DC Digest - April 2, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Duke Trustee Confirmed to Board of Corporation for National and Community Service
- House Approves FY13 Budget Resolution
- Obama Administration Pledges $200 Million for Data Projects
- Sixty House Members Request Robust FY13 Funding for DOE Office of Science
- HHS Releases New Policy on Regulating Dual Use Research of Concern
DUKE TRUSTEE CONFIRMED TO BOARD OF NATIONAL CENTER FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE
The Senate confirmed last week Duke Trustee Margeurite Kondracke (WC '68) to the Board of Directors of The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve.
HOUSE APPROVES FY13 BUDGET RESOLUTION
Following two days of debate and consideration of seven different budget plans, the House on March 29 narrowly passed the FY13 budget resolution introduced on March 20 by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The vote was 228-191, with 10 Republicans and all Democrats voting against the measure.
The budget resolution would cut spending significantly on a wide variety of domestic discretionary and entitlement programs, while protecting defense spending. It also calls for revamping Medicare and Medicaid, repealing health care reform, and overhauling the tax code.
The House budget resolution would set FY13 discretionary spending about $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion level approved with bipartisan support in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA), with added funding for defense and cuts in domestic spending. As reported by CQ.com, the budget plan would set defense discretionary spending at $554 billion, or about $8 billion above the BCA level. Domestic discretionary spending would be set at $474 billion, or about $27 billion below the BCA level, says the publication.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are sticking with the BCA discretionary spending level of $1.047 trillion. As required by the BCA, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) filed a “deeming” resolution on March 20, which sets discretionary spending for FY13 at that level and enables Senate appropriators to begin moving their FY13 funding bills.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) reports that the House budget resolution proposes a number of cuts in federal student aid. These include eliminating the in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate students, eliminating funding for Pell Grants out of the mandatory side of the budget, eliminating Pell and campus-based aid administrative cost allowances, and allowing interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans to double, as scheduled, on July 1 from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Presumably, cuts in domestic discretionary spending would translate into cuts in research programs. The energy section of the budget summary (page 30) says:
“This budget would continue funding essential government missions, including energy security and basic research and development, while paring back duplicative spending and non-core functions, such as applied and commercial research or development projects best left to the private sector.”
However, the budget resolution itself does nothing to prevent cuts in energy or other scientific research.
House-Passed GOP Budget Plan Will Meet Resistance in Senate (nasfaa.org)
House Budget Summary (budget.house.gov)
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PLEDGES $200 MILLION FOR DATA PROJECTS
The Obama administration on Thursday announced a plan to spend $200-million pushing forward so-called “Big Data” research and development projects. The White House science adviser and the heads of several agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, gathered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science headquarters, in Washington, to emphasize their belief that research into better ways of compiling and analyzing data will be crucial to future gains in a variety of fields, including medicine, education, environmental protection, and national security. Much of the work on developing better data systems will take place at universities, and some faculty involved in the research said the $200-million was just an initial step toward the size of the investment that will ultimately be needed. - From The Chronicle of Higher Education
Obama Administration Unveils "Big Data" Initiative (whitehouse.gov)
SIXTY HOUSE MEMBERS REQUEST ROBUST FY13 FUNDING FOR DOE OFFICE OF SCIENCE
A bipartisan group of 60 House Members sent a letter to leaders of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee on March 20 urging them to provide the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science with “robust and substantial funding” in FY13.
The letter said,
“We recognize the fragile state of the nation’s economy, and support efforts to reduce the deficit and create jobs. But to do so, we must set priorities and make smart, strategic decisions about federal funding. We believe that scientific research is the foundation for the innovative solutions that will enable us to overcome many of our greatest challenges—from economic stagnation and dependence on foreign energy, to curing diseases and addressing threats to our national security. That is why we believe funding for the DOE Office of Science must be a priority in fiscal year 2013.”
Sixty Members Urge Robust FY13 Funding for DOE Office of Science (pdf)
HHS RELEASES NEW POLICY ON REGULATING DUAL USE RESEARCH OF CONCERN
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on March 29 released its new policy on reviewing and regulating dual use research of concern. The policy appears to be a government-wide policy for all federal agencies that fund research on select agents. Select agents are biological agents or toxins which have been declared by HHS or the Department of Agriculture as having the “potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.”
Although the scope of the policy is limited to 15 select agents, it includes a number of problematic features. The policy calls for a review of all current and future federally funded research to try to identify “dual use research of concern” (DURC). The definition of such research is adapted from that of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB). It defines such research as:
“life sciences research that can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel or national security.”
To narrow the scope, the policy identifies 15 select agents and five categories of research adapted from the NSABB definition of DURC.
The review is to be conducted by the federal agencies, although there is little detail on how it will be accomplished. Under the new policy, identification of DURC triggers development of a risk mitigation plan with the relevant research institution(s). A number of risk mitigation measures are suggested, ranging from modifying the research design and enhancing biosafety measures to education, as well as ongoing review of the research in progress.
The policy says that if the risk cannot be mitigated, options might include redaction of research results (and it notes that this might trigger export control laws) or classification of the research. While the statement cites National Security Decision Directive 189 (NSDD-189), its suggestion that fundamental research could be classified following an ambiguously defined review seems to contradict the intent of NSDD-189, which states that fundamental research should be unrestricted to the maximum extent possible. Finally, the policy designates either the NSABB or the Countering Biological Threats Interagency Policy Committee as the final arbiters of review and guidance.
The policy statement identifies no opportunity for public comment, and it is not clear from the website how or when the new policy will be applied.