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Things are in full swing this spring—the past few weeks have involved a successful alumni association board meeting in DC, advocacy on the Hill, a campus visit by DHS dignitaries, and positive grant news. Meanwhile, federal appropriations bills are inching along.

 
LEGISLATIVE OUTLOOK
 

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved subcommittee spending allocations this week for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The total allocation adheres to the level agreed in last year's budget deal—$1.07 trillion.

Several subcommittees moved their individual bills, including the House and Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over energy and water appropriations. The full Senate appropriations committee approved the $37.5 billion measure yesterday. Both the House and Senate versions fund the Department of Energy's Office of Science at $5.4 billion ($53 million over the FY2016 enacted funding level) and ARPA-E at $292 million ($1.6 million over the FY2016 level).

The House agriculture appropriations subcommittee also advanced their bill, which included a $25 million funding increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative—USDA's flagship competitive grants program.

 
Higher Ed Community: Don't Tap the Pell Surplus for Other Purposes
 

There have been rumblings that Republicans are considering taking part of the projected $7.8 billion Pell surplus to support other Labor/HHS/Education programs in that appropriations bill. This immediately prompted our higher education associations to send a letter to appropriations leadership expressing "strong opposition to any effort to use funding taken from the Pell Grant program for any purpose outside the program itself." It went further to suggest that the surplus funds should be used to restore Year-Round Pell.

 
DC VISITORS
 
U of I Alumni Engage Capitol Hill
 
 
 

The University of Illinois Alumni Association (UIAA) held a Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC last week. DC was a fitting choice, as the area has a large and diverse population of U of I alumni and the UIAA has plans to expand its advocacy initiatives at both the federal and state levels.

To kick off the meeting, four staff members from the Illinois Congressional delegation—three of which are U of I alumni—joined the board to share their perspectives on federal issues and trends, specifically related to higher education, from Capitol Hill. Participants included senior staff from the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Rodney Davis, and Rep. Bob Dold.

Sen. Dick Durbin closed out the board meeting later that afternoon by speaking about his priorities for higher ed.

 
Urbana Participates in LSST Advocacy Day
 

Athol Kemball, Associate Professor of Astronomy and the Lead for Physics & Astronomy at Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), participated in Hill meetings to update offices on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a new NSF/DOE-funded 8.4 meter telescope which will produce a wide-field, decade-long astronomical survey of the universe. Professor Kemball discussed how NCSA will be the data production processing site for the LSST project, processing, archiving, and serving the data that will be collected throughout the survey. He met with the offices of Representatives Dan Lipinski, Randy Hultgren, Darin LaHood, Bill Foster, and Rodney Davis.

 
CAMPUS VISITORS
 
 
 Photo Credit: Michael Moffett
 

Following last year's announcement that Urbana was selected to lead a $20 million U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence, Urbana's Applied Research Institute (ARI) and Information Trust Institute (ITI) held an official kickoff event for the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI). Through a consortium of 16 universities, national laboratories, and private companies, CIRI's mission is to enhance the resiliency and security of the nation's critical infrastructures, including multi-modal transportation, telecommunications, emergency services, and manufacturing systems.

The ceremony was led by Jeff Binder, Director of ARI and CIRI. President Tim Killeen, Interim Provost Feser, and several dignitaries from DHS made remarks during the ceremony, including the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection, Bob Kolasky, and the Director of the Office of University Programs in the Science and Technology Directorate, Matthew Clark. David Nicol, the PI for CIRI and Director of ITI, discussed the major tasks that CIRI is undertaking as well as the impact that CIRI will have on the homeland security and infrastructure resilience community. Staff from the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Rodney Davis attended.

 
GOOD NEWS
 

The Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced $162 million in awards from the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program. Urbana was selected to lead one of the 23 awards—specifically from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) on the topic of Radiation Balanced Lasers, and is a sub-awardee on several of the others.

The National Science Foundation recently announced 2016 award recipients from its Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Thirty-six Urbana students and two UIC students were offered awards and a handful received honorable mentions. The three year fellowship program supports students pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in STEM and STEM education.

 

Thank you,

Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations