APS News

Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment
Appropriations Update
As had been anticipated, just before the end of Fiscal Year 2010, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), and the President immediately signed it into law. The CR extended funding for federal programs through December 3rd at Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 levels with no waivers. Congress is expected to return for a lame duck session beginning on November 17th, during which the House and Senate will try to come to agreement on an Omnibus spending bill for FY 2011. However, having made major gains on Election Day, Republicans are likely to balk at passing any bill that appropriates funds in excess of FY 2008 levels. Since Senate Democrats will lack sufficient votes to break a Republican filibuster, a CR extending through the middle of February or the entire fiscal year is a very possible outcome.

When the 112th Congress is sworn in on January 3, 2011, Republicans will again make a strong effort to roll spending back to FY 2008 levels. Should they succeed, President Obama will almost certainly veto the legislation, setting the stage for a series of government shutdowns. A yearlong CR may be the ultimate outcome. A highly polarized Congress could produce an extension of that scenario through the 2012 elections.

America COMPETES Reauthorization
Reauthorization of America COMPETES remains in limbo, as the Senate version of the bill, S. 3605, has yet to reach the Senate floor, and Republican support has yet to be secured. The last action on S. 3605 occurred on July 22th, when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation marked up its portion of the bill that covers NSF and NIST. Since then, the Senate Committees on Energy and Natural Resources and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) have added their sections. Two speed bumps exist. First, Commerce Committee Ranking Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) remains concerned about some of the new programs added to the bill, including an initiative on nanotechnology. Second, reauthorization of NASA occupied much of the Commerce Committee’s staff time, delaying completion of report language until recently. Both make consideration of the bill problematic during the lame-duck session.

Latest news on the FY11 Budget is posted on the APS website and in the APS Washington office’s blog, Physics Frontline.
Gray arrow  Physics Frontline
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The Energy Critical Elements Study Group, which is examining the scarcity of critical elements for new energy technologies, continues work on a report that focuses on policy recommendations on a very timely issue. A final draft is due for external review in December. A recently released report produced by MITei (the MIT Energy Initiative), a direct result of the Study Group’s first workshop, provides valuable background information on the issue.
Gray arrow  Critical Elements for New Energy Technologies Report Format - PDF

The Electric Grid Study Group, which has examined the technical challenges and priorities for increasing the amount of renewable electricity on the grid, released its final report at a National Press Club news conference in Washington, DC on November 16th.
Gray arrow  Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid Report
Gray arrow  APS News "The Back Page - The Grid: Ready for Renewables?"

If you have suggestions for a POPA study, please send in your ideas.
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Two draft APS statements have been approved by POPA. The first, a statement on healing energy, was suggested by the APS Division of Biological Physics. The statement calls into question the credibility of claims made by the alternative medicine community regarding the creation of “healing energy.” The second, a statement on the misuse of quantum mechanics, was brought to the panel by the POPA Physics & the Public Subcommittee. It focuses on the improper use of the principles of quantum mechanics to validate unsubstantiated self-help programs. If approved by the APS Executive Board the draft statements will go to APS membership for comment.

ISSUE: Media Update
USA Today published a September 24th story about the reaction of the newly released report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, and reporter Dan Vergano included a statement by the Task Force on American Innovation calling for the reauthorization of the America COMPETES bill.  APS is a founding member of the Task Force and participates in its lobbying efforts to increase basic research funding.
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Editor: Alan Chodos