FYI: Science Policy News
The Week of March 25, 2019

What’s Ahead

Perry, Jacobs, Bridenstine, Córdova

From left, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and NSF Director France Córdova.

(Image credits – House Appropriations Committee, National Hurricane Center, NASA / Joel Kowsky, National Science Board)

Appropriators Begin Hearings on Science Budget Proposals

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are ramping up the pace of their hearings this week on President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, which proposes across-the-board cuts to science programs. Hearings for science agencies include:

  • NSF: National Science Foundation Director France Córdova will testify before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee on Tuesday. NSF’s budget would drop $1 billion, or 12 percent, compared to fiscal year 2019 under the proposal, with cuts spread relatively evenly across the agency’s research directorates.
  • DOE: Energy Secretary Rick Perry will testify before the House Energy-Water Subcommittee on Tuesday and the Senate’s counterpart subcommittee the next day . The administration proposes to roll back the Office of Science budget 16 percent to just above fiscal year 2017 levels and slash funding for the department’s applied energy offices.
  • NOAA: Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will testify before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee on Wednesday. Under the proposal, the budget for the office that houses NOAA’s weather, climate, and oceans research programs would drop 40 percent to $335 million under the proposal.
  • NASA: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will testify before the House Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee on Wednesday. The budget for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate would drop 9 percent under the proposal, with the cuts falling hardest on the Astrophysics and Earth Science Divisions.

See FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker for details on the proposals for each agency. Some agencies have yet to publish their budget justifications, but full documentation is now posted for NASA , NSF , and the DOE Office of Science .

Armed Services Panels Reviewing DOD S&T and NNSA Budgets

Authorization committees have also begun to hold hearings on the budget request, with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees reviewing the proposals for the Department of Defense and National Nuclear Security Administration this week. On Thursday, the House committee will hear testimony on DOD’s planned science and technology investments from Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and top officials from the military service branches. Under the budget proposal, overall funding for DOD’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) accounts would rise nearly 10 percent above their current historic high to reach $104 billion. However, accounts funding basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development would not share in the increase, collectively decreasing to near their fiscal year 2017 level. Also on Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the agency’s nuclear weapons programs. The budget proposes to pare back NNSA’s inertial confinement fusion program while boosting other science and engineering activities associated with the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

Major Developments Expected at Space Policy Events

At a meeting of the National Space Council on Tuesday, council members are expected to urge that NASA significantly accelerate its lunar exploration plans. To establish a sustainable presence at the Moon that intertwines science, commerce, and exploration, NASA has been pursuing a stepwise strategy leading to a crewed landing in 2028. Critics, though, are dismayed by repeated delays in the development of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and would like astronauts to reach the lunar surface years earlier. Meanwhile, the National Academies is convening its annual Space Science Week Tuesday through Thursday. NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz is scheduled to discuss “significant program changes and developments” on Tuesday morning. In its budget request for next year, NASA indicates it plans to allocate an additional $70 million to the James Webb Space Telescope in the current year above what Congress has just appropriated . It is uncertain if Hertz will address how NASA proposes to offset the pending adjustment. Meanwhile, the planetary science community will look to NASA for details regarding a newly announced cost overrun on the Mars 2020 rover. Other subjects on the agenda include the Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey currently underway and NASA’s lunar science program. The interagency Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee teleconference on Thursday will present a further opportunity for policy discussion.

Science Committee to Discuss Advanced Manufacturing

The House Science Committee will review how the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Department of Energy support advanced manufacturing at a hearing on Tuesday. Among the witnesses are Mike Molnar and Valri Lightner, who direct advanced manufacturing offices at NIST and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, respectively. Both contributed to the administration’s strategic plan for advanced manufacturing, published late last year. Also testifying is John Hopkins, the CEO of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, which receives funding from EERE and is one of 14 private-public institutes in the Manufacturing USA network.

Energy-Water Nexus Bill Up for Consideration in Committee

The House Science Committee will meet to consider the Energy and Water Research Integration Act on Wednesday. Sponsored by Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill directs the Department of Energy to “integrate water considerations” into its R&D programs, including water use efficiency, non-traditional water sources, and climate impacts on water availability, and to develop a strategic plan for such work. Congress has not passed prior versions of the legislation, which date as far back as 2009.

