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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

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April 22, 2016

CONTENTS
 


 BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS & TAX ISSUES

CONGRESSIONAL WORK CONTINUES ON FY17 ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS

The Senate on April 20 began floor consideration of its FY17 Energy and Water ( H.R. 2028 ) appropriations bill. The measure funds the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at the same level as the bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on April 19.

Both the House and Senate bills would fund the Office of Science at $5.4 billion, which is $50 million, or one percent, above the FY16 enacted level.

The House bill would fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at $305.8 million, an increase of $14.8 million. The Senate bill was amended on the floor to raise funding for ARPA-E from the committee-reported level of $292.7 million to $325 million, an increase of $34 million over the FY16 level of $291 million.

The Obama Administration on April 20 issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the Senate bill, which expressed concern that the measure “underfunds critical energy research and development activities,” as well as “the investment in our students, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, our businesses and universities, and our future economy.”

The Administration also objected to low funding levels for ARPA-E and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES FY17 COMMERCE-JUSTICE -SCIENCE BILL

The Senate Appropriations Committee on April 21 unanimously approved its FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science bill, following subcommittee approval on April 19.

The bill provides a total of $56.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA.

NSF would receive $7.5 billion, a slight increase of $46 million above the FY16 enacted level, all directed to Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, for a total of $246.5 million. Both the Research and Related Activities account and the Education and Human Resources Directorate would be held at their FY16 levels: $6.03 billion and $880 million, respectively.

The committee-passed bill also includes $159 million for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels.

The bill funds NASA at $19.3 billion, or $21 million above the FY16 enacted level. The measure increases funding for NASA’s exploration programs, but cuts funding for the Science and Aeronautics Directorates. Science would receive $5.4 billion, or $194 million below the FY16 enacted level; Aeronautics would receive $601million, or $39 million below the FY16 enacted level.

The bill level funds the Space Technology Directorate, which would receive $687 million, as well as the Space Grant program, which would receive $40 million. The latter is the amount requested by the higher education community.


 OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE APPROVES ENERGY AUTHORIZATION BILL WITH COMPETES ACT PROVISIONS

The Senate on April 20 approved the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012), which contains the energy title of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act.

The bill would reauthorize the DOE Office of Science and ARPA-E for five years, including a seven-percent annual increase in authorized funding for basic energy sciences. The original draft bill called for a four-percent annual increase in funding, but that was raised to seven percent on the Senate floor by two amendments offered by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), reports Science.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TELLS REGULATORS THEY CAN FOCUS ON HIGHER-RISK INSTITUTIONS

Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell today sent a letter to federally recognized accrediting agencies clarifying that those entities have flexibility to differentiate their reviews of higher education institutions and programs. The letter encourages the accreditors to use that flexibility “to focus monitoring and resources on student achievement and problematic institutions or programs.”

AAU strongly supports the Department clarifying that accreditors have flexibility to conduct differential reviews. As the association noted in the comments it submitted last April to the Senate Health, Education, Pensions, and Workforce Committee, “accreditation can and should be reformed in ways that more effectively curb fraud and abuse, and crack down on poor performing institutions without infringing on the academic freedom and autonomy of institutions with a proven record of success.” The letter added, “We believe that accreditors do currently have the legal authority under the HEA to allow institutions that have records of exceptional quality and performance to undergo a less arduous set of procedures and processes.”
 

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