irvine, California, this Tuesday through Thursday. The effort responds to a provision in the NASA Transition Authorization Act, enacted in March 2017, and will update NASA’s 2015 astrobiology strategy. The committee’s final report, scheduled to appear in August, will also inform the next National Academies astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey, set to begin late this year. Invited speakers to this week’s meeting will address a range of topics, including possible locations of extraterrestrial life in the solar system, how habitable exoplanets might be identified, how the concept of habitability is defined, and strategies for detecting signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The chair of the committee is Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Toronto.

Air Force Secretary Wilson to Address S&T Summit

On Thursday, the National Academies Air Force Studies Board is holding a two-hour “Air Force Science and Technology Engagement Summit.” The event will provide an overview of the Department of the Air Force’s yearlong review of its S&T enterprise. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson will offer remarks on her vision for how the Air Force should manage its research, including ideas for partnerships with states, universities, consortia, and other non-federal research entities. The event will be webcast.

NNSA Administrator Klotz Stepping Down

Frank Klotz, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, will step down from his role on Friday. Appointed in 2014, Klotz was one of the few Senate-confirmed officials from the Obama administration who President Trump retained. Last month, Trump nominated Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who has served in the White House National Security Council and the Department of Energy Office of Emergency Response, to succeed Klotz. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which will review the nomination, has not yet scheduled her confirmation hearing.

In Case You Missed It

Few Clues Offered on House DOE Overhaul Effort at Hearing

On Jan. 9, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held the first in a series of hearings that could lead to ambitious reauthorization legislation aimed at “modernizing” the Department of Energy. Although the effort has been underway since at least last summer, committee members offered only a little indication of what reforms they have in mind. Some of the discussion focused on the suitability of DOE’s contracting policies, the place of the National Nuclear Security Administration within DOE, and the department’s cybersecurity efforts. Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) expressed dismay that Democrats had not yet been included in what Republicans have been calling a bipartisan project. He said he would be open to “targeted” reforms. However, he rejected out of hand any potential proposals to “eliminate scores of successful programs” in line with President Trump’s budget request, or to combine the functions of DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hearings Spotlight Competition Posed by Chinese R&D

The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Jan. 9 on the national security implications of Chinese advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and space technology. Noting that China’s technology innovation plans reflect “a top-down, government-driven agenda that provides a roadmap for strategic collaboration between industry, academia, and civil society,” Subcommittee Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called for “a national-level dialogue for science and technology policy” in the U.S. that will encompass both defense and the broader economy. On the same day, witnesses at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Department of Energy (see previous item) also highlighted the challenges that Chinese R&D strategy presents. Rich Powell, an advocate of “conservative,” innovation-centered energy policies, observed that China has “no philosophical objection to funding applied research and are happy to take the fruits of American basic research and add applied dollars to demonstrate and commercialize them, thus reaping the benefits.” He said that DOE should take a similar “soup-to-nuts” approach to keep U.S. technology competitive.

Senate Passes Ocean Observation Bill

The Senate passed the bipartisan “Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act” by unanimous consent on Jan. 9. Among its provisions, the bill reauthorizes through fiscal year 2021 the Integrated Ocean Observation System, which advances R&D, deployment, and coordination of coastal and ocean observation data collection, technologies, and modeling systems. The program, which is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was first authorized in 2009. The bill now heads to the House. Details on other provisions included in the bill can be found in FYI’s Federal Science Bill Tracker.

Perry Visits Fermilab and Argonne National Lab


Perry at Fermilab

Left to right: Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer, incoming Proton Improvement Plan-II Project Director Lia Merminga, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Fermilab Chief of Staff Hema Ramamoorthi, accelerator physicist Elvin Harms, and project engineer Jerry Leibfritz.

(Image credit – Reidar Hahn / Fermilab)

Last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory, two facilities in Illinois supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science. In his addresses to lab employees, Perry said he considers himself an “advocate” for their work, and that he views international engagement as a top priority. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), who was a physicist at Fermilab before entering Congress, accompanied Perry on both visits. Foster remarked that he was “impressed with how [Perry] sees his mission as an advocate." Videos of Perry’s town hall sessions at the labs are available here and here.

New Climate Science Initiatives Emerging Outside Government

As the Trump administration downplays the relevance of climate science to national policy, states and groups connected to the scientific community have launched new efforts to sustain momentum and awareness around climate research. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the U.S. Climate Alliance will reconvene the Sustained National Climate Assessment federal advisory committee, which the Trump administration disbanded in August 2017, to continue work “to navigate the challenges of climate change.” The National Academies announced on Jan. 9 that it is launching a new Climate Communications Initiative to raise awareness of its climate science work with the public and decision makers. The initiative will be guided by a new committee chaired by retired Rear Adm. David Titley, former chief oceanographer of the Navy and the current director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University. Meanwhile, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative has released a report identifying the removal of climate change information and other changes made to federal agency websites related to the environment, climate, and energy during the Trump administration.