High-Intensity Laser Workshop to Build on Academies Report

The Optical Society is hosting an invitation-only workshop this week at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., to organize a community response to a 2017 National Academies report on the status of ultrafast, high-intensity laser research in the U.S. Participants will identify compelling areas for new research and desired capabilities of new and upgraded facilities. The Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy Sciences has already begun to act on the report’s recommendations, setting up LaserNetUS to coordinate community activities in high-intensity lasers and granting initial approval for a petawatt power upgrade to the Matter in Extreme Conditions instrument at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

DOE Panel to Review Exascale Computing and AI Initiatives

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee will discuss the Department of Energy’s efforts in exascale computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum information science (QIS). The meeting comes on the heels of DOE’s affirmation of plans to build the first-ever exascale computer at Argonne National Laboratory by 2021. The committee will also hear about the administration’s AI initiative from Lynne Parker, the lead staff member for AI at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The head of DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Harriet Kung, will discuss cross-department collaborations on AI, QIS, and exascale computing. DOE’s budget request for next year indicates that her office plans to partner with the department’s advanced computing and high energy physics programs to establish “at least one multidisciplinary QIS center” that would “accelerate the advancement of QIS through vertical integration between systems and theory and hardware and software.”

AMS Washington Forum Features OSTP, NOAA Leadership

The American Meteorological Society is holding its annual Washington Forum this week, bringing together scientists and administration officials to discuss policy issues facing the weather, water, and climate research enterprise. This year’s forum features a keynote address by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier, who has deep ties to the society through his long career as a severe storms researcher. Also speaking are the two top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Neil Jacobs and Tim Gallaudet. Jacobs recently replaced Gallaudet as acting administrator of the agency.

In Case You Missed It

Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios

Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios speaking at the State of the Net conference in January.

(Image credit - OSTP)

Trump Nominates Kratsios to Chief Technology Officer Post

On March 21, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Michael Kratsios for the role of U.S. chief technology officer. Kratsios has served as deputy chief technology officer since the start of the administration and was the highest ranking political appointee in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for nearly two years before the confirmation of Kelvin Droegemeier as OSTP director. In the role, Kratsios supported the administration’s initiatives in artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, broadband communications, and commercial drones. Kratsios has not gone through a Senate confirmation process until now. Prior to joining the administration, he was chief of staff for Thiel Capital, a venture capital firm owned by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Princeton University in 2008.

Executive Order Ties Research Funding to Free Speech

President Trump signed an executive order on March 21 that directs federal grant-making agencies to “ensure institutions that receive federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.” Signing the order, Trump said that universities found to be violating the policy “risk losing billions and billions of dollars of federal taxpayer dollars,” echoing remarks he made earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The presidents of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) issued statements reinforcing their member institutions’ commitment to free speech while criticizing the order as unnecessary. APLU President Peter McPherson called the order “deeply disturbing on many levels,” noting that it apparently could give federal officials the power to block funding for universities “they subjectively believe aren’t adequately permitting the diverse debate of ideas.”

New Quantum Coalition Launches in the Pacific Northwest

At a two-day summit last week, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Microsoft Quantum, and the University of Washington inaugurated the Northwest Quantum Nexus, a collaborative initiative that aims to foster a regional innovation ecosystem in quantum information science. House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) were among the speakers. The nexus joins similar collaborative efforts such as the Chicago Quantum Exchange and the Northeast Quantum Systems center. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is pressing ahead with its nationwide Quantum Economic Development Consortium , which includes more than 50 companies. The National Academies is holding a webinar this Wednesday to discuss the consortium’s goals.

Events This Week

Monday, March 25

Atlantic Council: “Climate Change and National Security: Protecting Integrity of Threat Assessments” 2:00 - 3:30 pm, Atlantic Council headquarters (1030 15th St. NW, DC)

Tuesday, March 26

National Academies: Space Science Week (continues through Thursday) National Academy of Sciences (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC) Webcast available NOAA: Ocean Exploration Advisory Board meeting (continues Wednesday) 8:15 am - 5:45 pm PDT, Tue; 8:15 am - 5:00 pm PDT, Wed Port of Oakland (Oakland, CA) Webcast available DOE: Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee meeting (continues Wednesday) 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Tue; 8:30 am - 12:00 pm, Wed Cambria Hotel (Rockville, MD) Webcast available DOC: Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee meeting 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, Herbert Clark Hoover Building (1401 Constitution Ave. NW, DC) House: NSF budget request hearing 9:30 am, Appropriations Committee (H-309 Capitol) House: DOE budget request hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (2362-B Rayburn Office Building) House: “Revitalizing American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing” 10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building) House: DOD budget request hearing 10:00 am, Armed Services Committee (2118 Rayburn Office Building) House: Education Department budget request hearing 10:15 am, Appropriations Committee (2358-C Rayburn Office Building) House: Interior Department budget request hearing 10:30 am, Appropriations Committee (2008 Rayburn Office Building) National Space Council: Fifth meeting 12:00 pm CDT, U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL) House: Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee Members’ Day Hearing 2:00 pm, Appropriations Committee (H-309 Capitol) Biophysical Society: “The Cryo-EM Revolution,” congressional briefing 4:00 - 6:00 pm, 2060 Rayburn House Office Building

