The latest news and resources from Duke Government Relations.
June 22, 2022
Reflecting on the vital role this federal program has played for students at Duke over the years
The Pell Grant, one of America’s premier means of providing financial aid to college students, hits a big milestone this week as the program turns 50 years old. On June 23rd, Duke joins the higher education community in marking Pell’s golden anniversary and day of advocacy.
First created in 1972 by the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization, Pell Grants have provided aid to tens of millions of college students who are most in need of financial support. According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), the Pell Grant supplied nearly 7 million college students student aid in the 2019-2020 academic year. In the same academic year, the program also supported 14% of all Duke University undergraduate students.
“Pell Grants play a vital role in helping all students have access to higher education,” explained Miranda McCall, the assistant vice provost and director of the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support at Duke. “Since the program began 50 years ago, it has helped millions of people in our country attend college. Duke provides robust additional financial support for Pell recipients to meet demonstrated financial need, and we stand with other colleges and universities in advocating for the doubling of the Pell Grant to ensure broader access to higher education nationwide.”
Strengthening the Pell Grant remains a key priority for Duke’s federal advocacy agenda. Chris Simmons, Duke’s associate vice president for government relations, emphasized that Pell Grants give “recipients an additional boost as they make their way through the college years. It also offers a glimmer of hope and optimism, politically, as it enjoys strong bipartisan support year to year.”
"While the support and program are celebrated,” said Simmons, “the anniversary is a good reminder that more must be done to support our most financially vulnerable students.”
As the anniversary date of June 23, 2022, approaches, Duke has continued to reiterate its support for Pell Grants and advocates for doubling the maximum Pell Grant to the North Carolina Congressional delegation. We have also been supportive of the recent bipartisan, bicameral resolutions honoring the Pell Grant program.
More activity and celebration of this anniversary will be found on Duke in DC’s Twitter feed and at #PellTurns50 on social media all week.
June 8, 2022
Technological advancement over the past several years has brought FinTech and cryptocurrency to the forefront of our public discourse. While these innovations to both domestic and international financial institutions are here to stay, a select few individuals have a deep understanding of what they are and what this signifies for the future of banking.
Jimmie Lenz, an executive in residence and director of the Master of Engineering in FinTech and Cybersecurity at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, provides some answers for those who are looking to learn more about cryptocurrency and FinTech and offers advice to lawmakers as they consider legislation and implementation of regulations for the industry.
What is a common misunderstanding amongst federal policymakers about crypto and FinTech?
I could write a book about each of these, maybe several. Probably the most pronounced misconception around FinTech is that this is something new. I feel like I’ve been working in FinTech during my over two-decade career in financial services. Crypto is a bit different, this is quite new and should be approached, as with any new technology, with an eye toward the future opportunities that it may facilitate.
What are the primary considerations lawmakers should keep in mind when shaping legislation and regulations?
Understanding that these are both delivering products and services that are new, and that they likely will not conform to historic notions. Understanding the offerings that these technologies provide, as well as the technologies themselves, is of paramount importance. Trying to shape legislation based on anything less than a good working understanding could be quite catastrophic.
What does the Biden administration’s executive order on cryptocurrencies get right, get wrong, and/or leave unaddressed?
Let’s face it, this executive order was pretty light in terms of tone and direction, which is certainly better than uninformed legislation, but at this point in time, it should have been a bit more concise. There are a number of agencies that this [responsibility] has been pushed to, and that’s likely to end in more of the same regulatory agency posturing that we’ve seen before. It would be great if a few legislators on both sides of the aisle could look at the morass of regulatory agencies and possibly use this as an opportunity to start to move into the 21st century.
In your eyes, what does the future hold in terms of how we exchange money and protect consumer privacy?
These are two vastly different questions in my mind. Privacy involves ownership, in this case of personal data. Like other assets that one owns: it can be sold, traded and sometimes stolen; it has value and like all valuable assets there is a market for it. “Money” whether fiat, crypto, or something else is a store of value and technology has allowed these stores of value to be exchanged in different ways. As we have seen, this has facilitated people around the world at times of emergency, to exchange currency quickly, but there are opportunities to make commerce much more efficient and remove the “frictions” that often hamper trade.
