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AAU Weekly Wrap-up

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June 17, 2016

CONTENTS
 


BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS & TAX ISSUES

HOUSE APPROVES FY17 DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL

The House on June 16 approved its FY17 Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5293) with $2.124 billion for 6.1 basic research. The total is about $185 million below the FY16 enacted level, $141 million below the Senate committee-approved level, but $22 million above the Administration’s FY17 request. The funding supports basic research in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Defense-wide accounts.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that threatens a veto of the House bill, in part because it would move $16 billion from the Overseas Contingency Operations account to the base Defense Department budget. This would shortchange wartime operations, says the statement, and this action “attempts to unravel the dollar-for-dollar balance of defense and non-defense funding increases provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015...”

Additional information on the status of FY17 appropriations bills is available on the AAU FY17 Funding Priorities chart.

CNSR THANKS SENATE APPROPRIATORS FOR SUPPORT OF DEFENSE RESEARCH

The Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), in which AAU participates, sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders on June 13 thanking them for their support of Defense Science and Technology (S&T) programs in the FY17 Defense appropriations bill (S. 3000). The committee approved the bill on May 26.

The letter thanked the Senators for the 2.8 percent increase in S&T funding, including for the increases in 6.2 applied research and 6.3 advanced technology development. The group also thanked the appropriators for partially restoring the cuts in 6.1 basic research proposed by the Obama Administration, but expressed concern that the proposed funding level was still below the FY16 level. The letter noted in particular a proposed 16-percent cut in Navy 6.1 basic research.

HOUSE AND SENATE PANELS APPROVE NEH FUNDING

The House and Senate appropriations committees finished work this week on their respective FY17 Interior and Related Agencies bills, which include funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The House Appropriations Committee on June 15 approved its bill with $150 million for NEH (and also for the National Endowment for the Arts). The total is about $2 million above FY16 and the same as the Administration’s FY17 request.

The Senate panel approved its bill on June 16, with $148 million for the Endowment, an increase of $500,000.
 

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE APPROVES DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL WITHOUT SMALL BUSINESS, MICRO-PURCHASE PROVISIONS

The Senate on June 14 approved the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, S. 2943), but without two expected amendments to reauthorize small business research programs and increase the micro-purchase threshold for research purchases made with federal grant funds.

The measure, which passed by a vote of 85-13, must now be conferenced with the defense authorization bill that passed the House last month. That bill also does not address either issue.

During floor debate, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was angered when his Selective Service amendment was not granted a floor vote. As a result, he blocked the unanimous consent agreement needed to allow other amendments to be considered.

The amendments of special interest to research universities that were NOT considered are:

· An amendment to reauthorize and make changes in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs offered by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Jean Shaheen (D-NH).

· An amendment to increase the micro-purchase threshold from $3,000 to $10,000 offered by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ed Markey (D-MA).

The amendment addresses a change in procurement guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which requires federal grant recipients to explore multiple pricing options and document all price and rate quotes for any purchases of $3,000 or more for services, materials, or equipment required for the research.

In January 2016, AAU joined in a letter to OMB initiated by the Council on Governmental Relations expressing concern that the requirement would impose an additional administrative burden on institutions and researchers and delay researchers’ purchases of standard research materials and tools. The letter called on OMB to increase the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000, as the Inhofe-Markey amendment would have mandated.

HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS SMALL BUSINESS RESEARCH PROGRAMS

The House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing June 16 to review the results and impacts of the SBIR and STTR programs.

Witnesses from NSF, NIH, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Georgia Tech Research Corporation agreed the SBIR and STTR programs were valuable components of the innovation ecosystem and should be reauthorized permanently. They also agreed that the small business set-aside in federal agency research budgets should not be increased beyond current levels. They said the best way to increase funding for these programs was to increase agencies’ extramural research and development budgets.

Other ways to boost the commercialization of research, said the witnesses, include NSF’s successful Innovation-Corp program, which trains researchers to be entrepreneurs, as well as early stage (e.g. pre-SBIR/STTR award) proof-of-concept funding.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

COURT UPHOLDS FCC’S NET NEUTRALITY RULES

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 14 upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules. In a 2-to-1 decision, the panel upheld the FCC’s Open Internet order, a set of regulations designed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or slowing the delivery of lawful content to consumers. Stated otherwise, the Open Internet rules are intended to ensure net neutrality, which requires phone and cable companies to treat all traffic on their networks equally.

The decision in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC affirms the legality of the FCC’s reclassification of broadband service as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act and upholds the Open Internet order’s ban on paid prioritization (the practice of creating “fast lanes” for certain lawful Internet traffic). The decision also upholds the order’s General Conduct Rule, which broadly prohibits Internet service providers from engaging in any other unreasonably discriminatory practices that interfere with end users’ ability to access content. In addition, the decision rejects the petitioners’ arguments that the order violated Internet service providers’ First Amendment rights.

In 2014, AAU joined a number of other higher education and library associations in issuing aset of net neutrality principles in response to a January 2014 federal appeals court ruling vacating network neutrality rules. The associations’ principles contributed substantially to the FCC’s Open Internet order and, ultimately, to the June 14 court ruling.

The cable and telecommunication industries that challenged the Open Internet order are likely to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Advocacy groups representing Internet service providers also are expected to continue to fight net neutrality in Congress.

ARTHUR BIENENSTOCK RE-NOMINATED TO NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD

President Obama has announced his intention to nominate Arthur Bienenstock to serve another term on the National Science Board. Dr. Bienenstock is a Special Assistant to the President for Federal Research Policy and Professor Emeritus of Photon Science at Stanford University. His first term on the Board expired May 10, 2016.

OTHER

SOAR FOUNDATION REPORT CELEBRATES AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH

The Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation has issued a report aimed at making the case to policymakers and the public that the federal government should increase funding for agricultural research. The report, “Retaking the Field: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research,” includes examples from 13 universities of cutting-edge agricultural research in production, health, food safety, and knowledge transfer. AAU promoted the report on social media.

AAU LAUNCHES “RESEARCHING THE BRAIN, SEEKING CURES” WEBPAGE

As part of the AAU campaign on the value of research universities, AAU on June 15 launched a new webpage on the role of AAU universities in researching the brain and finding treatments and cures for brain disorders.

Researching the Brain, Seeking Cures features stories that range from investigating the genetic basis of autism and tracing the causes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, to researching ways to combat addiction, identifying the dangers of contact sports, and developing new tools for discovery and treatments.

Much of the research is funded by such federal agencies as NIH and NSF.

AAU has asked its member campuses and a number of relevant science and patient organizations to amplify the page and individual stories on social media. AAU’s Twitter handle is @AAUniversities. The hashtags are #brainresearch and #research.

The brain research webpage is the third of a series using current issues to showcase research on AAU campuses. The others areHelping Solve the Fresh Water Puzzle and Helping Safeguard the Connected World (cybersecurity), which AAU continues to update.
 

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