DC Digest - February 17, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- President's FY13 Budget Would Increase Spending on Research, Student Aid
- A Symbolic, But Pleasing, Budget
- Senator Hagan Hosts "Conversations With Kay" in Durham Feb 22
- White House Seeking Comment on New College Scorecard
- Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Insurance and “Doc” Fix Extended Through 2012
- Associations Support Goals of Federal Research Public Access Act
- CNSF-Led Letter Opposes GRANT Act
- Defense Science Board Finds Defense Basic Research Well-Suited to DOD Needs
- White House Releases PCAST Report on STEM Education
PRESIDENT’S FY13 BUDGET WOULD INCREASE SPENDING ON RESEARCH, STUDENT AID
President Obama presented the Administration's proposed budget for FY13 on February 13. In general, the President’s budget reflects a continuing commitment to increased federal investments in research and education, investments that are vital to the nation’s long-term economic growth, health, and national security.
The President's budget calls for overall spending of $3.8 trillion in FY13. Last year’s budget agreement, the Budget Control Act (BCA), set the FY13 discretionary spending level at $1.047 trillion, essentially the same as the FY12 level. The President’s plan does NOT reflect the additional $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts mandated by the BCA to kick in on January 2, 2013. Unless Congress takes steps to prevent the sequester, cuts will be taken half from domestic discretionary spending and half from defense discretionary spending.
Taken all together, the FY 2013 budget request represents the Administration’s alternative to the looming sequestration process. The budget itself is void of any specific proposals to stop the sequestration trigger, leaving the details to Congress. It's currently unclear how this issue might be resolved. Some insiders predict Congress will enact a proposal to stop sequestration during the post-election lame duck session, but it is still too early to make this claim with much confidence. OFR will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they unfold.
More information on specific programs is outlined below. For additional details, follow the links under the “Read More” section at the end of this summary.
Agency Funding Levels
National Science Foundation (NSF): Overall, the FY13 budget would increase funding for NSF by $340 million to $7.4 billion, an increase of about five percent. Within the total, the Administration has requested:
- $149 million for developing “revolutionary new manufacturing technologies” as part of the Administration’s multi-agency manufacturing initiative (an increase of $39
- $459 million for the graduate research fellowship and faculty early career development programs. This is an increase of $55 million;
- NSF and the Department of Education plan to initiate a joint mathematics education s program, with each agency providing $30 million.
National Institutes of Health (NIH): Overall funding for NIH would essentially be frozen, increasing by $18 million to $28.43 billion. Some details include:
- $639 million for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, including $50 million for the Cures Acceleration Network;
- The budget also would set salaries on grants at Executive Level II, the low level set in the FY12 appropriations bill;
- Budgets for other NIH institutes and centers are down slightly.
DOE Office of Science: The FY13 budget proposes to increase funding for the Office of Science by $118 million to $4.992 billion. Within the Office of Science total:
- Funding would increase for Basic Energy Sciences; Biological and Environmental Research; and Advanced Scientific Computing Research, with funding also provided for a new
Electricity Systems Innovation Hub;
- The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would be funded at $350 million, a $75 million increase;
- Funding would be reduced for High Energy Physics, Fusion Research, and Nuclear Physics;
- The budget provides no new funding for the DOE Office of Science Fellowship Program.
Department of Defense (DOD): Although discretionary spending at DOD would drop by one percent, the budget summary says that funding for department-wide basic research and for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is “slightly above the 2012 enacted levels.”
- For 6.1 basic research programs, the Administration proposes $2.117 billion, which is $4.5 million or 0.2-percent above the FY12 level.
- The budgets for 6.2 applied research and 6.3 advanced technology development would drop by 5.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.
- Taken together, the Defense Science and Technology programs (6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 programs combined) would receive $11.86 billion, down 3.3 percent from FY12.
NASA: The space agency budget FY13 request is $17.7 billion, or $59 million below the FY12level. More details:
- NASA’s Science portfolio would be funded at $4.9 billion, a reduction of $161.8 million, or 3.2 percent, from the FY12 level;
- Within the Science total, funding for Earth Science, Heliophysics, and the James Webb Space Telescope would increase, while funding would be reduced for Planetary
Science—down by 20.5 percent to $1.19 billion—and for Astrophysics;
- Funding for Aeronautics would be cut by about $18 million to $551.5 million;
- Funding for education would be reduced by $36 million to $100 million.
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): The Administration proposes to increase funding for NEH by $8 million to $154 million, an increase of five percent. While $3 million of the increase is slated for offsetting part of the cost of relocating the agency, all NEH program divisions would receive slight increases over their FY12 levels.