What are the concerns if the U.S. doesn’t craft a comprehensive, well-informed policy around these topics?
There are two in my mind. The first is the competitive edge we will lose along with the companies and people that are developing these technologies. The second is the benefits that society will lose out on - this goes for government too - in delaying the use of things like digital currencies, digital wallets, etc.
What are privacy and corruption concerns if crypto is primarily regulated by the private sector?
People vote with their feet. If they are concerned, they simply won’t use a particular service, we’ve seen this time and again. My concern over regulation is that it will favor the legacy firms at the cost of new products and services being made available to the widest array of people.
By Lizzie Devitt, 6/8/22
May 26, 2022
The question of how we can prevent and mitigate the effects of future pandemics has a down-to-earth answer – protect the environment. Duke researchers Stuart Pimm, Bill Pan and Dana Pasquale spoke to a virtual audience of professionals from Washington, D.C. on May 9th to discuss key insights about the adverse consequences arising from climate change, deforestation, wildlife trade, urbanization and other global environmental and animal health threats.
As Congress works on bipartisan legislation to prepare for the next pandemic, Stuart Pimm, the Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology, listed several threats he thinks are important to recognize for the future. “Many disease vectors... are moving north and can begin to enter the U.S., fringes of Europe and certainly China,” Pimm noted, “we are an increasingly urbanized society,” and are continuing to be more mobile through migration and travel.
"These risks are completely independent from science and medical technology being able to address emerging disease...it is mostly riven by environmental, anthropogenic-environmental change.
The panelists outlined several additional factors - agriculture practices, illegal gold mining and logging - that also will exacerbate society’s risks of encountering new pathogens.
“These risks are completely independent from science and medical technology being able to address emerging disease,” Pan said, “it is mostly driven by environmental, anthropogenic-environmental change.” As a result, efforts to curb or stop these practices would have a great impact on the prevention of future pandemics.
By observing the COVID-19 pandemic response, researchers have also drawn conclusions about how we can better prepare for future disease outbreaks. Duke Assistant Professor in Population Health Sciences Dana Pasquale explained that while a vaccine is a helpful tool in healing from COVID-19, “the next pandemic will be underway before a vaccine is developed.”
Bill Pan, the Elizabeth Brooks Reid and Whitelaw Reid Associate Professor of Population Studies at Duke also commented on some of the other shortcomings of relying on vaccines. “The problem that comes in with the environment is that vaccines are an individual choice, but the environment is not,” explained Pan. “Climate change, deforestation and sea level rise all affect the population on a much broader scale. There are specific environmental interventions that we need to begin thinking about to prevent massive spillover of diseases… because vaccines will not always protect us.”
"As an ecologist, I think we need to recognize that there are some very straightforward, prudent, sensible and cheap interventions that we could implement.”
Pimm emphasized the importance of stopping deforestation of tropical rainforests – which adds an additional four billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year – as well as wildlife trade. “All of these are simple and cost-effective, and we have to think about these as a matter of policy to slow down what might be the next scourge.”
“As an ecologist,” explained Pimm, “I think we need to recognize that there are some very straightforward, prudent, sensible and cheap interventions that we could implement.”
From the local level to the global scale, climate and mobility jointly contribute to the rises and falls of pathogenic spread throughout the seasons. Pan highlighted that while illegal migration is typically cited as the main concern for transmission, “the fact is that internal migration within countries and even legal migration across borders are spreading diseases in ways that greatly exceed any type of illegal migration.”
Pasquale also underlined another risk, current agricultural practices which use antimicrobials to increase farm yields.“We’re doing quite a number to increase the likelihood of antimicrobial resistance… we know already that its heading to disaster and we’re not doing anything to slow down.” In addition, climate change, accompanied with defaunation and deforestation, will cause humans to encounter other animals and pathogens more frequently. Pasquale explained,“there will be opportunities for more novel diseases to potentially contact species that they never contacted before and in some cases, there will be a suitable host for that new pathogen.”
“Surveillance is a really tricky problem. It requires a lot of investment and resources… as anthropogenic climate change occurs, as the world warms, as people move, there has to be more of a focus on integrating animal health and environmental health.”
In closing the three researchers provided policy staff in the audience with several recommendations and preventative measures.
