FYI: Science Policy News
The Week of May 24, 2021

What’s Ahead

Staff from the Government Publishing Office wheel copies of the president’s budget request to congressional offices in 2020.

Staff from the Government Publishing Office wheel copies of the president’s budget request to congressional offices in 2020.

(Image credit – GPO)

Biden to Finalize Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2022

President Biden is planning to release his full budget request to Congress for the coming fiscal year on Friday, nearly four months after it was statutorily due. Agency-by-agency budget justification documents to be released with the request will substantially flesh out proposals already outlined in a preliminary request released on April 9. At that time, Biden indicated he is seeking billions of dollars in increases for science, preferentially allocated in areas such as energy R&D and climate research, as well as to the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. The justification documents will also furnish detailed plans for the many programs and projects across the government that were not discussed in the preliminary request.

While it is common for a president’s first request to be delayed, Biden’s will be the latest ever , trailing President Trump’s first request by several days. In assembling the request, the Biden administration has faced several unusual situations, beginning with the limited cooperation his transition team allegedly received from the outgoing Trump administration. Since then, the administration has also spent effort developing proposals for trillions of dollars in supplemental spending on pandemic relief , infrastructure and economic reform , and social welfare . In addition, Biden’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, who would ordinarily manage the request’s development, failed to clear the Senate confirmation process earlier this year, and Biden has not yet settled on a second choice.

Senate Weighing Further Changes to Endless Frontier Act

Last week, the Senate merged the Endless Frontier Act with legislation developed by several Senate committees into a package called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act , a 1,420 page bill aimed at improving U.S. competitiveness with China. Among the additions are $52 billion in mandatory appropriations for semiconductor manufacturing and R&D as well as various research security measures . The Senate is resuming consideration of amendments to the package this week and may hold a final vote by Friday, though some senators are skeptical of that timeline. More than 400 floor amendments have been offered so far, but it is unclear how many will receive votes.

As it stands, the package proposes Congress provide $29 billion to a new technology directorate in the National Science Foundation over five years, about one-third of the amount proposed in the Endless Frontier Act as it was first introduced. The original bill’s lead Republican sponsor, Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), has said he would seek to add at least a portion of that funding back on the floor. There is also an unresolved dispute over the relative roles of NSF and the Department of Energy in implementing the legislation. In a bid to influence the bill in favor of DOE, Senate Energy and Natural Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) has filed an amendment that would prohibit NSF from receiving funds that “unnecessarily duplicate existing programs, efforts, and infrastructure” of DOE and other relevant agencies. Among other issues up for debate, Republicans are pushing to remove wage requirements attached to the semiconductor funding and add further research security measures, including a “counterintelligence screening process” for recipients of funds from programs authorized through the legislation. Senators may also attempt to resolve conflicting provisions stemming from a dispute between committees on whether to expand foreign investment reviews to the higher education sector.

Granholm Appearing Before Science Committee

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will appear before the House Science Committee on Thursday, continuing a series of hearings focused on the Department of Energy’s research programs. The committee is preparing to introduce a bill to update policy for the DOE Office of Science. A draft version currently in circulation would recommend Congress increase the office’s budget from its current $7 billion level to nearly $11 billion by fiscal year 2026. The bill also would set funding targets for a variety of facilities projects and establish new programs, including a high-intensity laser research initiative and a helium conservation program. The draft also incorporates provisions from the Quantum User Expansion for Science and Technology (QUEST) Act and the Quantum Network Infrastructure Act .

NASA Head Bill Nelson to Address National Academies Boards

The National Academies Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board are meeting Monday through Thursday to discuss space science and technology policy issues spanning NASA, the National Science Foundation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is scheduled to speak at a joint meeting of the boards for more than an hour on Tuesday morning. The most pressing matter on NASA’s agenda is its Artemis crewed lunar exploration program. Some congressional lawmakers are currently pushing for NASA to contract for a second lander, in addition to the SpaceX proposal it chose in April, and Nelson suggested to appropriators last week that Congress could include about $5 billion in a forthcoming infrastructure spending bill toward that end. He also called for an additional $5 billion to go toward modernizing infrastructure across NASA. Nelson has so far not spoken in depth about NASA’s science programs, which are poised to follow a steady course under the Biden administration.

DOD R&D and NNSA Nominees Face Senate Hearings

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee is reviewing the nominations of Heidi Shyu to be under secretary of defense for research and engineering and Frank Kendall to be secretary of the Air Force. Shyu, formerly the Army’s top acquisition and technology official, is poised to be the second person to hold the under secretary job since Congress elevated it out from within the Department of Defense’s acquisition bureaucracy in 2016. Previously, DOD had a single under secretary position with unified responsibility over R&D and acquisition, a role that Kendall held during the Obama administration. On Thursday, the committee is turning to the nominations of Jill Hruby and Frank Rose for the top two positions in the National Nuclear Security Administration. Hruby formerly directed Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which NNSA oversees, and Rose is a former State Department arms control official.