Higher Education and Student Aid Overview
The FY13 budget would raise the Department of Education budget by 2.5 percent to nearly $70 billion. This is the largest increase for any domestic agency. Specifically, the budget proposes to:
- Sustain the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,635;
- Double the number of college work study jobs over five years;
- Extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans, which otherwise would rise to 6.8 percent on July 1;
- Increase international education programs to $75.7 million, an increase of $1.7 million above FY12.
As the President said in the State of the Union address, he also proposes to make a number of changes in student aid programs aimed at encouraging colleges and universities to curb tuition increases and states to reinvest in higher education. These changes include:
- Changing federal campus-based aid programs, such as Perkins Loans, to shift aid toward institutions that “keep their tuition and tuition increases low,” enroll and graduate
relatively high numbers of Pell-eligible students, and provide “good value;”
- Creating a $1 billion “Race to the Top” program, modeled after the K-12 No Child Left Behind program, to encourage states and institutions to implement reforms focused
on affordability and improved outcomes;
- Creating a new $55 million initiative, “First in the World” grants, to increase college access and completion and improve education productivity.
The FY13 budget includes several tax-related proposals of interest to research universities. The FY13 budget would:
- Make permanent the partially refundable American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012;
- Exclude from gross income amounts forgiven at the end of the repayment period for federal student loans using the income-contingent repayment or the income-based
- Limit the value of certain tax expenditures and itemized deductions, including the deduction for charitable contributions to organizations such as colleges and universities,
to 28 percent for income taxpayers;
- Make permanent the research and experimentation tax credit and increase the rate of the alternative simplified research credit from 14 percent to 17 percent;
- Expand the eligible uses for Build America Bonds to include financing for Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities, such as nonprofit hospitals and universities.
FY13 Budget Summaries by Agency/Department (AAU)
White House Budget Overview (whitehouse.gov)
Chart: Status of AAU 2013 Funding Priorities (AAU)
A SYMBOLIC, BUT PLEASING, BUDGET
Higher education advocates found plenty to like in President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget, announced Monday: $8 billion for community colleges over three years for job training, expanded student financial aid programs, and more money for some federally funded research. Still, they acknowledge that it is essentially a symbolic political document, unlikely to survive a divided, deficit-conscious Congress.
But the symbolism is still powerful, down to the venue Obama picked to announce his spending plan: Northern Virginia Community College. While last year the focus was on holding the line on the maximum Pell Grant, this year’s proposal called for a host of new and expensive programs, from the community college fund to additional money for the Perkins Loan Program and a $1 billion “Race to the Top” for higher education.
College leaders may not like all of the president’s proposals -- especially the recent, controversial idea of tying campus-based federal financial aid to measurements of “value.” But as Obama again emphasized higher education in his requests to Congress, many acknowledged that he has supported public and nonprofit private colleges to a perhaps unprecedented degree.
A Symbolic, But Pleasing, Budget (InsideHigherEd)
President's Budget Includes Increased Funding for Education Department (ACEnet.edu)
SENATOR KAY HAGAN HOSTS "CONVERSATIONS WITH KAY" IN DURHAM FEB 22
North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan will host on February 22 "Conversations with Kay," an opportunity for constituents to voice their concerns. During the event, Senator Hagan and her staff will meet with constituents and assist them with problems they may be experiencing. Click on the link below for details.
Conversations with Kay flyer (pdf)
WHITE HOUSE SEEKING COMMENT ON NEW COLLEGE SCORECARD
Once again, federal policymakers are searching for a simple consumer information tool to assist students and parents in selecting a college. The latest federal effort is to develop a one-page "College Scorecard," which Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter describes as a means to "make it easier for students and families to choose a college that is best suited to their financial needs, and consistent with their educational goals and career aspirations."
The "College Scorecard" web page provides a preliminary prototype of the scorecard, and invites the public to comment on its elements and to make suggestions for improvement. Those interested in commenting on the proposed plan should do so as soon as possible. The White House has indicated they would like a refined prototype up by the end of February, and are relying heavily on feedback from the website in crafting the template.
White House Seeking Comment on New "College Scorecard" (NAICU.edu)
White House College Scorecard Webpage (whitehouse.gov)
PAYROLL TAX CUT, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND “DOC” FIX EXTENDED THROUGH 2012
The House and Senate today approved the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (H.R. 3630), sending it to the President, who has said he will sign it. The $150 billion package extends through the end of 2012 the two-percent temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, as well as unemployment insurance, and the Medicare “doc” fix, which prevents a scheduled 27-percent cut in Medicare physician reimbursements.
Congress has been struggling with how to extend the measure since last December—when negotiators agreed to extend the three provisions until March 1—but the breakthrough came last week when House Republicans agreed to support extension of the $94-billion payroll tax cut portion of the package without a “pay for.” To cover the $56 billion cost of the remaining two provisions, the agreement would auction off part of the broadband spectrum, require new federal workers to contribute more to their pension plans, and make certain cuts in Medicare.
