The latest news and resources from Duke Government Relations.


The DC Digest-April 29, 2022

  • Congressional Appropriators Begin Negotiations on FY23 Spending
  • Senate Works Towards Conference for Competitiveness Legislation
  • House Dear Colleague Letters on the Importance of NSF and Defense S&T Funding in FY23
  • Education Department Announces Title IX Proposal Will be Delayed Until May 
  • Tweet of the Week!

The DC Digest-April 26, 2022

  • Congress Returns From Recess and Focuses in on its Priorities
  • OSTP Reviews 'Industries of the Future' Budgets

The DC Digest-April 22, 2022

  • President Biden Announces New Sanctions Against Russia and the 'Unite for Ukraine' Program to Support Refugees
  • CNSF Requests an Increase of $11 Billion to NSF for FY23
  • Biden Administration Announces Income-Driven Changes to Federal Student Loan Repayment 
  • Tweet of the Week!

The Duke Digest-April 21, 2022

  • Out With the FY22 and in With the New
  • The Vaccines and Countermeasures Necessary to Prepare for Future Pandemics
  • Duke Names Six Nakayama Scholars for Class of 2023
  • And Much More...

Vaccines & Countermeasures 

Learning from COVID-19 and Planning for the Future 

In a short period of time, the world has gone through an unbelievable process of acknowledging, responding, and acclimating to a global pandemic. “[This response] didn’t happen out of nowhere,” explained Dean and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Duke University School of Medicine, Mary Klotman, MD. “There was a broad base of fundamental work and infrastructure that allowed a rapid generation of vaccines that goes back 20-30 years. There is a need to keep that tech and infrastructure going as we anticipate the next challenge.” 

As Congress works to draft bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure and prepare for future pandemics, Duke in DC and Duke Health Government Relations convened a group of Duke experts to brief federal policymakers. The briefing focused on the importance of federal investment in research, the impacts from their work, and additional recommendations to bolster our nation’s public health, medical preparedness, and response systems.  

The April 11th event was moderated by Dean Klotman and the panelists included Tom Denny, MSc, M.Phil, the chief operating officer of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) and professor of medicine at the Duke University Medical Center; Christina Silcox, PhD, digital health policy fellow at the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy; and Tony Moody, MD, professor of pediatrics and immunology at Duke University Medical Center and DHVI member.  

Vaccines are one of the most critical public health investments needed to protect us from current and emerging infectious diseases. DHVI has been a global leader in vaccine research since the 1980s, addressing global health issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, influenza and zika. Reflecting on some of the successes from the pandemic, Denny noted, “the fact that we identified a pathogen and were able to provide multiple vaccine candidates with EUA (emergency use authorizations) approval was truly amazing,” while also stressing the need for more countermeasures. 

“One of the things the vaccine institute (DHVI) is working on, with funding from the NIH (National Institutes of Health), is a new generation of pan-coronavirus vaccine,” said Denny. This vaccine, which would provide broad coverage for several SARS-like pathogens along with a separate flu vaccine that Duke is working on, could work in tandem to provide protection for a number of illnesses over time. As a result, Denny stated, “There is reason to be optimistic, but we can’t take our foot off the pedal.” 

Also critical to the pandemic response are public health interventions including testing, screening, treatments, infrastructure-based mitigation, technology and more. The Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy has offered pioneering policy expertise to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to create a pathway to reopen the nation successfully and create a more secure health care system.  

Silcox emphasized, “The hard science around identifying the virus, making the vaccine and inventing the test is really only the first step.” Building up implementation, the delivery system, data infrastructure, and most importantly communication and trust are key to managing the pandemic on a global scale.  

“We focus on the biomedical science, and often forget about the social science,” added Klotman. 

Silcox pointed to a real need for researchers and policymakers to “understand the different subpopulations and attitudes throughout the United States and learn how to communicate with them.”  

Lessons Learned 

Denny stressed the importance of maintaining a flexible, growth mindset around emerging findings and building better efforts around the global surveillance of viruses and testing.  

Moody added that the pandemic highlighted existing challenges in our global infrastructure. “We have a globally interdependent economy, and supply chain was an incredible issue,” he stated, “which we have to plan for and deal with. We learned to be flexible.” 

Manufacturing capacity, central reporting for at-home tests, and the lack of ability to alert people who are at high-risk were challenges in the pandemic response and critical to plan for in the future. “We also need to find a way to make testing less logistically complicated,” said Silcox.  

An underappreciated aspect of the pandemic response is the importance of investing in data and infrastructure. “If you’re going to make policy decisions,” said Moody, “you need the best data you can get your hands on.” 