First, Pasquale discussed surveillance and tracing of the potential transmission and spread of pathogens, which continues to be an issue even for developed countries like the US. “Surveillance is a really tricky problem,” said Pasquale, “it requires a lot of investment and resources… as anthropogenic climate change occurs, as the world warms, as people move, there has to be more of a focus on integrating animal health and environmental health.”
Closing with a call for action, Pimm stated, “Many of these things we can stop. Countries can suppress illegal gold mining and logging in their forests – they can stop deforestation and do this for the bargain price of a few billion dollars.” The important thing will be for countries, including the U.S., to implement strong, proactive policy and so these issues do not become insurmountable.
By Lizzie Devitt, Posted 5/26/22
April 19, 2022
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.”
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.
April 19, 2022
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.
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.
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.
April 14, 2022
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!”
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
February 16, 2022
Quantum computing enables researchers to solve problems that were previously impossible to solve, and its use is on the rise. In 2022, Crystal Noel joined Duke University as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics. Noel brought her expertise as well as the Error-corrected Universal Reconfigurable Ion-trap Quantum Archetype (EURIQA), an advanced quantum computer system funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), along with her to the Duke Quantum Center.
"The EURIQA system is currently the only one of its kind. It is the most powerful academic quantum computer available. This system could not have been built on this scale without the sustained commitment from IARPA." - Crystal Noel
Collectively, members of the Duke Quantum Center have brought in over $170 million in funding and performed over $100 million in government contracts since 2007. Noel specializes in quantum error correction, adding to the Duke Quantum Center’s rapidly growing knowledge base.
Drawing on her research, Noel answered several questions regarding her experiences in quantum computing, the value of federal funding, and provided advice for students interested in studying quantum computing:
- What inspired you to study quantum computing?
My initial inspiration to study quantum computing came from my background in both computer science and physics. I enjoy the applications and utility of computer science, but physics captured my imagination. Quantum computing combines the two topics into a field of its own.
- What’s a common misconception about quantum computing that you come across in your work?
A common misunderstanding about quantum computing is that the power comes from creating superpositions of states, thereby allowing parallel processing of a problem on all possible inputs at once. While this property is important, it is not enough. When a quantum system is measured, it collapses onto a single state, making it impossible to get all the answers from all the inputs in one measurement. The real promise of the power of quantum computing comes from quantum interference and entanglement, which are quantum properties that are much harder to grasp. Even Einstein called entanglement "spooky action at a distance.”
- What is unique about the Error-corrected Universal Reconfigurable Ion-trap Quantum Archetype (EURIQA) and how has funding from IARPA assisted your work?
The EURIQA system is currently the only one of its kind. It is the most powerful academic quantum computer available. This system could not have been built on this scale without the sustained commitment from IARPA, as well as the ambitious goals of the IARPA LogiQ program to push towards an extremely capable device.
- What are you looking forward to most in your time in Durham and working at the Duke Quantum Center?
One thing that I have really enjoyed about working on the EURIQA system is collaborating closely with theorists to bring their ideas to reality. I am looking forward to the development of the Duke Quantum Center into a user facility with multiple systems running a diverse array of applications. I hope that we have theorists visiting from all over the world to work with us to study problems in physics, chemistry, or even biology.
- What would you like to tell current students who are interested in quantum?
There are many ways to contribute to the quantum community - science writing, software development, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, quantum physics, algorithms, and more. With the industry and research growing so fast, there is a need for all types of folks to jump in and keep quantum moving. Try to read about the current research and find what problems you find exciting to tackle. It's an exciting time for quantum, so come and join us!
By Deven Stewart, 2/16/22
January 20, 2022
As we enter the new year, there are certainly many issues of interest to the Duke community that the federal government has on its to-do list. In the last several months of 2021, Congress and the Biden administration juggled several major pieces of legislation, from infrastructure to the debt ceiling. Below is a roundup of the recent highlights from Washington and a preview of the coming months that are most relevant to the Duke community:
FY22 Budget & Appropriations
In December, Congress narrowly avoided a potential government shutdown by passing another stopgap to extend the deadline for passing the FY22 appropriations bills until February 18. Lawmakers are spending the next several weeks continuing negotiations in hopes of reaching a final agreement by the new deadline. The release of the FY23 President’s Budget Request is also expected to be delayed until March. Below is a table illustrating the current status of Duke’s FY 22 appropriations priorities.
