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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

 

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May 27, 2016

CONTENTS
 


 BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS & TAX ISSUES

HOUSE FAILS TO APPROVE FY17 ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL

House conservatives on May 26 blocked final approval of the FY17 Energy and Water appropriations bill ( H.R. 5055) after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment to bar federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

Further consideration of the measure must now wait until the House returns from next week’s recess on June 7.

HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES FY17 COMMERCE-JUSTICE-SCIENCE BILL

The House Appropriations Committee on May 24 approved its FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill with increased funding for research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

The bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion, a cut of $57 million from the FY16 enacted level. Within that total, funding for Research and Related Activities would increase by $46 million to $6.08 billion, and Education and Human Resources would be level-funded at $880 million. Funding for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would drop to $87.1 million, a cut of $113 million from the FY16 enacted level of $200 million.

On peer review, the committee report (page 68) says, “The Committee has long been supportive of NSF’s peer review process to identify and recommend funding for scientifically meritorious research,” and goes on to direct NSF “to continue its efforts to ensure that award abstracts clearly explain in plain English the intent of the project and how the project meets both the intellectual merit and the broader impact review criterion. Improving the peer review process and project abstracts are critical to protecting NSF’s stellar scientific integrity.”

The report (page 67) also directs the Government Accountability Office to review programs in the Major Research account, similar to the agency’s review of NASA’s large-scale acquisition and construction projects.

The bill would fund NASA at $19.5 billion, or $223 million more than the FY16 enacted level. The Science Directorate would receive $5.6 billion, an increase of $7.6 million, with funding targeted to planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics. Aeronautics would receive $712 million, an increase of $72 million above the FY16 enacted level; Space Technology would receive $739.2 million, an increase of $52.7 million; and Exploration would receive $4.2 billion, an increase of $153 million.

Education programs at NASA would be level-funded at $115 million, about $15 million above the administration’s FY17 request. Within the total, Space Grant would be level-funded at $40 million.

Information on the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science bill is available in the April 22 AAU Weekly Wrap-up.

The updated AAU Funding Priorities chart shows funding levels for other agencies and programs.

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES FY17 DEFENSE FUNDING BILL

Defense basic research would be funded at $2.265 billion in the FY17 Defense appropriations bill approved May 26 by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The funding supports basic research in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Defense-wide accounts.

The total is $207 million below the FY16 level of $ 2.31 billion , but $163 million above the President’s FY17 request of about $2.10 billion.

NEH FUNDING WOULD BE INCREASED IN HOUSE INTERIOR BILL

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies on May 25 approved its FY17 funding bill with a small increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The bill would fund the Endowment at $150 million, an increase of $2 million above its FY16 funding level and equal to the President’s FY17 request. The measure also provides $150 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

  

 OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

HOUSE PASSES ENERGY AUTHORIZATION BILL WITH SCIENCE PROVISIONS OF CONCERN

The House on May 25 approved the Senate-passed energy authorization bill (S. 2012), with a multi-bill House amendment that contains the energy research provisions of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Bill of 2015 (page 693), which AAU and other higher education associations oppose.

AAU issued a statement expressing significant concerns about the House amendment because its authorized funding levels are significantly below current FY16 appropriated levels for ARPA-E, the Office of Science's Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, and R&D programs in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and Fossil Energy.

AAU also is concerned about several policy directives in the House amendment, including those that would limit the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use the most up-to-date scientific research results in their rule-making processes. The House amendment also would prohibit the Department of Energy's BER program from conducting climate science research that is not identified as unique and not duplicative of work by other federal agencies.

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES REVISED GRANT ACT

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 25 approved a significantly modified version of the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act of 2013 (GRANT Act, S. 2972) on a bipartisan vote of 12-2. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) is the lead author of the bill that aims to provide greater transparency in federal grant programs.

The modified bill does not include provisions from earlier versions of the bill that would have required posting to a central federal website several categories of grant information including: the full grant application of a successful grantee; grant performance information; the executed award agreement; and information about individuals who participate in federal agency peer review panels.

Instead, the committee-passed bill requires federal grant-making agencies to post examples of past successful grant proposals to a central federal website. The bill includes some safeguards to protect sensitive information, including personally identifiable information and intellectual property.

Then-Representative Lankfordtold Science Insider in 2013 that the GRANT Act was not aimed at research agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, but at such agencies as the Departments of Education, Justice, and Commerce “that do not have a transparent process in place.”

The modified bill is a significant improvement over past versions of the legislation, and AAU is reviewing the measure in light of the changes.

No timetable has been given for consideration of the bill by the full Senate.

 

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