One consequence of the agreement is that it has eliminated a ready vehicle for extending several tax benefits that expired on December 31, 2011, such as the IRA Charitable Rollover, the above-the-line tuition tax deduction, and the research and development tax credit. Those provisions could be considered at the end of the year as part of the larger debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.
Summary of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (finance.senate.gov)
ASSOCIATIONS SUPPORT GOALS OF FEDERAL RESEARCH PUBLIC ACCESS ACT
AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter to the sponsors of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) on February 13, expressing support for the bill’s goals of requiring federal research agencies to provide free public access to articles reporting on research they have funded.
The associations’ letter to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) thanks the lawmakers for introducing FRPAA (S. 2096, H.R. 4004), and notes the positive example of PubMed Central in NIH, which currently provides free public access to more than 2.3 million documents reporting on NIH-funded research.
While describing several valuable features of FRPAA, the letter expresses concern that the bill establishes only a six-month embargo period between the time an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal and when the agency makes the final accepted manuscript of that article publicly available for free. This is half of the 12-month embargo period used by NIH’s PubMed Central, which NIH adopted after extensive discussions with scholarly journal publishers. The associations encourage the sponsors to extend the embargo period in their bill to 12 months or to consider allowing each agency to establish its own embargo period in consultation with its external stakeholders.
Comments on FRPAA (pdf)
CNSF-LED LETTER OPPOSES GRANT ACT
The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) sent a letter to all Members of the House of Representatives on February 15 expressing opposition to the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act of 2011 (H.R. 3433). The letter says that the bill as written “could have unintended adverse effects on the continued development of the scientific and engineering research enterprise and compromise the U.S. innovation system.” It was endorsed by 83 associations, universities, and related organizations.
The GRANT Act aims to provide greater transparency to federal grant programs as a means of increasing accountability. The CNSF letter specifically opposes, and offers suggestions for changing, provisions in the bill that would require federal funding agencies to post complete copies of funded grant proposals and the names of peer reviewers on a public, government-wide website.
Posting full grant proposals on a public website “would seriously limit the ability of grant recipients to reap benefits from their research,” says the letter. Competitors, including foreign scientists and industries, would be able “to steal cutting-edge American intellectual property.” Similarly, says the letter, posting the names of peer reviewers on a public website would reduce the willingness of reviewers to be candid and critical as needed in their evaluations of proposals. Without anonymity, “many researchers would not be willing to review proposals.”
Late last year, AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Council on Governmental Relations sent a letter expressing similar concerns to the lead House sponsors of the bill: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), chair of the panel’s Subcommittee on Technology.
Letter Opposing GRANT Act (pdf)
DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD FINDS DEFENSE BASIC RESEARCH WELL-SUITED TO DOD NEEDS; SUGGESTS IMPROVEMENTS
The Defense Science Board (DSB), an advisory board to the Defense Department (DOD), has made public an extensive assessment of DOD’s 6.1 basic research programs prepared by its Task Force on Basic Research. The report looks at the human resources involved in the programs, explores the implications of the globalization of basic research, and examines DOD innovation challenges and the need for a technology strategy.
In a memorandum accompanying the report, DSB chairman Paul Kaminski states: “Overall, the task force found the current DOD basic research program to be a very good one, comparable to other basic research programs in the government and well-suited to DOD needs.” The report concludes by saying: “DOD can dominate the world’s military organizations in being able to use basic research results to create new and enhanced military capabilities, by dint of financial resources, infrastructure and national culture—if DOD can overcome the immense burden of its acquisition system, and if DOD pays sufficient attention to worldwide basic research.”
The report is a result of a request made by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in August 2010, when he was the Under Secretary of Defense. A summary of the report's many recommendations begins on p. 88.
Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Basic Research (pdf)
WHITE HOUSE RELEASES PCAST REPORT ON STEM EDUCATION
At a White House event last week, the President released a new report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on how to increase the numbers of U.S. students earning degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The report, Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in STEM,” calls on the nation’s colleges and universities to “improve the first two years of STEM education” with “widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices.”
President Obama also announced several initiatives to bolster the number of STEM graduates, including a $100 million initiative at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve undergraduate STEM education practices, a joint NSF-Department of Education program to improve K-16 mathematics education, and an $80 million investment to help prepare effective STEM teachers. He added that private and philanthropic groups would invest $22 million to complement these federal efforts.
PCAST Report: Engage to Excel (WhiteHouse.gov)
White House Science Fair and STEM Initiative Announcements (WhiteHouse.gov)