In the last few weeks of 2021 Congress successfully passed the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act and a $2.5 trillion increase to the national debt ceiling to avoid default before 2023. As Congress returns from recess, its focus will be directed back towards the Build Back Better Act (BBB). The Association of American Universities (AAU), shared an analysis of the bill that passed the House, which is is expected to change dramatically if it successfully passes through the Senate. Duke’s priorities for the package include federal research funding, doubling the maximum Pell Grant, providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and various tax provisions (see below for specifics).
Research and Innovation
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) created two new divisions for climate & environment and energy last fall. These divisions are both aimed at using science-based approaches to address the climate crisis, reducing emissions and more.
In November, the ASTRO2020 Decadal Survey was released outlining the scientific goals over the next 10 years for astronomy and astrophysics.
National Defense Authorization Act
President Biden signed the $780 billion FY22 NDAA into law on December 27. The massive package includes several provisions relevant to higher education and research communities including a boost to cyber capabilities as well as almost a 25 percent increase to R&D funding defense wide. Additionally, the bill incorporates recommendations from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and will designate funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
After a flurry of activity during the summer, progress on various innovation and competitiveness measures stalled for most of the fall. In November, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agreed to take the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to conference. The House is now expected to pass a broader omnibus measure that would contain its stand-alone bills, including the NSF for the Future Act and DOE for the Future Act, to create a more cohesive conference between the upper and lower chambers.
Foreign Influence and Research Security
The House Intelligence Committee passed its annual authorization bill which included a provision that would give the Department of Defense authority to establish a pilot program to vet individuals working on unclassified research projects who wouldn’t already be subject to Federal vetting procedures. This provision was attached to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, but was removed during final conference negotiations. The Senate Intelligence Authorization Act does not include a similar proposal.
DARPA announced its Countering Foreign Influence Program has created a new risk assessment rubric for all proposed Senior/Key Personnel selected for negotiations of fundamental research grants or cooperative agreements. This assessment would run separate from and after the scientific review process and adjudicated prior final award.
NSF announced it is creating a new system of records – NSF-77 Data Analytics Application Suite. This system will allow NSF to compare and analyze information reported by grantees and enable it to “uphold the scientific community's core values of openness, transparency, honesty, equity, fair competition, and objectivity.” Among other things, it will be used enforce NSF’s disclosure requirements and help implement National Security Presidential Memorandum-33 guidance.
Previously expected last fall, OSTP recently released guidance for federal agencies regarding the implementation of National Security Presidential Memorandum-33 (NSPM-33). The new guidance includes several important provisions, including establishing standardized disclosure requirements; enabling researchers to use standardized reporting tools; creating guidelines for determining consequences for violations; information sharing between federal agencies; and ensuring that agencies implement NSPM-33 “in a nondiscriminatory manner.” The guidance also provides a definition of “foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment programs.”
Higher Education & Student Aid
Duke and the higher education community advocated for doubling the maximum Pell grant this year. The #DoublePell campaign was established to encourage bipartisan support among members of Congress to increase funding. There are proposed raises for the Pell grant in both the Build Back Better (BBB) Act and FY22 funding legislation, that fall short of the doubing goal.
As has been reported by numerous media outlets, in April, the Biden administration plans to unveil major education civil rights proposals that aim to reverse many of the previous administration’s rules on sexual misconduct and create new protections for transgender students.
On November 29, Duke sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Division of Humanitarian Services Office of Policy and Strategy Acting Chief Andria Strano Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The letter emphasized, “We hope that any changes that emerge through this rulemaking will focus on the enormous benefits of allowing full participation in society and higher education by current DACA students or employees, individuals who can now apply for DACA to enroll in or work for Duke, and by other similarly situated undocumented persons.”
Earlier this summer, many students and faculty from U.S. institutions found themselves displaced during the crisis in Afghanistan. In response, the higher education community advocated for increased visa flexibility for displaced scholars and DHS announced it would exempt filing fees and streamline application processing for Afghan refugees brought to the United States.