The panelists agreed that ventilation requires more attention when it comes to future mitigation strategies. “There are a lot of benefits to focusing on ventilation, but we need to make sure there is equity,” explained Silcox. Many high-risk settings including nursing homes, prisons, and schools have aging infrastructure where the ventilation is not good. She also added that “wastewater testing has been invaluable,” and provides an early warning sign that over-the-counter testing can’t provide.  

Policy and Next Steps 

As Congress and the Biden administration consider how to develop strong policies to prepare for future pandemic threats, Moody emphasized communication and investment in infrastructure are key.  

“You build a fire station for the size of the fire you want to contain,” said Moody, “you can’t decide to build the fire station when the fire starts, you have to build it upfront.” We need to “learn from this and build on this, otherwise we are going to be in a situation during the next pandemic where we are recreating all the things, we just spent two years creating,” he explained.  

When it comes to public mistrust and misunderstanding, clear and consistent communication is critical. “If we don’t communicate with the public in an effective way, we won’t make much progress,” added Klotman.  

The DC Digest-April 19, 2022

  • Relief for Ukrainians and Visa Flexibility for Online Courses
  • NSF Launches New Research Security Webpage
  • 1st Quarter Recap Blog
  • Congress Urged to Prioritize Student Mental Health Care

Out With FY22 and in With the New 

Spring Roundup of Federal Activities in Washington, D.C. 

Another few months have passed and after several continuing resolutions, Congress has successfully passed its FY22 omnibus package in time for spring. Below are the highlights from the last few months and a preview of what is to come for Congress and the Biden administration as it relates to Duke and the higher education community: 

Budget and Appropriations 

On March 11th, President Biden signed the $1.5 trillion FY22 omnibus package into law. The bill provides a 6.7% increase for domestic discretionary spending and a 5.6% increase for defense spending over FY21 levels. Notably, the bill established ARPA-H (Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health), a new agency housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that will focus on accelerating the pace of scientific breakthroughs for disease.  

Soon after passing the FY22 legislation, the Biden administration released its FY23 budget request on March 28th. The request calls for $5 billion to the newly established ARPA-H, a 20% increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF) above FY22 levels and a proposed $2,175 increase to the maximum Pell Grant maximum award to put the program on a path to double the award size by 2029.  

As a reminder, the budget request is mostly a wish list for the White House and Congress is now working to develop appropriations bills that align with its own priorities. For a quick overview of the congressional appropriations process, please see this graphic linked here.  

Research and Innovation 

Congress continued its work to develop major competitiveness legislation during the early months of 2022. In February, the House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act on a party-line vote of 222-210. After previously noting a preference for passing stand-alone authorization measures, House leadership decided to draft a companion measure to the Senate-passed US Innovation and Competition Act. This began a series of procedural efforts to start the formal conference negotiations, culminating with the naming of conferees earlier this month. You can review the lists of House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans conferees here.  

Higher ed associations laid out priorities for conference negotiations in a letter to Congressional leadership and produced a side-by-side comparison of the pending bills from each chamber. 

As Congress continues to debate the contours of the sweeping competitiveness legislation and the future direction of the National Science Foundation, the National Science Foundation formally launched its new Technology, Innovation and Partnership (TIP) Directorate in March. NSF describes TIP as a critical first step to accelerate the development of new technologies and products that improve daily life, grow the economy, create new jobs and strengthen U.S. competitiveness. 

In early February Eric Lander resigned from his role leading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Lander stepped down amid reports of bullying and mistreatment of subordinates. Currently OSTP’s interim leadership consists of Dr. Alondra Nelson performing the duties of director of OSTP and Dr. Francis Collins performing the duties of Science Advisor to the President and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 

 
Foreign Influence and Research Security 

Issues and concerns related to foreign influence and research security continue to be a focus for both Congress and the Biden administration. On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, conference negotiators for the aforementioned competitiveness legislation will work through different research security and foreign influence provisions contained in the House and Senate bills. A side-by-side of these provisions can be found here but some of the most concerning provisions include an expansion of a Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) review of certain gifts and contracts between foreign individuals and universities, faculty disclosure of foreign gifts and contracts and overly broad definitions of foreign talent programs. 

Within the Biden administration, the Department of Justice announced changes to its “China Initiative” in late February. The new “Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats” will replace the China Initiative and take a more broad and comprehensive approach to address efforts by other nations which seek to undermine our core democratic, economic, and scientific institutions.  

Higher Education and Student Aid 

Noted in the chart above, the FY22 omnibus package included a $6,895 maximum Pell grant award and the Biden administration has requested an increase in FY23 to $8,670. 

The release of the Department of Education's Title IX regulations are expected to come out in May. The forthcoming regulations are expected to rewrite the Trump administration's rules on sexual misconduct and codify federal anti-discrimination protections for transgender students. 

The department also announced it would extend the pause on student loan repayment again through August 31, 2022. The pause, which was initially put in to place during the COVID-19 pandemic, will provide additional time for borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments. 