NIH Director Pitching ARPA–Health Proposal to Appropriators

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins will appear before appropriators in the House and Senate this week to discuss the agency’s budget request for fiscal year 2022. President Biden has requested Congress increase NIH’s budget by about 20% to $51 billion, with $6.5 billion directed toward establishing an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA–H). The hearings will offer appropriators an opportunity to air their views about the concept, which has been embraced by members of the House subcommittee that oversees and drafts policy for NIH. At a hearing convened by that panel this month, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said he plans to incorporate the ARPA-H proposal into legislation he is gearing up to introduce with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) that would be a follow-up to the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. However, Biden’s ARPA–H spending proposal has faced pushback from the biomedical research advocacy group Research!America, which has argued Congress should prioritize increasing funding for existing NIH programs.

Policymakers Headline ARPA–E Summit

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy is holding its annual Energy Innovation Summit this Monday through Thursday, which will be a virtual event for the second year in a row. The event serves as a showcase for new technological approaches to problems in the energy sector, drawing participants from across the business and technology communities and government. A number of senior Biden administration officials will be speaking, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk, and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. Four key congressional players in the development of the Energy Act of 2020 will also appear: House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) and former Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The Energy Act recommended that Congress ramp up ARPA–E’s appropriation from its current level of $427 million to $761 million by the middle of this decade, and it expanded the agency’s mission to encompass electric grid resilience and nuclear waste cleanup. The Biden administration is seeking an even faster funding increase and proposes to couple ARPA–E’s work to a new government-wide, climate-oriented ARPA entity. Biden has not yet announced his nominee for the position of ARPA–E director.

In Case You Missed It

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hears testimony from NASA deputy administrator nominee Pam Melroy.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hears testimony from NASA deputy administrator nominee Pam Melroy.

(Image credit – Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Lander Nomination Clears Crucial Hurdle

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Eric Lander to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy by voice vote last week. Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said that while she “would have loved to see a woman in this position,” she and Lander had reached an understanding that focusing on increasing the demographic diversity of the STEM workforce should be his “very first task.” Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he had decided to support Lander after “carefully reviewing a number of matters that were raised,” alluding broadly to reservations about Lander’s past conduct and connections that committee members mentioned at his nomination hearing last month. Six Republicans voted against advancing Lander’s nomination: Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rick Scott (R-FL). A Senate floor vote on the nomination has not yet been scheduled.

Smooth Sailing in Senate for NOAA and NASA Nominees

President Biden’s picks for head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and deputy head of NASA faced no pushback last week at a hearing on their nominations held by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. NOAA nominee Rick Spinrad was asked about a variety of topics, including the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes, opportunities for supercomputing collaborations between NOAA and the Department of Energy, and options for improving weather monitoring infrastructure in sparsely populated states. NASA nominee Pam Melroy was asked by Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) about the “resiliency and redundancy” in NASA’s Artemis program and by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) about competition in space exploration from China and Russia, including the prospect the countries could collaborate on a new space station. Prompted by Cruz, Melroy said she supports current legislative restrictions on cooperation between NASA and China, citing concerns about “intellectual property theft and aggressive behavior in space.”

White House Reinstates Global Change Program Director

Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reappointed Department of Energy biologist Michael Kuperberg to the role of executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an interagency entity that oversees the quadrennial National Climate Assessment (NCA). Kuperberg led the program from 2015 until the Trump administration replaced him last year with fringe climatologist David Legates, and the position has been vacant since President Biden took office. In a statement announcing the move, OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Jane Lubchenco remarked, “Having faithfully served both Republican and Democratic presidents to deliver world-class scientific results and assessments, Dr. Kuperberg has earned the trust of the science community and policymakers regardless of party stripes.” The statement also included endorsements from President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren, the Trump administration’s deputy head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tim Gallaudet, and National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. Last month, the White House reassigned NCA Director Betsy Weatherhead, drawing some Republican scrutiny . Appointed by the Trump administration just before Kuperberg’s removal, Weatherhead was regarded as an uncontroversial choice, but the White House did not comment publicly on the move and has not yet named her replacement.

Update: The description of Weatherhead’s reassignment has been updated to omit a misleadingly succinct summary of details drawn from the linked Washington Post article.