Additionally, the State Department published a proposed rule to raise application fees for several nonimmigrant visa categories, including F, M, and J. Duke continues to work with the higher education associations on a response to these fee increases.
The BBB contains several higher education tax provisions of interest to higher education and Duke. The proposed bill remedies the tax treatment of Pell Grants, increases incentives for charitable giving, and addresses university concerns with the tax on schools’ investment income.
Throughout the past several months, more individuals have been confirmed by Congress to take up their appointed positions in the Biden administration. The Office of Government Relations has an up-to-date tracker that highlights positions of most relevance to Duke, which you can access here.
Updates From Duke in DC/OGR
In Fall 2021, we saw a strong return to in-person events and campus visits, as well as a new introduction to hybrid events. On campus, Duke welcomed visits by the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, the director of the Army Research Office, and innovation leaders from the 18th Airborne during the final months of 2021.
Throughout the fall, Duke in DC also hosted several virtual briefings for various DC-based policy audiences on topics including FinTech, cybersecurity and cryptocurrency; AI & criminal justice; the U.S. national security apparatus; and technology innovation and the financial system.
In December, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy Fellow and Duke alum, Justin Sherman T’20, gave expert testimony at a Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth hearing on “Promoting Competition, Growth, and Privacy Protection in the Technology Sector.”
In our North Carolina delegation, both Representatives David Price (D-NC) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) announced their retirements in the fall which, in addition to Senator Burr’s previously announced retirement and the addition of a new congressional district, will lead to big changes in the upcoming 118th Congress. Both Rep. Price and Butterfield have represented Duke University in the past. Our office is also paying attention to new congressional maps and midterm elections in the year ahead.
December 17, 2021
“Algorithms and technology are no longer optional. Because of smartphones, we are seeing magnitude increases in consumer banking and other financial services transactions on a daily basis,” stated Sultan Meghji, Chief Innovation Officer for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Office of Innovation.
Meghji served as a panelist at a Duke in DC briefing for congressional staff and D.C. policymakers “Banking in the Digital Age: Developing Smart Policy Around Innovation in Financial Services.” Jimmie Lenz, director of the Master of Engineering in FinTech and the Master of Engineering in Cyber at the Duke Pratt School of Engineering, joined Meghji for the December 9th conversation.
The discussion arose from an announcement earlier this year that the FDIC established a strategic partnership with the Duke Pratt School of Engineering on risk management, FinTech and cybersecurity, led by Jimmie Lenz. Also, this discussion was a continuation of the conversation from Duke in DC’s September 14th event, "From Technological Advancement to FinTech – How Congress Should Think About Cyber Policy."
Professor Lenz set the tone for the conversation by highlighting the global interconnectedness of the world’s financial services. He went on to note people make a mistake when looking at these systems on a country-by-country basis.
Meghji’s interest in these issues stems from his experiences in East Africa, where digital banking technologies servicing rural populations have existed for decades.
Looking now at the advancement of AI, quantum computing, crypto, and other technologies; Meghji thinks involving these technologies in the financial services systems, is no longer a choice.
Lenz and Meghji also discussed the advancement of these technologies in the banking sector, algorithmic bias, the importance of quality and valid data, risk, and accountability standards in the industry. Lenz pointed out that, “the federal government is now being asked to do the things that companies should have done all along. This isn’t a “government problem” this is an investment in [companies] infrastructure.”
Meghji noted in the U.S. regulatory model, “we want to make sure you have the systems in place so that you’re managing the risk appropriately.”
Lenz added that regulatory policy should, “always further innovation, not hamper it. And when I think of smart policies, I think of policies that are more dynamic, are more relative to an environment rather than specific situations.” He stressed the need to stay on the forefront of these technologies and noted, “we shouldn’t have more regulation simply to protect the stalwarts in the financial services industry who don’t want to invest in their own infrastructure.”
Meghji encouraged attendees to learn more and understand why some of these systems are important to protect the safety and soundness of the American financial system.
Duke Experts Consider the Trends and Challenges Facing the U.S. National Security Apparatus in the 21st Century
December 16, 2021
“This is a different world than it was, just even five years ago… yet, we look at our security apparatus and how much has it changed?” said Judith Kelley, Dean of the Duke Sanford School for Public Policy.
