APS News

Washington Dispatch

Updates from the APS Office of Public Affairs

Policy Updaate: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget
Congress received the president’s fiscal year 2015 Budget Request on March 4 and has been making steady progress on appropriation bills since then. The House has already passed the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) bill that funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). As has been the case in the past few years, the House elected to reduce spending on justice accounts and allocate some of those funds to science.

Although the full Senate has not yet considered the CJS bill, the spending levels reported out by the Senate appropriations committee would largely reverse the House tilt toward science at the expense of justice. For example, the House would fund NSF at $7.40 B, $0.15 B higher than White House request or the Senate mark. It would also fund NASA at $17.90 B, $0.44 B higher than the request or the Senate mark. By contrast, the House was less generous with NIST, funding it at $0.86 B, $0.04 B lower than the request or the Senate mark. Both the House and Senate would fund OSTP at $5.55M.

Thus far, only the House has taken up Department of Defense (DOD) spending. Compared to the presidential request, the House would increase funding of DOD Basic Research by $0.1 B to $2.03 B and Applied Research by $0.7 B to $4.35 B.

Although congressional appropriators have been moving forward, authorizers have been far less successful in advancing legislation to update the expiring 2010 America COMPETES Act, which provided funding targets for NSF, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), NASA, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee elected to split COMPETES reauthorization into two separate bills, the “FIRST” Act, which addresses NSF, NASA, NIST, and OSTP, and the “EINSTEIN” Act, which addresses only DOE. Both bills contain policy provisions that would substantially alter NSF and DOE procedures and priorities which many science and technology organizations have spoken against. Although the House SS&T Committee has a long record of developing bipartisan legislation, the FIRST and EINSTEIN Acts have created a substantial rift between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority. Subcommittee and committee votes on the bills and amendments have been largely along party lines.

Washington Office Activities

Issue: Media Update
Roll Call, a leading newspaper on Capitol Hill, published the latest column by APS Director of Public Affairs Michael S. Lubell on May 12. Titled “America Can’t Afford to Ignore Science,” the piece points out that “science holds the key to increased prosperity for all Americans, not just rich and middle class, but also the poor among us.”

In other media news, the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Washington published an op-ed on May 24 by Eric Beier, a junior at Washington State University where he is chapter president of the Society of Physics Students. In the piece, Beier makes the case that research should be a priority for the US to ensure that students are prepared for an “increasingly competitive and globalized world.”

Issue: APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA)
POPA continues its review of the APS 2007 Statement on Climate Change. More information can be found on the Climate Change Statement Review web page.

POPA has received Council commentary regarding the POPA-approved rewording of APS Statement 08.1 on the Civic Engagement of Scientists; the APS Executive Board will now review both the statement and these comments.

POPA approved a proposed statement by the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics at its June meeting and will now send it to the Council for comment prior to review by the APS Executive Board at its next meeting.

At its June meeting, POPA also entertained a preliminary proposal for a study to explore incentives that could increase the number of well-qualified students entering teaching in key Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) shortage areas. The POPA Physics & the Public Subcommittee will prepare a formal proposal for POPA’s consideration in the fall.

Go to the APS Reports & Studies web page to suggest future POPA studies.


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