Wednesday, March 27

AMS: Washington Forum (continues through Friday) AAAS Building (1200 New York Ave. NW, DC) OSA: Brightest Light Initiative Workshop (continues through Friday) The Optical Society (2010 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC) Harvard Belfer Center: “Mining for Weapons Plutonium: The Feasibility of Clandestine Recovery from Geologic Repositories” 10:00 - 11:30 am, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) House: Interior Department budget request hearing 10:00 am, Natural Resources Committee (1324 Longworth Office Building) House: “Lost Einsteins: Lack of Diversity in Patent Inventorship and the Impact on America’s Innovation Economy” 10:00 am, Judiciary Committee (2141 Rayburn Office Building) House: “EPA’s IRIS Program: Reviewing its Progress and Roadblocks Ahead” 10:00 am, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building) House: NOAA budget request hearing 10:15 am, Appropriations Committee (H-309 Capitol) National Academies: Webinar on the Quantum Economic Development Consortium 1:00 - 2:00 pm House: Markup of the “Energy and Water Research Integration Act” 2:00 pm, Science Committee (2318 Rayburn Office Building) House: NASA budget request hearing 2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee (2358-C Rayburn Office Building) Senate: DOE budget request hearing 2:30 pm, Appropriations Committee (138 Dirksen Office Building) House National Lab Caucus: Briefing on the DOE National Laboratories 5:30 - 7:30 pm, 2043 Rayburn Office Building National Academies: “Sea Level Rise from Melting Ice Sheets, and What We Should Do About It” 7:00 - 8:00 pm, National Academy of Sciences (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC) Webcast available

Thursday, March 28

AIP: Assembly of Society Officers
9:30 am - 6:00 pm, American Institute of Physics (College Park, MD) DOE: Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee meeting 9:00 am - 4:30 pm, Crystal City Marriott (Arlington, VA) Senate: NNSA budget request hearing 9:30 am, Armed Services Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building) House: “DOD Nuclear Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020” 10:00 am, Armed Services Committee (2118 Rayburn Office Building) House: DOD S&T budget request hearing 10:00 am, Armed Services Committee (2212 Rayburn Office Building) Senate: Education Department budget hearing 10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (124 Dirksen Office Building) Senate: “Hearing to Consider the Nomination of David Bernhardt for Interior Secretary” 10:00 am, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (366 Dirksen Office Building) Carbon Utilization Research Council: “Achieving Energy and Climate Goals — The Role of Carbon Capture,” congressional briefing 11:45 am - 1:00 pm, 203 Capitol Visitor Center NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee teleconference 12:00 - 3:00 pm ITIF: “How America Can Win the Global Talent Race” 12:30 - 2:00 pm, ITIF (1101 K St. NW, DC) Webcast available AGU: Webinar on AGU’s New Ethics and Equity Center 2:00 - 3:00 pm Carnegie Institution: “Addressing Climate Change with Science-Based Energy Solutions“ 6:30 - 7:45 pm, Carnegie Institution for Science (5251 Broad Branch Road NW, DC)

Friday, March 29

STGlobal: 19th Annual Conference (continues Saturday) National Academies (2101 Constitution Ave. NW, DC) Columbia: “A University Symposium: Promoting Credibility, Reproducibility and Integrity in Research” 9:00 am - 7:00 pm, Columbia University (New York City, NY) Secure World Foundation: “U.S.-China Engagement in Space” 12:00 - 2:00 pm, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC)

Monday, April 1

USRA: “Space Astrophysics Landscape for the 2020s and Beyond” (continues through Wednesday) Potomac, MD NOAA: Space Weather Workshop (continues through Friday) Boulder, CO


NIST Seeking Physical Measurement Laboratory Director

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking applicants to lead its Physical Measurement Laboratory. The director serves as the primary point of contact for NIST on physical metrology matters both nationally and internationally. Applications are due April 22.

NSF Seeking Chemistry Division Director

The National Science Foundation is seeking applicants to lead the Chemistry Division within the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate. The director oversees NSF’s investments in chemistry research and education, which currently stand at over $200 million annually. Applications are due June 11.

New Emerging Technology Think Tank Staffing Up

The recently launched Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University is accepting applications for multiple positions. Led by former Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity Director Jason Matheny, the center aims to “prepare a generation of policymakers, analysts, and diplomats to address the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies.” In its first two years, the center plans to focus on artificial intelligence and advanced computing technologies.

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