DC Digest – June 21, 2016

In today’s issue:

  • Appropriations Update
  • Coalition Thanks Senate Appropriators for Support of Defense Research
  • Senate Approves Durbin Amendment to Sustain Defense Medical Research Funding
  • Administration Releases Revised Export Control Definitions
  • House Passes Energy Authorization Bill with Science Provisions of Concern
  • Senate Committee Approves Revised Grant Act

The House and Senate appropriations committee continue steady progress on FY17 measures in committee, if not necessarily on the floor of either chamber. Below are updates on measures with jurisdiction over issues of interest to higher education:

Interior and Related Agencies (NEH)
During the week of June 13, the House and Senate appropriations committees completed work on the Interior and Related Agencies bills, which include funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the measures,, the House committee approved $150 million in funding for the NEH while the Senate committee approved $148 million in funding.

Labor-HHS-Education (Pell Grants and NIH)
During the week of June 6, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY17 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The measure uses a portion of the Pell Grant program surplus and other spending cuts in the bill to restore the year-round Pell Grant and to give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $2 billion raise (the same increase Congress gave NIH last year). Most other higher education programs are level-funded. The House Appropriations Committee has not set a date for introduction or consideration of the companion funding bill.

Commerce-Justice-Science (NSF and NASA)
The House Appropriations Committee on May 24 approved its FY17 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill with increased funding for research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

The bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion, a cut of $57 million from the FY16 enacted level. Within that total, funding for Research and Related Activities would increase by $46 million to $6.08 billion, and Education and Human Resources would be level-funded at $880 million. Funding for the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would drop to $87.1 million, a cut of $113 million from the FY16 enacted level of $200 million.

The bill would fund NASA at $19.5 billion, or $223 million more than the FY16 enacted level.

Defense Appropriations
Defense basic research would be funded at $2.265 billion in the FY17 Defense appropriations billapproved May 26 by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The funding supports basic research in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Defense-wide accounts. It has yet to come before the full Senate.

This week, the House Appropriations Committee has scheduled mark ups on the Homeland Security and State and Foreign Relations appropriations bills. The Senate will return to appropriations work later in the week.

The Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), in which Duke participates, sent a  letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders on June 13 thanking them for their support of Defense Science and Technology (S&T) programs in the FY17 Defense appropriations bill.

The letter thanked the Senators for the 2.8 percent increase in S&T funding, including for the increases in 6.2 applied research and 6.3 advanced technology development. The group also thanked the appropriators for partially restoring the cuts in 6.1 basic research proposed by the Obama Administration, but expressed concern that the proposed funding level was still below the FY16 level, and noted in particular a proposed 16-percent cut in Navy 6.1 basic research.

The Senate on June 7 approved an amendment offered by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to S. 2943, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to protect medical research supported by the Department of Defense (DOD). The vote was 66 to 32.

The amendment stripped language from the bill that would have limited congressionally directed medical research funded by DOD to those areas the Secretary of Defense determined were directly relevant to the military.

The Department of Commerce and the State Department have issued new and revised definitions of key terms pertaining to export controls. The changes affect the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) . AAU had joined with the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in commenting on  ITAR and EAR definitions that were proposed in June 2015.

The most important development is that the State Department did not revise the ITAR definition of “fundamental research.” AAU, joined by the other university associations and several individual research universities, had expressed serious concerns about a proposed change to the ITAR definition of “fundamental research.” This proposed revision, they said, would have had a chilling effect on university-industry collaborations involving industry-sponsored research in which the industrial sponsor requires pre-publication review for proprietary information.

The House on May 25 approved the Senate-passed energy authorization bill (S. 2012), with a  multi-bill House amendment that contains the energy research provisions of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Bill of 2015 (page 693), which Association of  American Universities (AAU), of which Duke is a member, and other higher education associations oppose.

AAU issued a statement expressing significant concerns about the House amendment because its authorized funding levels are significantly below current FY16 appropriated levels for ARPA-E, the Office of Science’s Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, and R&D programs in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and Fossil Energy.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 25 approved a significantly modified version of the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act of 2013 (GRANT Act, S. 2972) on a bipartisan vote of 12-2. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) is the lead author of the bill that aims to provide greater transparency in federal grant programs.

The modified bill does not include provisions from earlier versions of the bill that would have required posting to a central federal website several categories of grant information including: the full grant application of a successful grantee; grant performance information; the executed award agreement; and information about individuals who participate in federal agency peer review panels.