NASA Earth Science Hearing Examines Role of Private Sector

At a House Science Committee hearing last week on NASA’s activities in Earth science, committee members and witnesses examined the prospects for additional collaboration between the agency and the commercial sector. Robbie Schingler, co-founder of satellite-imagery company Planet Labs, testified that the commercial sector is “receiving mixed messages” from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey as they contemplate the future of the government’s Landsat program. He pointed to recent requests for information “that favor a more traditional and expensive architecture toward large satellite designs,” suggesting that such an approach would limit innovation and negatively impact the Landsat user community. The committee also heard from Riley Duren, CEO of the public-private consortium Carbon Mapper , which is collaborating with Planet Labs and the state of California , as well as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, to deploy a constellation of satellites to pinpoint sources of carbon emissions. He urged Congress to build up federal support for such carbon monitoring efforts. In his opening statement , Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Babin (R-TX) advocated for increasing the integration of commercial data into NASA services.

Banks Named Top Republican for DOD R&D Subcommittee

The House Armed Services Committee announced last week that Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) is the new top Republican for its Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee, which oversees much of the Department of Defense’s R&D portfolio. The role was vacated by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) following her election to the third-ranking leadership position in the House Republican Caucus. Both Banks and Stefanik are proponents of aggressive measures to secure intellectual property from theft or exploitation by competitor nations and have sponsored various partisan bills on the topic. Banks also co-chaired the committee’s bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force, which published a report last year proposing measures to improve defense innovation and expand the STEM workforce.

Lawmakers Contemplating Defense R&D Funding Flexibility

At a hearing last week, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s R&D subcommittee, sought input on a potential review of the Defense Department’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) framework, a subject also floated earlier this year by Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-RI). Senior R&D officials with the Army and Air Force replied that the multi-year planning PPBE requires can make it difficult to reallocate funding to pursue emerging opportunities. Langevin also expressed interest in following up on a recommendation from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence to require a “technology annex” be appended to the National Defense Strategy, a top-level policy document prepared by new presidential administrations. The subcommittee’s new ranking member, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), likewise directed attention toward efforts to increase flexibility in innovation, asking about the relationships between entities established over the last several years such as the Defense Innovation Unit, NavalX, AFWERX, and Army Futures Command.

Events This Week

Monday, May 24

DOE: ARPA–E Energy Innovation Summit
(continues through Thursday)

Federal Demonstration Partnership: May meeting
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board meetings
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Federal Agency and Congressional Priorities for Water Science, Technology, and Policy”
(continues Tuesday)

NNCI: National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure Earth and Environmental Science Workshop
(continues Tuesday)

National Academies: “Community College of Philadelphia Virtual Town Hall: Successes in STEM Education, Research, and Workforce Preparedness”
10:00 am - 1:00 pm

House: “FY22 Priorities for National Security Space Programs”
11:00 am, Armed Services Committee

House: “Expanding Clean Energy on Public Lands”
1:00 pm, Natural Resources Committee

NSPN: “Wargaming Part I: Workshop and Introduction”
7:00 - 8:30 pm

Tuesday, May 25

Explore Mars: Mars Innovation Forum
(continues through Thursday)

National Academies: “Workshop on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering”
(continues Wednesday)

Senate: Hearing to consider the nomination of Heidi Shyu to be under secretary of defense for research and engineering
9:30 am, Armed Services Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building)

House: Hearing to review NIH’s budget request for fiscal year 2022
10:00 am, Appropriations Committee

National Academies: “DOD Engagement with Its Manufacturing USA Institutes Phase 2 Study,” meeting 33
10:00 - 11:00 am

National Academies: “Workshop on Incorporating Future Climate Conditions into Local Actions”
11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Resources for the Future: “Paying for Carbon: Measuring Climate Solutions in Agriculture”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

CSIS: “Reshore, Reroute, Rebalance: A U.S. Strategy for Clean Energy Supply Chains”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Space Foundation: “Into the Future: Climate Services, NOAA Satellites, and the Commercial Sector”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

House: “SolarWinds and Beyond: Improving the Cybersecurity of Software Supply Chains”
2:00 pm, Science Committee

US–China Series: “Space and the Fourteenth Five Year Plan”
2:00 pm

CNAS: “Australian and U.S. Approaches to Cyber and Critical Technologies”
6:00 pm

Wednesday, May 26

NSF: Education and Human Resources Directorate Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Thursday)

National Academies: “Planetary Science Decadal Survey Steering Group,” meeting 14
(continues Thursday)

National Academies: “Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.,” meeting four
(continues through Friday)

WRI: “Key Topics for Climate Negotiators Ahead of UNFCCC Talks”
9:30 - 10:45 am

Senate: Hearing to review NIH’s budget request for fiscal year 2022
10:00 am, Appropriations Committee (562 Dirksen Office Building)

Commerce Department: Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee meeting
10:00 am - 3:30 pm

House: “A Shot at Normalcy: Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence”
11:00 am, Energy and Commerce Committee

WSBR: “How NASA’s New Leadership Team is Ensuring America’s Leadership In Space in Partnership with Commercial Space Industry”
12:00 pm

