APS News

Washinton Dispatch

ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment

US Capitol viewed through treesAppropriations Update
At the end of December, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 spending, and the President immediately signed it into law. The CR extended funding for federal programs through March 4th 2011 at FY 2010 levels with virtually no waivers. This action was necessary because the lame duck session of Congress could not reach agreement on a FY 2011 omnibus spending bill. A CR extending through the entire fiscal year is very likely, possibly containing rescissions of 5 percent or more.

As in 1995, there is a threat of a government shutdown, if the new Republican House members make substantial budget cuts a prerequisite for raising the “debt ceiling.”

America COMPETES Reauthorization
In a last-minute act before wrapping up the 111th Congress, the Senate passed, by unanimous consent, the Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act (S. 3605) on Friday December 17th. However, the Senate bill significantly scaled back authorizations contained in the version the House had passed in May.
Gray arrow APS News, "COMPETES Act Signed Into Law"

With the 111th session of Congress set to conclude, the House had little choice but to accept the Senate language. The House passed the bill by a vote of 228 (212D, 16R) to 130 (0D, 130R). The President signed the bill into law on January 4th without any ceremony. But, in one of her last acts as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi held a rare ceremonial enrollment of the bill following House adoption, underscoring her commitment to science. While passage of COMPETES is a symbolic victory for science, the real fight will take place during the appropriations process.
Gray arrow Final Vote Results for Roll Call 659

The year-long process to pass the Reauthorization of COMPETES portends difficulties for scientists for at least the next two years. The House of Representatives is now controlled by fiscal conservatives who campaigned on a pledge to cut Federal spending. And in the Senate, science proponents have slimmer margins than they did in the last two years.  

In a forecast of the coming fiscal environment, recent Past APS President Curt Callan wrote to APS members in December indicating that science is no longer seen as a special case in the House and that the science community will have a far more difficult time keeping science on the COMPETES prescribed ten year doubling track.
Gray arrow Curt Callan's December Letter

APS Washington Office’s Blog
Check Physics Frontline, the Washington Office’s Blog, for the latest news on the FY11 and FY12 Budgets.
Gray arrow Physics Frontline

ISSUE: POPA Reports

The Energy Critical Elements (ECEs) Study Group finished its report, which examines the scarcity of critical elements for new energy technologies. The Group will publicly release its findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The report includes policy recommendations on: the coordination of departmental efforts where ECEs are concerned; the gathering and analysis of information on ECEs; research, development and workforce issues; efficiency and recycling efforts; possible market interventions.
 
The Direct Air Capture Report will be reviewed and voted on at the February 2011 meeting of POPA.
 
Two draft statements, one on healing energy that was suggested by the APS Division of Biological Physics, and one on the misuse of quantum mechanics brought to the panel by the POPA Physics & the Public Subcommittee are being reconsidered by POPA after the APS Executive Board provided feedback. POPA will review both statements again at its February 2011 meeting.
 
The NRC docketed an APS petition to include proliferation assessments as part of the licensing process. It is open for public comment until March 8th.
Gray arrow  Comment on NRC Licensing Regulations

If you have suggestions for a POPA study, please send in your ideas.
Gray arrow Suggest Future POPA Studies

You can nominate an APS member for a seat on the Panel of Public Affairs in 2012.
Gray arrow APS Governance Nominations

ISSUE: Media Update

New Scientist quoted APS Director of Public Affairs Michael S. Lubell in a Jan. 4th article, “Battle looms over U.S. Science Funding.” In the news story, Lubell stated that “there’s going to be a big fight” over boosting funding for science.  

In a Dec. 27th blog post published by ScienceInsider, Lubell was quoted in the piece, “Why Didn’t Obama Mention Landmark Science Legislation?” He stated that President Obama “should have mentioned” the passage of the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.
 
Global Security Newswire published an article on Jan. 12 titled, “U.S. Nuclear Body Weighs Proliferation Appraisals for Facility Licensing,” which quoted APS Associate Director of Public Affairs Francis Slakey. He pointed out that an APS petition to the NRC requests a rule change to elevate the non-proliferation assessment of small, more efficient nuclear fuel technologies. The NRC docketed the petition, which is available for public comment until March 8.


Gray arrow APS Public Affairs Website


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Editor: Alan Chodos