2011 in Review: Policy and Budget Highlights from FYI

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Publication date: 
6 January 2012

The  following are selected highlights from FYI (dated as they were distributed),  see archive for full issue:


President  Barack Obama signs into law a reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.   OSTP Director John Holdren issues 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.

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