Both the House and Senate were in session this week. While the chapter for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations has finally closed, much work remains for FY 2018 appropriations, and very little time.
FY 2017 Appropriations: ✔️
Congress recently approved an omnibus spending bill for the remainder of FY 2017, and President Trump signed the bill on May 5. We were pleased to see that the bill included a number of wins for the research and higher education community, including a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health, a reinstatement of year-round Pell, a $2 million increase to the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a $15 million increase to ARPA-E, among other victories.
FY 2018 Budget/Appropriations: Behind Schedule
With the FY 2017 appropriations cycle behind them, Congress can now shift its focus to FY 2018. The Trump Administration's full budget request for FY 2018 is expected to be released on May 23. Preliminary information suggests the budget will propose significant cuts to important accounts and programs, including NSF and NIH.
Congress has not yet adopted a budget blueprint laying out topline spending levels for FY 2018. None of the appropriations subcommittees have begun marking up their bills, but they have begun to schedule hearings with federal agencies on their respective FY 2018 budget requests. There are only four-and-a-half months left — including the August recess — before the new fiscal year begins.
Make sure to keep any eye out for our e-newsletter next Friday for a breakdown of the budget request.
There have been many concerns surrounding federal grant holdups, particularly by the Department of Energy (DOE). The Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Maria Cantwell, and 27 senators—including both Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth—sent a letter this week to Energy Secretary Perry expressing concerns that DOE has "delayed awarding funds and, in some cases, is refusing to release funds altogether for various activities for which Congress has already provided appropriations."
Senators Request Investigation of Stevens Amendment Violations
A handful of Senators recently expressed concerns about grant recipients' compliance with the Stevens Amendment. The Amendment—enacted since 1989—essentially requires recipients of grants from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to give the government agency that funded them credit for providing support in their public communications. The Senators have cited press releases by universities and other entities that they think have not properly credited the federal agencies that supported the work. They have requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review.
Other Issues We're Tracking...
Next Wednesday, two subcommittees within the House Science Committee will be holding a joint hearing on facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, also called indirect costs, at NSF. The witness panel for the hearing, which is called "Examining the Overhead Cost of Research," includes officials from NSF and GAO, a finance and compliance officer from Duke University, and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. OGR is providing information to our delegation members who serve on those subcommittees in advance of the hearing.
Dr. Bill Gropp, Interim Director of Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications, was in DC to highlight several NCSA-led projects supported by NSF, including the Blue Waters Petascale Supercomputer, Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).
Gropp updated Illinois Congressional delegation offices on the successes of these projects. He also participated in the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) exhibition on Capitol Hill, an annual event which brings together researchers from across the country to showcase NSF-supported research and education projects through posters, computer demonstrations, videos, and educational materials. At the event, NSF Director France Córdova, as well as several NSF Assistant Directors, stopped by to hear the latest.
Robert Work, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, recently spent a couple days visiting the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — his alma mater — where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and was a graduate from our Naval Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC) program.
Shortly after arriving on campus, Vice Chancellor for Research Peter Schiffer and Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Melanie Loots led a comprehensive campus tour for Dep. Sec. Work. In addition to showing the Deputy Secretary the many ways in which campus has changed since he graduated in 1974, they stopped at the Beckman Institute to see some of the advanced materials research funded by the Air Force and the Coordinated Science Laboratory to see some of their drone technology.
The next morning, Dep. Sec. Work visited the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education, where he received a briefing on the Center and its services, as well as a guided tour.
During the U of I Tri-Service ROTC Commissioning Ceremony that same day, Dep. Sec. Work served as the guest speaker, administered the Oath of Office, and presented commissioning certificates.
Rep. Darin LaHood was also recently at the university in Urbana-Champaign for his first visit since coming to Congress. He toured the National Petascale Computing Facility — where the Blue Waters supercomputer is housed — as well as the Research Park. While walking through EnterpriseWorks — the Research Park's business incubator — he stopped to talk with a number of startup companies that are commercializing technology. He also visited with corporate research and development operations, such as AbbVie and Caterpillar.
OGR Federal Relations
Paul Weinberger and Melissa Haas