DC Digest - May 18, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Budget Decisions May Be Postponed Beyond Lame Duck Session
- House Spending Bill Level-Funds DoD Basic Research
- National Research Council Report: Measuring Institutional Quality 'Fraught with Conceptual and Data Difficulties'
- Higher Ed Groups Urge Appropriators to Restore NIH Salary Cap
- Senators Introduce Green Card Bills for STEM Graduates
- AAU Testifies on Implementation of Patent Reform Act
- Associations Release Report on U.S. Competitiveness in Biomedical Research
- House Cuts Clery Expansion from Violence Against Women Reauthorization Bill
BUDGET DECISIONS MAY BE POSTPONED BEYOND LAME DUCK SESSION
It has been widely expected that Congress will wait until the lame-duck session after the November elections to work out a major deal to address the numerous major budget, spending, and tax issues coming to a head around the end of the year. CQ.com confirms that these issues will not be resolved before the elections but also reports that some legislators are predicting that the legislative battle may be postponed to sometime in the first half of 2013.
Issues that need to be resolved include: FY13 appropriations; whether and how to prevent the January 3 budget sequester, which is the massive, across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending required by last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA); extension of certain tax provisions, extension of the “doc fix” to prevent significant cuts in reimbursement of Medicare providers; extension of the Bush tax cuts; and an increase in the debt limit.
The Administration has stated that the President will not sign any appropriations bill until the House indicates that it will abide by the BCA (the House-passed FY13 budget resolution calls for a cut in nondefense discretionary spending and an increase in defense spending compared to the BCA), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said this week that House Republicans would oppose any debt limit increase that was not accompanied by equivalent or greater spending cuts, and, in general, positions seem to be hardening on all sides. The President said he wanted a “clean” debt ceiling increase and would not sign a measure with the Speaker’s cuts; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would not consider raising the debt ceiling until Congress resolves the issue of sequestration. The difficulty of addressing all of these issues in a large legislative package, which is thought to be one possibility, has led key policymakers to suggest that Congress likely would postpone the biggest budget fights well into the New Year.
HOUSE SPENDING BILL LEVEL-FUNDS DOD BASIC RESEARCH
On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved its FY13 Defense Appropriations bill, which provides $2.117 billion for DOD 6.1 basic research. This is around the estimated FY12 spending level as well as the Administration's FY13 request.
For the broader Science & Technology (S&T) category, the bill provides $12.21 billion, a slight cut of $53.2 million, or -0.4 percent, from the estimated FY12 level of $12.63 billion. S&T programs include defense-wide and military service funding for 6.1 basic research, 6.2 applied research, and 6.3 advanced technology development.
Within this total, applied research (6.2 programs) receives $4.563 billion, a $176.1 million, or 3.7-percent, cut from the estimated FY12 level of $4.739 billion. Advanced technology development (6.3 programs) receives $5.530 billion, a $118.6 million, or 2.2-percent, increase above the estimated FY12 level of $5.411 billion.
The committee report shows that 6.1 basic research would receive a total of $2.116 billion, or about 0.2 percent above FY12. The report provides the following breakdown:
• Army: $428.5 million, $15.6 million below the Administration’s request and $27.7 million below the FY12 estimate.
• Navy: $625.0 million, $20 million above the Administration’s request and $19.7 million above the FY12 estimate.
• Air Force: $516.0 million, the same as the Administration’s request and $14.9 million below the FY12 estimate.
• Defense Wide: $547.4 million, $4.4 million below the Administration’s request and $27.2 million above the FY12 estimate.
The committee-approved bill would provide DARPA with $2.827 billion in FY13, this is $10 million above the Administration’s request and $11.4 million above the FY12 estimate.
At this writing, the amount of funding the Committee approved for the Minerva Initiative is unclear.
AAU Defense Department research funding table (pdf)
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORT: MEASURING INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY 'FRAUGHT WITH CONCEPTUAL AND DATA DIFFICULTES"
Despite growing pressure from policy makers and prospective students for colleges to prove their value, the institutions have often insisted that their unique missions make simple measurements forbiddingly difficult. Now they have documented proof.
After three years of studying ideas for measuring institutional quality, an expert panel assembled by the National Research Council delivered a 192-page report on Thurday that indicates just how hard it is to do that.
"While productivity measurement in many service sectors is fraught with conceptual and data difficulties," the 15-member panel said in its summary, "nowhere are the challenges—such as accounting for input differences, wide quality variation of outputs, and opaque or regulated pricing—more imposing than for higher education."
Quest for College Accountability Produces Demand for Yet More Student Data (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Improving Measurement of Productivity in Higher Education (National Academies Press)
HIGHER ED GROUPS URGE APPROPRIATORS TO RESTORE NIH SALARY CAP
AAU joined more than 160 other organizations in sending a letter to House and Senate leaders of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittees asking them to restore the salary limit for extramural researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Executive Level I. The FY12 appropriations bill reduced the salary cap from Executive Level I to Executive Level II, a cut of $20,000.
