While Duke’s campus started clearing out for spring break, Washington, DC, was buzzing amid President Biden’s FY24 budget request.

In addition to the appropriations season taking flight, the last few months also brought a flurry of activity on student aid, research, federal appointments and more in the nation’s capital. Below are the highlights of federal activity relevant to Duke and the higher education community.

Budget & Appropriations

On March 9th, the White House released its FY24 budget proposal, totaling $1.7 trillion. The blueprint – which is also expected to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade – marks the beginning of Congress’s year-long federal appropriations process. In the coming weeks, both chambers of Congress will finalize their hearing schedule to decide on final topline numbers. Duke’s Office of Government Relations’ primer provides additional background on the process.

Below is an up-to-date table outlining the status of Duke University’s funding priorities.

Federal Appointments and Roles

Biden Administration

Starting at the top, Duke alum Jeff Zients T’88 began his new role as President Biden’s Chief of Staff this January. Zients previously served as the White House COVID-19 response coordinator early in Biden’s term and previously held positions in the Obama administration.

In other administration updates, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Deputy Director Alondra Nelson stepped down from her position in February after two years in the role. The Biden administration also announced eight new appointments to the National Science Board. The Board, established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950, establishes the policies of NSF and serves as an independent body of advisors to the President and Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering.

The Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced Doug Beck as the next Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) director. Beck is currently the vice president of Apple and has co-led the company’s global business development and sales functions, leading the company’s business across Northeast Asia and the Americas.


After a start delayed by the prolonged Speaker of the House election, the 118th Congress now has a full list of committee assignments for the North Carolina delegation, Duke alumni in Congress and relevant committees to higher education. All relevant positions can be seen here.

Student Aid & Other Issues Related to Higher Ed

The Department of Education released its Title IX proposed rule on participation and eligibility for male and female athletic teams. The proposed regulation would allow schools to adopt or apply sex-related eligibility criteria for male and female teams and use criteria that would limit or deny a student’s eligibility to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity if those criteria are “substantially related to the achievement of an important educational objective.” The department states that a “one-size-fits-all” policy to ban transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity would not satisfy the proposed regulation. The administration unveiled a more comprehensive set of Title IX policy changes last year, intentionally leaving more time to craft this rule thoughtfully.

In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Already, about 26 million people have applied for debt forgiveness, and 16 million applications have been approved. However, because of court rulings, all the relief is on hold. A decision on the case is expected this June.

The same month, the Department of Education released a ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ intended to update guidance to institutions that contract with third-party servicers (TPS). The department responded to an initial request to extend its comment period to allow the higher education community and other stakeholders sufficient time to consider the broadly expanded TPS definition. In March, the American Council on Education led a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, followed by a NASFA led-letter, both outlining the higher education community’s request that the Department rescind their letter and engage with higher education stakeholders in a meaningful and less hurried process. Duke also joined a group of public and private schools from across North Carolina in echoing this request.


In only the first few months of 2023, the Biden administration and its federal agencies have already rolled out a substantial number of new initiatives and guidance involving research.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), established last year with the mission of speeding medical breakthroughs, announced its first initiatives as an agency. Among the list are new funding opportunities through an Open Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) and three agency hubs – the national capital region (NCR), customer experience and investor catalyst – in various locations to be determined through a solicitation process.

The Department of Energy (DOE) also announced a brand-new venture, its first-ever agency-related foundation, the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation (FESI), authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act. FESI aims to accelerate the commercialization of new and existing energy technologies by raising and investing funds through engagements with the private sector and philanthropic communities.

To implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act and invest in the U.S. semiconductor industry, the Department of Commerce recently announced a group of leaders from public and private sectors who will create ‘CHIPS for America.’ These individuals will serve in the CHIPS Program Office, which is housed within the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In terms of reports, the White House released several documents covering cybersecurity, U.S.-India relations, biotechnology and biomanufacturing. The National Cybersecurity Strategy includes five pillars and several recommendations, including prioritizing investments in next-generation cybersecurity R&D and developing a diverse cyber workforce. Meanwhile, OSTP released a new report that outlines the administration’s priorities to advance American biotechnology and biomanufacturing.

The White House fact sheet on the United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), intends to “elevate and expand” the “strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions” of the two countries. The fact sheet emphasizes that the U.S. will collaborate with India on several initiatives, focusing on quantum, artificial intelligence, defense, space, and advanced telecommunications.

Foreign Influence and Research Security

China and threats to U.S. research security continue to be top of mind for the White House and Congress. OSTP released a roadmap in January to help strengthen scientific integrity policies and practices across the federal government.

In February, Congress also hosted several hearings focused on issues related to China and foreign influence. These hearings likely represent the beginning of increased scrutiny by in both chambers on China’s role in U.S. national defense and research security strategy, later underlined by Congress’ highly covered hearing investigating TikTok.

The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Commerce also announced the launch of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, which will bring together experts throughout the government to target illicit actors, strengthen supply chains and protect critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries. The strike force’s work will focus broadly on export control investigation, prosecution and enforcement while strengthening connections with the Intelligence Community.


Both the American Council on Education (ACE) and NASFA: Association of International Educators sent letters to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlining their concerns regarding a recent proposed rule to increase certain filing fees. Namely, the letters highlight an overcomplicated process that could result in slower adjudication times, an increased risk of errors and more burden on the applicants and universities.

In a positive development, in February the Department of State extended its issuance period for F and M visas up to one year allowing prospective students more time to make it through the processing times.

As they have done in recent session of Congress, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-GA) joined forces to reintroduce the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would allow noncitizens without lawful status who were brought to the United States as children and meet certain education or work requirements to earn lawful permanent residence.

Duke’s Activity and Engagement

On Campus

On March 24, the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), Catherine Marsh, visited Duke to tour the Duke Quantum Center, which has received over $30 million in funding from IARPA, and speak with interested faculty  about the agency’s programs and engagement opportunities, particularly in artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum and synthetic biology.

Several members of the North Carolina delegation and their staff also visited campus, including Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC) who represents Duke University, Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and  staff from Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC) offices.

In Washington, DC

The full reopening of Capitol Hill marked a busy start to 2023 in terms of DC-based advocacy visits. Several members of the Duke community traveled to DC to advocate in support of research funding, the humanities and sensible immigration policy. This included senior leaders like Vice President for Research and Innovation Jenny Lodge and Pratt Dean Jerry Lynch, along with various student groups.