2011 in Review: Policy and Budget Highlights from FYI
The following are reprinted from FYI, the American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News.
President Barack Obama signs into law a reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. OSTP Director John Holdren issues a memorandum on scientific integrity. NASA warns of inadequate funding and unattainable schedule for Space Launch System and Crew Vehicle.
A NASA safety panel expresses concern about the human spaceflight and exploration program. House Republicans put forth a budget plan that includes significant cuts in funding for the DOE Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The President’s FY 2012 budget request keeps funding for NSF, the DOE Office of Science, and NIST research programs on a doubling track. Corporations, associations, and universities warn of “devastating impact” of funding cuts to S&T programs in House-passed budget bill.
Appropriations hearings begin, with Members expressing support for S&T agencies and doubt about Administration’s intentions for NASA.
Republican and Democratic appropriators fiercely criticize Administration’s decision to cancel the development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Congress completes work on FY 2011 appropriations legislation, about six months after the new fiscal year started. House passes a FY 2012 budget plan that would cut science funding to the 2008 level. Key Senate Democratic appropriator warns NASA officials that appropriators will not support projects with cost overruns.
House and Senate authorizers express skepticism about Administration’s human spaceflight plans. House appropriators express strong support for federal science funding, but severely criticize Administration’s interpretation of a directive prohibiting interactions by OSTP and NASA with China. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke highlights the government’s role in promoting research and development in a keynote address. Sixty-one representatives sign a letter to House appropriators expressing their “strong support for robust and sustained funding” for the DOE Office of Science. A National Academy of Science committee declares “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”
House appropriators start approval of FY 2012 funding bills. “U.S. Department of Energy Strategic Plan” identifies as one of its four goals “Maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering as a cornerstone of our economic prosperity with clear leadership in strategic areas.” FDA and EPA announce plans to review nanotechnology applications. National Science Board requests comments on draft NSF merit review criteria.
House appropriators terminate FY 2012 funding for James Webb Space Telescope. Government Accountability Office faults Department of Energy about the helium-3 stockpile shortage. House rejects DOE funding request for Pu-238 production used to fuel deep space probes.
Department of Commerce issues report stating that there are significant benefits to pursuing jobs in STEM disciplines. Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future declares U.S. approach to the handling of nuclear waste as a “deeply flawed program.” President signs legislation setting discretionary spending caps through FY 2021.
The Office of Management and Budget issues general budget guidance for FY 2013, citing need to invest in areas critical to job creation and economic growth. House hearing held on NSF merit review process. White House holds event on NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative. Key House appropriator chides Administration for not identifying spending offsets for increased cost of James Webb Space Telescope. House Science Committee roundtable discusses proposed Deep Underground Facility.
NRC committee issues report on NASA’s Meteoroid and Orbital Debris programs. Some of America’s most prominent business executives call on Congress and the Administration to “improve the effectiveness of the U.S. energy innovation program.” NRC report concludes little firm evidence exists about how to improve K-12 STEM instruction. Senior House Democratic appropriator warns the deficit reduction “super committee” about the impacts of automatic spending cuts on health, science, and innovation programs. Republicans on House Science Committee recommend $1.5 billion in spending reductions on S&T programs in FY 2012.
Almost 70 scientific societies and associations, universities, and organizations sign a letter urging a special congressional committee charged with developing a deficit reduction plan to avoid cutting R&D funding. First FY 2012 appropriations bill is passed: NSF funding increases 2.5 percent, NASA funding declines 3.5 percent, NIST funding increases 0.1 percent. Appropriators approve funding for James Webb Space Telescope. Senate passes medical isotope production bill. House committee passes bill requiring disclosure of peer reviewers.
GAO issues a report on alternatives to using helium-3 neutron detectors. The second and last of two major FY 2012 appropriations bills is passed: DOE Office of Science funding increases 0.6 percent, National Nuclear Security Administration funding increases 4.5 percent, U.S. Geological Survey funding declines 1.3 percent, NIH funding remains level, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering increases 8.0 percent, Mathematics and Science Partnership funding declines 14.3 percent and a new program is funded, and Defense basic research funding increases 16.6 percent. Conference held on enhancing collaboration between the United States, and the European Union and its Member States.