On December 7th, Duke in DC and the Sanford School for Public Policy hosted an event, titled “Trends, Challenges, and Solutions for Government National Security Apparatus” to address the rapidly evolving global landscape and the U.S.’ 21st century national security apparatus. Issues like climate change, cyber security and immigration all contribute to the list of threats we face as a nation. Moderated by Dean Kelley, this event was part of a year-long celebration of 50 years of Public Policy at Duke.
Is the American national security apparatus equipped to handle these new and pressing issues? The event’s panelists - Sue Gordon, former U.S. Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Duke University Rubenstein Fellow, and Tim Nichols, former Intelligence Officer in the Marine Corps and visiting professor of the practice at Sanford addressed this question head on.
Nichols, who also leads the Sanford School for Public Policy’s new Master of National Security Policy program, mentioned several non-traditional challenges that our national security apparatus has been called to address. “I’m pleased to see challenges like climate change, migration, pandemics and cyber threats starting to enter the lexicon of our Congress and Executive Branch.”
Gordon added that the COVID-19 pandemic actually improved the clarity to which we are observe many of these changes. “In this administration, you’re seeing a recognition that we need to address some of these changes… whether it’s climate change and domestic extremism and economic insecurity as now being national security issues.”
"What's happening at our borders, what's happening with pandemics, what's happening with climate, what's happening with supply chain/food insecurity/economic security is actually national security."
On Cyber Security…
Creating cyber policy change in Congress can be complicated. Gordon explained, “if you’re going to brief on cyber to the Congress, you have to hit Senate Intelligence committee, armed services committees, judiciary committees and the homeland security committees.” She added, “We have to stop thinking about cyber as something technical and different and recognize that it is the way the interests everywhere are being accomplished now.”
While neither Gordon nor Nichols saw the need for a designated “cyber force” agency, Nichols provided three key ideas for cyber: the importance of strong central policy, an agile resource line, and sufficient investment in cyber technologies.
On Veteran’s Affairs…
“If you asked me what it takes to treat veterans who have been scarred, mentally incapacitated after war, it takes more than you can ever give,” Nichols added, “the lesson to be learned is let’s try to avoid military conflict as much as possible.”
Unfortunately, he also recognized the VA’s current lack of resources when it comes to adequately address veterans’ needs, both mental and physical.
On Foreign Aid and Competition…
On the topic of international competition, Kelley alluded to the European Union’s (EU) involvement with the Global Gateway project. Noting the project’s goal of investing in overseas projects is “clearly intended as somewhat of an answer to China’s global Belt and Road Initiative in the digital space in particular.”
In terms of a national technology strategy, Gordon explained that “from a mindset perspective, we still think of critical technologies as something that needs to be protected,” and said the E.U.’s actions highlight a key message, “technology is ubiquitous.”
Throughout the discussion, Gordon and Nichols highlighted the shifting purview of national security. “What’s happening at our borders, what’s happening with pandemics, what’s happening with climate, what’s happening with supply chain/food insecurity/economic security,” Gordon explained, “is actually national security.”
Nichols also mentioned the enormous “resource gap” that exists within our immigration system – although the capabilities and policies exist to address border security, current resource levels are not sufficient and there needs to be a ‘holistic approach.’
Kelley turned the conversation to the role of the intelligence community in battling disinformation online. As the federal government begins to address the issue, Kelley asked the panelists, “How are we supposed to get the maximum out of our efforts to counter misinformation if we’re not coordinated on what we’re trying to do in that sphere?”
“The intelligence community has done a really good job of exposing disinformation for policymakers,” Nichols explained and after conveying this information, it becomes a “policymaker decision as to what to do.”
On the Changing National Security Landscape…
As the world continues to evolve, the panel alluded to the importance of regularly reviewing and in some cases, restructuring the national security apparatus. Nichols explained there are still “good bones in our structure.” Rather than completing redesigning the apparatus, he called attention to the importance of the government to recruit strong talent and the need for congressional committees to “really address their structure and how it impedes agility in the Executive Branch.”
Gordon took a more “from scratch” approach, emphasizing the importance of designing the national security apparatus based on, ”what should it look like today?” The Sanford School for Public Policy’s new Master of National Security Policy program is still accepting applications for Fall 2022 and you can learn more about the program here.