As described by the organizations’ letter, which was dated May 16, this reduction “comes at a time when research institutions’ discretionary funds from clinical revenues and other sources are increasingly constrained and less available to invest in research." As "institutions and departments divert funds to compensate for the reduction in the salary limit, they will have less funding for critical activities such as providing bridge funding to investigators who may be between grants, and to provide seed grants and start-up packages for young investigators," the letter continues. The organizations urge appropriators to restore the higher salary cap in FY13.
Letter Urging Restoration of NIH Salary Cap (pdf)
SENATORS INTRODUCE GREEN CARD BILLS FOR STEM GRADUATES
Two new Senate bills would create a new employment-based green card category for foreign students who have earned masters or doctoral degrees from U.S. institutions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The first bill, the SMART Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3192), which was introduced on May 16 by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), would allow such graduates to remain in the U.S. for up to 12 months while they looked for work related to their field of study. Once employed, they would be allowed to change their immigration status and receive a green card. As noted in the Senators’ press release, “These new STEM green cards would not count toward any existing green card caps or limits.”
The second bill, introduced on May 15 by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), would create a new employment-based green card category (EB-2A) for international students who had earned masters or doctoral degrees in STEM fields at U.S. research universities. The Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century Act of 2012 (STAR Act, S. 3185) also would eliminate the diversity visa program and reallocate its 55,000 visas to the STEM graduate visa program.
The measure is similar to a bill that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) began developing last year; it remains unclear if the two House members will renew their efforts on the legislation this year.
Coons and Alexander Press Release (Coons.senate.gov)
Cornyn Press Release (Cornyn.senate.gov)
AAU TESTIFIES ON IMPLEMENTATION OF PATENT REFORM ACT
A witness for AAU participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on May 16 to examine the progress of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in implementing the patent reform law, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Mr. Richard Brandon, Associate General Counsel for the University of Michigan, gave testimony on behalf of AAU.
Hearing - Implementation of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (judiciary.house.gov)
Statement of Richard Brandon (judiciary.house.gov)
ASSOCIATIONS RELEASE REPORT ON U.S. COMPETITIVENESS IN BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH
A report released on May 17, at a Capitol Hill event featuring NIH Director Francis Collins, finds that U.S. leadership in the global life sciences industry is under threat. The report points to a constant-dollar decline in NIH biomedical research funding and intensifying competition from such countries as China, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Leadership in Decline: Assessing U.S. International Competitiveness in Biomedical Research says that these countries in recent years have expanded their financial support for biomedical research and enacted policies to enhance their biomedical innovation ecosystems. The report was published jointly by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and United for Medical Research, a coalition in which AAU participates.
The report examines a number of indicators in the life sciences industry. Among the key findings:
• If present trends continue, China’s financial commitment to biomedical research will be twice that of the United States’ in the next five years, and four times greater as a share of gross domestic product (GDP);
• Growth in high-wage, high-skill jobs in the life sciences sector is flat-lining in the U.S., while employment in other countries, such as Germany and France, shows consistent growth;
• The U.S. has accumulated a $136.7 billion trade deficit in pharmaceutical products over the last decade, a period when many competitors have realized increasing trade surpluses;
• The U.S. share of global biopharmaceutical patents and overall industry output is shrinking, while China’s continues to expand; and
• China already has more gene sequencing capacity than the entire United States and about one-third of total global capacity.
The report calls on Congress to prevent fluctuations in NIH funding, which disrupt research progress and lead to uncertainty in capital markets. It also recommends that in order to maintain American leadership in this crucial sector of the global economy, NIH should receive annual funding of no less than 0.25 percent of national GDP.
Leadership in Decline: Assessing U.S. International Competitiveness in Biomedical Research (unitedformedicalresearch.com)
Watch a video of the event here. (ITIF.org)
HOUSE CUTS CLERY EXPANSION FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN REAUTHORIZATION BILL
The House on Wednesday voted 222-205 to approve its version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill (H.R. 4970). The House measure strips out several provisions included in the Senate version of the bill (S. 1925), including the proposed expansion of the Clery Act.
The main focus of VAWA—and both the House and Senate reauthorization bills—is on federal programs to prevent domestic violence and rape. However, the Senate measure also includes a provision that would require institutions to track and report claims of dating violence and stalking on campus, a significant expansion of the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to keep records and report annually on the nature, date, time and place of crimes occurring on campus.
As Congress prepares to reconcile the two bills in conference, the higher ed community maintains that the Clery expansion would make compliance more challenging while not meaningfully improving campus safety and advocates for its exclusion from the final measure.
However, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on Tuesday, threatening to veto the House version and calling on Congress to pass a final bill that looks more like the Senate measure.
Statement of Administration Policy on HR 4970 (whitehouse.gov)