APS News

Washington Dispatch

ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment

US Capitol viewed through treesFiscal Year 2011 Update
In the last edition of the Dispatch, we reported that Congress had passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 spending, which extended funding for federal programs through March 4th 2011 at FY 2010 levels with virtually no waivers. On February 11th, the House Republicans released their proposed FY11 funding bill (H.R. 1), which included a total of $61 billion worth of cuts to the Federal budget and significant cuts to DOE Office of Science, NIST, and NSF. The cuts would have to be absorbed in the seven months that remain in FY11.  The effective reductions, from FY10 levels, would be 9.9% for NSF; 32.7% for DOE Office of Science; and 36% for NIST Core Programs.  

The House-passed bill was a non-starter for the Democrat-controlled Senate chamber. With a government shutdown looming, the House and Senate agreed on March 1st to a two week extension of the FY11 CR, accompanied by $4 billion in reductions that mirrored cuts the White House had requested in FY12. On March 9th, the Senate rejected two bills that would have extended the CR for the balance of the fiscal year: a Republican proposal to cut an additional $57 billion in accordance with H.R. 1 and a Democratic proposal that would have cut $4.7 billion.
As of the deadline for the Dispatch, House GOP leaders have begun behind-the-scenes negotiations on another short-term stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating beyond March 18th. A Senate aide close to the House GOP leadership said the measure would likely keep the government running for another 3 weeks, with accompanying reductions of $2 billion per week ($6 billion total).
Senate Democrats appear willing to agree to the plan but worry that by accepting a series of short-term government funding measures they will eventually provide the House Republicans with the $61 billion in cuts the GOP is seeking. “I don’t like this death by a thousand cuts but I also don’t want a government shutdown,” Senator Mikulski (D-MD) said last week. The White House has also sent signals that it is ready to accept many, if not most, of the Republican reductions if that will keep the government open.

Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request
On February 14th, President Obama released his annual Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). In light of fiscal and political realities, the request is fairly good for science.

The following summarizes the presidential request for the key science agencies:

National Science Foundation (NSF): Up 13% from FY10 enacted levels to $8.9 billion in FY12. The request keeps the Foundation on its ten-year doubling, as authorized by the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110-69).

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Core: Up 15% from FY10 enacted levels to $763.5 million in FY12. The NIST Core budget comprises the Scientific & Technical Research and Services (STRS) and Construction of Research Facilities (CRF). The STRS request is $678.9 million, an increase of 32% from 2010; the CRF request is $84.6 million, a decrease of 42% from 2010.

Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC): Up 9.2% from FY10 enacted levels to $5.4 billion in FY12.

The proposed FY2012 budget does eliminate funding for the TEVATRON at Fermi as well as the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility. The DOE Office of Science budget proposal explains that continued upgrades to the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) and construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) necessitated these cuts. However, while the closure of the TEVATRON was expected, the Holifield closure was not.  Hearings on the proposed FY2012 budget are underway, but it is unclear when voting will take place.  

Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $550 million; ARPA-E did not receive appropriations in the FY10 budget because it received funding through the Stimulus bill.

APS Washington Office’s Blog
Check Physics Frontline, the Washington Office’s Blog, for the latest news on the FY11 and FY12 Budgets.
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The Energy Critical Elements (ECEs) Study Group publicly released its report, which examines the scarcity of critical elements for new energy technologies, on February 18th at a press conference held at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The report has received extensive coverage in the media, and is the subject of the Back Page in this issue of APS News. 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; and possible market interventions. On February 17th, Senator Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill that implements nearly all of the recommendations. Briefings have been scheduled for or have already been provided to the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the Office of Science & Technology Policy, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Department of the Interior.

As of the writing of this dispatch, the Direct Air Capture Report still remains under review. 

POPA Study Suggestions
If you have suggestions for a POPA study, please send in your ideas.
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ISSUE: Media Update

Energy Critical Elements Report
The Energy Critical Elements report received considerable media coverage after it was launched Feb. 18th during a press conference at the AAAS meeting in Washington, D.C. Among the numerous publications that published stories: The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time, Nature and Agence France-Presse.  

H.R. 1 in the News 
Coverage of the damaging effects to science proposed in H.R. 1 has also been robust. Roll Call, USA Today, Science, Newsday, The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and Long Island Business News published stories about scientific program cuts and layoffs that would occur if the bill were to become law.

NRC Petition
The APS petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for a non-proliferation assessment of smaller, efficient technologies generated stories in the Global Newswire and The Hill and Huffington Post blogs.

APS Washington Office

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Editor: Alan Chodos