APS News

Washington Dispatch

Policy Update

Issue: Appropriations and Authorization Bills

Congressional committees continued the process of developing fiscal year 2017 spending bills for the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Science Foundation (NSF). Consistent with the fiscal year 2016 - 2017 budget agreement the White House and Congress struck last fall, most science accounts were held to flat funding in committee “markups.” Only one bill — appropriations for Energy and Water Development — reached the floor of either chamber, and it fell victim to an amendment on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans issues that peeled away Republican support for the measure.

With the legislative calendar shortened by the political conventions and the November election, it is likely that Congress will again resort to a short-term continuing resolution that would allow the federal government to function through the beginning of December. In a lame-duck session following the election, Congress will probably wrap almost all fiscal year 2017 spending legislations into an omnibus appropriations bill.

Washington Office Activities


At the APS April Meeting 2016, the APS Office of Public Affairs (OPA) helped 335 meeting attendees make an impact by sending the APS Contact Congress letter to their Senators and Representatives. At the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) meeting, an additional 317 attendees sent letters. This letter addressed science-funding issues, as well as the impact of child poverty on U.S. STEM Performance in International Student Assessments (known by the acronym PISA). The letter called for Congress to support sustained robust science funding and to request a National Academy of Science study of the child poverty issue. The DAMOP meeting letter focused on the appropriations bills that affect DOE, NSF, NASA, and NIST.

In late April, OPA's Government Relations Specialist Greg Mack accompanied Scott Franklin, professor of physics and astronomy at Rochester Institute of Technology and Director for its Center for Advancing Science/Math Teaching, Learning, & Evaluation, to meetings in House and Senate offices to discuss priorities for the physics community, including science funding, education, and issues faced by women in science.

In June, APS participated in a meeting at the Department of Education with other members of the Physical Sciences Education Policy Coalition, which has representatives from APS, the American Association of Physics Teachers, American Institute of Physics, American Astronomical Society, and The Optical Society. The meeting was intended to provide guidance to the Department of Education for the creation of a STEM Master Teacher Corps, called for in the Every Student Succeeds Act the president signed into law on December 2015 as a replacement for the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" Act.

Media Update

Sarit Dhar, associate professor of physics at Auburn University, published an op-ed on May 21 in the Opelika-Auburn News, urging the United States to step up its commitment to clean-energy research. Read the piece on the APS Policy Op-Eds page.

Panel on Public Affairs

At its June meeting, the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) considered whether to archive the seven APS Statements up for review in 2016. Five of the seven statements will remain active. Of the two others, Statement 96.2, Energy: The Forgotten Crisis, will undergo a full review, rewrite, and membership evaluation, while Statement 91.5, Reaffirmation of Statement on Scientific Review of Research Facilities Funding, will be reexamined by the Physics & the Public subcommittee for further action.

POPA also approved a recently completed report on helium economics — Responding to the U.S. Research Community’s Liquid Helium Crisis: An Action Plan to Preserve U.S. Innovation. Follow-on activities related to recommendations in the report are being developed. The Physics & the Public subcommittee presented preliminary data on how to overcome obstacles in recruiting teachers in the physical sciences; a full report is expected later this year. The National Security subcommittee proposed a statement on highly enriched uranium (HEU) reactor conversion and a potential study on the obstacles to elimination of HEU civilian reactors.

Following the recommendation of POPA, APS has begun a carbon inventory of the Society’s operations.

A template for study proposals can be found online, along with a suggestion box for future POPA studies.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Art Director and Special Publications Manager: Kerry G. Johnson
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik