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Washington Dispatch

Updates from the APS Office of Public Affairs

Policy Update: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget
The Obama Administration has released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) in full. The request adheres to the top line spending number of $1.014 trillion stipulated by the Ryan-Murray budget agreement. That agreement allows for a 0.02% increase in spending from FY14 to FY15, highly constraining individual items. The Administration, although supportive of scientific research in general, has shown a bias toward applied research over basic research in choosing how to distribute the modest overall increase.

  FY14 ($B) FY15 ($B) % Change
Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC) 5.07 5.11 +0.9
    Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) 0.48 0.54 +13.2
    Basic Energy Sciences (BES) 1.71 1.81 +5.5
    Biological and Environmental Research (BER) 0.61 0.628 +3.0
    Fusion Energy Science (FES) 0.51 0.42 -17.8
    High Energy Physics (HEP) 0.80 0.74 -6.6
    Nuclear Physics (NP) 0.57 0.59 +4.3
DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewables (EER-E) 1.90 2.32 +21.9
DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) 0.28 0.33 +16.1
National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) 11.21 11.70 +4.1
National Science Foundation (NSF) 7.17 7.26 +1.2
    Research and Related Activities (R&RA) 5.81 5.81 -0.0
    Education and Human Resources (EHR) 0.85 0.89 +5.1
    Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) 0.20 0.20 +0.4
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 0.85 0.90 +0.4
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science (SC) 5.15 4.97 -3.5
    James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) 0.66 0.65 -2.0
Department of Defense Basic Research (DOD 6.1) 2.17 2.02 -6.9
Department of Defense Applied Research (DOD 6.2) 4.64 4.46 -4.1
National Institutes of Health (NIH) 29.90 30.20 +0.9

During regular order, both the House and Senate would typically pass their own budgets in response to the president’s budget. Since top-line FY15 spending had already been settled on under the Ryan-Murray agreement, the Senate has opted not to pass an FY15 budget. The House, however, has passed an FY15 budget resolution, H.Con.Res.96. Although it does not address specific science accounts, the accompanying committee report (Report 113-403) does include a statement on “shifting the focus back to basic research.” The report also discusses certain areas, such as the Department of Energy's (DOE) Biological and Environmental Research (BER), that “could potentially crowd out private investment” and therefore gives direction to pare down areas of applied research.

Congressional appropriators have already begun consideration of the president’s budget request. The House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee held a hearing in March during which appropriators expressed concern that the US support of science has been declining as compared to other nations. The subcommittee was generally amenable to the Administration’s request.

The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations subcommittee reacted positively to the Administration’s request in a hearing in March. There were questions regarding the decreases to Fusion Energy Science (FES) and to High Energy Physics (HEP). Office of Science Acting Director Patricia Dehmer explained to committee members that the decrease in FES reflected slippage in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) schedule. It is worthwhile noting, however, that the total cut to FES (-$88M) is nearly double the planned cut to the US contribution to ITER (-$50M). When asked about the cuts to HEP, Dehmer explained that the high energy physics community had yet to complete the P5 report (Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel) and that DOE is awaiting recommendations.

Washington Office Activities

Media Update
Roll Call, a leading newspaper on Capitol Hill, published the latest column by APS director of public affairs Michael S. Lubell on March 25. Titled “Scientists Are Becoming a Rarer Congressional Breed, and That’s Not a Good Thing,” the piece points out the importance of having congressional members who comprehend the scientific enterprise.

In other media news, The Hill, another prominent Capitol Hill newspaper, published an op-ed on March 31 that cites the need to extend nuclear power plant licenses to bolster clean electricity options in the United States. Roy Schwitters, a physics professor at the University of Texas at Austin and John W. Rowe, chairman emeritus of Exelon Corp., were the authors.

Panel on Public Affairs (POPA)
A proposed APS Statement on Undergraduate Research was approved by the APS Council at its April 2014 meeting. The statement can be viewed on the Education: 14.1 Undergraduate Research Statement web page.

As part of its normal review process, POPA is continuing consideration of the APS 2007 Statement on Climate Change. Information about the process can be found on the Climate Change Statement Review web page.

POPA approved a rewording of the APS Statement on Civic Engagement of Scientists (08.1). The new version of the statement will now be presented to the APS Council for comment prior to its review at the next APS Executive Board meeting.

The APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and the APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development are both working with the POPA Subcommittee on Physics & the Public to draft statements that will be considered by POPA at its June meeting.

APS members can log in to obtain a template for study proposals, along with a suggestion box for future POPA studies at: http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/suggestions/

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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella
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