Atlantic Council: “Commission on the Geopolitical Impacts of New Technology and Data,” report launch, part one
12:00 - 1:00 pm

House: “Defense Environmental Restoration”
1:00 pm, Appropriations Committee

Senate: Hearing to review the Commerce Department’s budget request for fiscal year 2022
2:00 pm, Appropriations Committee (124 Dirksen Office Building)

National Academies: Polar Research Board spring meeting, day one
2:00 - 3:45 pm

Belfer Center: “Are ‘Advanced’ Nuclear Reactors Actually Better? A Critical Examination of the Safety, Security, and Environmental Risks of Non-Light-Water Technologies”
2:00 - 3:30 pm

Atlantic Council: “Commission on the Geopolitical Impacts of New Technology and Data” report launch, part two
5:00 - 6:00 pm

National Academies: “Revelle Lecture: The Next Wave: A Generational Shift in Ocean Sustainability”
5:30 - 7:30 pm

Thursday, May 27

Senate: Hearing to consider NNSA and DOD nominations
9:30 am, Armed Services Committee (G50 Dirksen Office Building)

Wilson Center: “Directions in Antarctic Diplomacy”
10:00 - 11:00 am

National Academies: “Assessment of Partnership Options for a Small Satellite System for Collecting Scientific Quality Oceanic and Coastal Data,” meeting four
11:00 am - 12:20 pm

National Academies: “Harnessing the Power of Multi–Omics Capabilities in the Life Sciences and Biotechnology”
12:30 - 2:00 pm

House: ”Overview of the Science and Energy Research Enterprise of DOE”
1:00 pm, Science Committee

House: Hearing to review DOD’s budget request for fiscal year 2022
1:00 pm, Appropriations Committee

Aerospace Corporation: “New Start Treaty Extension: What’s Next?”
1:00 - 2:00 pm

National Academies: “Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism,” meeting five
1:00 - 5:00 pm

NNCI: “Innovation and Entrepreneurship: 2D Advanced Materials and U.S. National Priorities”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

National Academies: “Anticipatory Research for EPA’s R&D Enterprise to Inform Future Environmental Protection,” kickoff meeting
2:00 - 5:30 pm

AAAS: “STPF Live Chat: Reflecting on (Nearly) 50 Years of Impact”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Discussion with former NSF Director Walter Massey
4:30 - 5:45 pm

Friday, May 28

Moon Dialogs: “Mobilizing Youth for Lunar Governance”
10:00 am - 12:00 pm

National Academies: Facilities Roundtable Discussion
11:00 am - 1:00 pm


NSF Seeking Members for ‘Future of EPSCoR’ Committee

The National Science Foundation is accepting nominations for a 12 to 16 member committee that will lead a visioning process for the future of NSF’s EPSCoR program, which sets aside funds for states that historically have received a lesser share of funds from the agency. NSF intends for the exercise to identify better means of measuring improvements to the research competitiveness of individual EPSCoR jurisdictions and attributing those changes to specific program strategies. The committee will review materials provided by NSF staff, consider stakeholder feedback through written comments and listening sessions, and synthesize the collected input into a report expected by spring 2022. Nominations are due June 7.

DOD Accepting Proposals for Dual-Use Technology Transfer Study

The Department of Defense is seeking proposals from institutes of higher education with expertise in economics and intellectual property law to assess “contracting and intellectual property management policies and their effect on the commercialization of and innovation in dual-use technology” across defense laboratories and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Submissions are due June 10.

National Academies Hiring Geoscience Research Associate

The National Academies is hiring a research associate to support the work of its Ocean Studies Board and Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. The associate will perform background research and analysis in support of policy studies conducted by the boards. Applicants should have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field and at least two years of relevant experience.

For additional opportunities, please visit . Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at .

Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at .

Around the Web

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White House

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Science, Society, and the Economy

Education and Workforce

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Emerging Technologies


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International Affairs

More from FYI
More than a dozen major research centers launched this summer using funds from the National Science Foundation.
Budgetary constraints are poised to blunt the Biden administration’s proposals to increase funding for many clean energy R&D programs across the Department of Energy. However, DOE is ramping up distribution of a historic funding influx that Congress provided through special appropriations laws over the last two years.
NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences portfolio is “severely underfunded,” a National Academies report argues.
The possible extension of a longstanding research agreement between the U.S. and China highlights the federal government’s struggle to balance national security concerns against the benefits of international scientific collaboration.
The Biden administration’s 2023 R&D priorities memo instructs agencies to support U.S. competitiveness in key technology areas, such as AI, including by experimenting with research funding mechanisms.
Early-stage defense R&D programs are facing significant budget cuts in fiscal year 2024, though Senate appropriators are seeking to boost basic research funding. Meanwhile, House appropriators are pushing a major initiative in commercial technology acquisition built around a vastly expanded Defense Innovation Unit.

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