Federal Relations Update as of April 25, 2014


The Senate and House were in recess this week and will return to session on Monday, April 28.  The Senate on Monday will consider executive and judicial nominations.  The House on Monday will consider the Senate-passed version of the DATA Act (S. 994) under suspension of the rules; later in the week, it will take up two FY15 appropriations bills (see next item below).  



The House next week will consider the first of its 12 appropriations bills for FY15:  Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (H.R. 4486) and Legislative Branch (H.R. 4487).  The next appropriations bill in line is Commerce-Justice-Science, which is expected to be marked up in subcommittee on May 8.  Among the agencies funded by this legislation are the National Science Foundation and NASA.  Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) has said he hopes the Committee can approve all 12 bills before the July Fourth recess. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to begin markup of its funding bills in late May, leading off with Military Construction-Veterans Affairs.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has allocated four weeks of Senate floor time in June and July to consider appropriations bills. 


A group of 50 scientific, business, higher education, and patient organizations—including AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and The Science Coalition—has submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee for its hearing on April 29, “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments.”  Some AAU universities, as well as other organizations, are submitting their own testimony.

The testimony was accompanied by an infographic that shows the importance of the campaign to “Close the Innovation Deficit.” 

The Appropriations Committee has actively solicited written statements about the role of federal funding in innovation, and is using social media to encourage members of the public to “be part of the conversation,” with the hashtag #innovationdeficit.

The witnesses at next Tuesday’s hearing will include the President’s Science Advisor, as well as the leaders of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and DARPA. 

When Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced the hearing on April 2, she said its purpose was “to make sure that budget cuts and the possibility of future sequester do not dampen our standing as a world innovation leader.”  She added that appropriators were concerned not only about the federal budget deficit, but also about the innovation deficit. 


The National Science Board (NSB), which is the policymaking board of the National Science Foundation (NSF), issued a statement on April 24 expressing strong concerns about the Frontiers in Innovation, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186), legislation pending in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (SST) that would reauthorize programs in NSF and other agencies.

In its statement, the NSB thanks the Committee for its historic strong commitment to the research that NSF supports, but says that some of the provisions and the tone of the FIRST Act “suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose.” 

Of special concern, says the statement, the bill’s budget allocations for each NSF directorate would “significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas in fulfillment of its mission ‘to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.’”  The statement adds that the FIRST Act also would “impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation.”

AAU opposes the FIRST Act in its current form and on March 28 sent leaders of the House SST Committee a letter expressing that view and offering several suggested changes. 

The FIRST Act was approved by the panel’s Research and Technology Subcommittee on March 13.  It would also reauthorize programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs.



As noted above, the organizations behind the Close the Innovation Deficit campaign, including AAU, today published an infographic that describes the various aspects of the innovation deficit.  The infographic joins other material on the website, including a video developed by Colorado State University, charts, fact sheets, and news.