Immigration 

USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) recently announced a three-part effort to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system. USCIS will set new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expand premium processing to additional form types, and work to improve timely access to employment authorization documents. 

In response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the Biden administration announced it will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and other displaced individuals. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also announced it will grant Ukrainians Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

Biden Administration and Federal Government 

On April 7th, Ketanji Brown Jackson was officially confirmed by the Senate, making her nomination to the Supreme Court a reality. Jackson is set to become the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the nation. 

Robert Califf, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Duke alum and former professor of cardiology at the Duke University School of Medicine, was approved by the Senate to once again lead the FDA. Raskin, the Colin W. Brown Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Law at the Duke Law, decided to rescind her nomination to serve as vice chair for supervision of the Board of Governors of the Fed amid dissension around her positions on climate change regulations. 

Updates from the Office of Government Relations and Duke in DC 

The Duke in DC office hosted a welcome dinner this semester for Duke and NCCU Army cadets. The dinner featured a conversation between Duke alumni Wyndee Parker ‘91, national security advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Pat Thompson ‘11, national security advisor to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), moderated by Amy Kramer ’18, special assistant and policy analyst in the U.S. Army. 

In 2022, Duke in DC also launched a new video series, “Duke Research and the Federal Funding that Makes it Possible.” The series highlights projects throughout Duke University that are progressing science, innovation and discovery, and underlines the positive impacts they are creating for the state of North Carolina. The first two videos of the series are DOE (Department of Energy) and the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) and NIH (National Institutes of Health) and Duke’s Superfund Research Center.  

There has been strong representation from Duke faculty on the hill this semester. William (Sandy) Darity, Manju Puri and Shane Stansbury each provided expert testimony to Congress.  

Darity spoke to the House Financial Services Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee about the role of financial institutions in the horrors of slavery and the need for atonement. Puri spoke to the House Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Regulations on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Stansbury spoke to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on the role of digital assets in illicit finance

The DC Digest-April 15, 2022

  • National AI Advisory Committee Announced by Department of Commerce
  • DACA Renewals Move Online
  • White House Summit on Health Threats to Feature Duke Expert
  • Tweet of the Week!

Duke and NCCU ROTC Cadets Take Washington, D.C.

Duke and NCCU cadets traveled from Durham to the nation’s capital for two intensive days of meetings. The Duke in DC office hosted a welcome dinner, providing cadets a valuable opportunity to network with Duke alumni working in a range of national security positions throughout the city. The catered dinner featured a conversation between Duke alumni Wyndee Parker ‘91, national security advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Pat Thompson ‘11, national security advisor to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), moderated by Amy Kramer ’18, special assistant and policy analyst in the U.S. Army.

Ms. Parker and Mr. Thompson shared their experiences as national security advisors and addressed issues related to defense, national security, and foreign relations. Despite their positions across the aisle, Ms. Parker and Mr. Thompson leaned into the importance of unity and bipartisanship in their work. Ms. Parker explained, “Contrary to what people may think, especially concerning national security, there is a great deal of bipartisanship.” Mr. Thompson added, “I think there’s a lot of fighting when you see the news, but there is a lot of friendship behind the scenes.”

During the two-day trip, the cadets attended briefings at the Pentagon where they learned about current national security issues and decision making. This spring, senior NCCU and Duke ROTC cadets will prepare to transition from undergraduate students to members of either active or passive duty in military reserves. The Duke in DC and DukeDC alumni offices organized this event to provide an opportunity for the students to meet alumni and gain insights into a variety of potential career paths and opportunities.

Entering the home stretch of their undergraduate careers, the senior ROTC cadets were excited for the opportunity to speak with military leaders and security advisors. Elise Bousquette, a Duke ROTC senior, helped coordinate the event with the Duke in DC office. “The [ROTC] trip was meant to serve as an educational experience for the seniors in the Duke/NCCU Army ROTC program prior to our upcoming commissioning. It was meant to contextualize our future careers as Army Officers in the broader national security space,” Bousquette explained.

“This trip was a great way to meet people doing important work on Army policy and foreign policy more generally. It allowed us to tap into the distinguished network of Duke alumni working in D.C. - an invaluable experience!”

Elise Bousquette

Bousquette also expressed gratitude to Duke in DC Director Jeff Harris ‘07, Duke in DC Program Specialist Lizzie Devitt ’18 and DukeDC Regional Director Louise Meyer ‘87, for their efforts to make the event possible for the cadets. “Without [their] consistent enthusiasm and support, the alumni dinner would not have been possible. They truly enriched our time in D.C., and I am grateful for all the help Duke in DC and the Duke Alumni Engagement and Development offices so readily provided”.

By Deven Stewart, 4/14/22



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