FYI covers House and Senate activity related to the physical sciences, including their oversight of the federal science agencies as well as the development and consideration of legislation that sets policy for science and funds the science agencies.
The fiscal year 2019 spending bills for the National Nuclear Security Administration advanced by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees reject the Trump administration’s deep proposed cuts to fusion research, accept its request to develop a new low-yield nuclear weapon, and split on whether to continue construction of a plutonium conversion facility that it wants to terminate.
Since his confirmation as NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine has expressed broad support for the agency’s scientific culture and missions, and has said his views on climate change now align with the scientific consensus. He also has advocated new approaches to designing missions to manage costs and increase nimbleness.
Draft spending bills released by House and Senate appropriators would increase funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science by 5 and 6 percent, respectively, bringing its budget past the $6.6 billion mark. There is general agreement between the chambers that major research facility construction projects should move ahead as fast as possible.
The House Science Committee plans to introduce a bill next month that would create a 10-year National Quantum Initiative aimed at increasing America’s strategic focus on quantum information science and technology development.
This week, the House Science Committee introduced and approved three bipartisan bills. One authorizes Department of Energy Office of Science programs. A second reauthorizes and broadens the mission of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy — an agency that committee Republicans had not previously backed. A third provides national laboratory directors authority to enter small public–private partnerships without prior DOE approval.
At a recent hearing, House Science Committee members and witnesses discussed the role of energy technology development in enabling effective mitigation and adaptation strategies to address climate change.
The House Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to its version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would permit the Defense Department to terminate grants and other awards that provide funds to individuals who have participated in talent recruitment programs operated by China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia.
EPA has issued a proposed rule that would require data and models underlying certain scientific studies to be made publicly available before the agency could use the studies in developing regulations. Among its justifications, the agency is arguing the proposal is consistent with the research community’s recent efforts to address concerns about the irreproducibility of swaths of science.
House Science Committee members and expert witnesses called for more robust space weather research, observations, and forecasting at a hearing last week. They also pushed for better defined roles in government, academia, and industry.
In his new role as the Department of Defense’s top R&D official, Mike Griffin is arguing that DOD must shed its risk-adverse culture and further embrace prototyping to accelerate innovation. He has also elaborated on his top technology priorities in recent congressional testimony, stressing that DOD must counter other countries’ growing hypersonic weapons capabilities and should focus on transitioning directed energy weapons from R&D to deployment.