Interior Department to Require Grants Undergo Political Review

Many Department of the Interior grants and cooperative agreements will now be subject to additional review to ensure that they “promote the priorities” of the Trump administration. According to a memo acquired by the Washington Post, grants to nonprofits “that can legally engage in advocacy” and institutions of higher education, as well as those for land acquisition must be reviewed by an appointed senior adviser if the individual or aggregate award is at least $50,000. The reviews are intended to determine whether they align with the administration’s priorities for the department, including “creating a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt,” “utilizing our natural resources,” and “striving for a regulatory balance.” The memo warns that attempts to bypass the new guidelines “will cause greater scrutiny and will result slowing down the approval process for all awards.” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has voiced skepticism over the new process, claiming it “looks like a backdoor way to stop funds going to legitimate scientific and environmental projects.”

Committee Approves Low Dose Radiation Research Act

On Jan. 10, the House Science Committee voted unanimously to approve the “Low Dose Radiation Research Act.” If enacted, the legislation would compel the Department of Energy to restart its recently discontinued research program on the biological effects of low doses of ionizing radiation. The bill received letters of support from the presidents of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (an AIP Member Society), the Health Physics Society, and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measures. The bill includes an amendment introduced by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) directing DOE to “identify and, to the extent possible, quantify” both monetary and health benefits deriving from the low dose program.

Events this week

All times are Eastern Standard Time and all congressional hearings are webcast, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, January 15

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 16

POSTPONED — CDC: “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation”
CDC headquarters (Atlanta, GA)

Hudson Institute: “Sustaining U.S. Leadership Against Nuclear Terrorism and Proliferation: The Role of the National Academies”
1:00 - 2:00 pm, Capitol Hill (2456 Rayburn Office Building)

National Academies: “Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe,” kickoff meeting (continues through Thursday)
12:20 pm - 8:00 pm, Tue; 10:00 am - 3:15 pm, Wed; 8:30 am - 2:15 pm PST, Thu
Beckman Center (Irvine, CA)
Webcast available

National Academies: “Toward an Open Science Enterprise,” meeting six (continues Wednesday)
Keck Center (500 5th St. NW, DC)
Closed in its entirety

Wednesday, January 17

USGS: Water Information Advisory Committee meeting (continues Thursday)
8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Wed; 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Thu
USGS headquarters (Reston, VA)

NASA: Small Bodies Assessment Group meeting (continues Thursday)
8:30 - 5:15 pm, Wed; 9:00 - 5:45 pm PST, Thu
Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA)
Webcast available

House: “An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development”
10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building)

National Academies: “Technology Transfer Evolution: Driving Economic Prosperity” webinar
1:00 pm

National Academies: “Best Practices for a Future Open Code Policy for NASA Space Science,” meeting four (continues through Friday)
Open sessions: 1:00 - 5:30 pm, Wed; 10:00 am - 3:00 pm, Thu
National Academy of Sciences (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC)

DOD: Defense Innovation Board meeting
Open session: 2:00 - 4:30 pm, Pentagon (Arlington, VA)

Thursday, January 18

NSF: Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 report media briefing
11:00 am - 12:00 pm, Webcast available

NIH: Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Advisory Committee meeting
Open session: 8:30 - 11:45 am, Bolger Center (Potomac, MD)

Senate: Full committee hearing to consider nominees for under secretary of defense for research and engineering and three other positions
9:30 am, Armed Services Committee (SD-G50 Dirksen Office Building)

House: “Disrupter Series: The Internet of Things, Manufacturing, and Innovation”
10:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee (2123 Rayburn Office Building)

Senate: Full committee hearing to consider DOE nominees
10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (366 Dirksen Office Building)

House: “Engaging Energy: Small Business Resources at DOE”
10:00 am, Small Business Committee (2360 Rayburn Office Building)

Senate: Executive session to vote on NASA, NOAA, and other agency nominations
11:00 am, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (216 Hart Office Building)

NASA: News conference on ‘Kilopower’ nuclear propulsion project
12:00 pm, National Atomic Testing Museum (Las Vegas, NV)
Webcast available

National Academies: “Air Force S&T Strategic Engagement Summit”
12:30 - 3:30 pm, National Academies (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC)
Webcast available

National Air and Space Museum: “The Return of the Lone Inventor”
4:00 pm, National Air and Space Museum (600 Independence Ave. SW, DC)
RSVP required to lassmant [at]

Friday, January 19

House: “Deficiencies in the Permitting Process for Offshore Seismic Research"
9:00 am, Natural Resources Committee (1324 Longworth Office Building)

Know of an upcoming science policy event? Email us at


AAS Seeking Volunteers for Congressional Visit Day

The American Astronomical Society is seeking member volunteers to participate in Congressional Visits Day taking place March 12 to 14 focused on research efforts, education programs, and facilities in the astronomical sciences. The goal of the event is to cultivate relationships between scientists and congressional offices. The application deadline is Jan. 26.

NASA Seeking Legislative Specialist

NASA is currently accepting applications for a legislative specialist in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. Position responsibilities include management of legislative liaison activities for a portfolio of program areas, supporting the development and implementation of legislative program strategies, and assisting congressional hearing strategy development. Interested individuals with a year of experience in legislative research and analysis should apply by Jan. 19.

AGU Accepting Public Affairs Internship Applications

The American Geophysical Union is accepting applications for its public affairs internship. Interns will attend congressional events, write blog posts and articles, and assist the public affairs team in organizing the Geoscience Congressional Visits Day, among other responsibilities. Interested individuals should have completed two years of coursework towards a degree in Earth or space sciences.

For additional opportunities, please visit Know of an upcoming science policy opportunity? Email us at

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News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.

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