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The Week of November 27
Start your week fully informed with a preview of what's ahead in science policy and funding along with a recap of last week's news.
The Week of November 27
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing to consider President Trump’s nomination of AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Critics of his nomination have questioned whether he has the necessary scientific background for the role as well as whether his ties to and long career at AccuWeather could present a conflict of interest. In his written response to advance questions from the committee, Myers says that although he is not a scientist, his career has given him a “deep immersion in science,” and he notes he has consulted with the Office of Government Ethics in developing an ethics agreement to address potential conflicts of interest. In the questionnaire, Myers also identifies his top three priorities as 1) addressing fisheries trade imbalance, 2) ensuring American weather model superiority, and 3) implementing the recently enacted Weather Research and Forecasting Improvement Act.
The National Academies committee charged with reviewing the draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is holding its third meeting this week. The meeting will include the committee’s first open session, featuring discussion between committee members and the draft’s authors. The committee, chaired by Columbia University geophysicist Robin Bell, is undertaking its work concurrently with the draft’s public comment period, which began earlier this month and closes at the end of January. Among the issues that the review is to address is whether the assessment reflects the current state of the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The final draft of NCA4 is due to be released late next year.
Heritage Foundation Hosting Climate Summit
The fourth summit in an ongoing Heritage Foundation series called “At the Crossroads: Energy & Climate Policy” is convening on Thursday at the foundation’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event, which is co-hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is headlined by Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) and includes many other speakers, including conservative economists and policy analysts, oil and gas industry leaders, Princeton University physics professor Will Happer, MIT atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen, and University of Alabama meteorologist Roy Spencer. The event will be livestreamed on the Heritage Foundation website. The summit has become a prominent forum where opponents of the Obama administration’s climate and energy strategy articulate their positions on science and policy.
House to Review 21st Century Cures Act Implementation
On Thursday, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing to receive an update on implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, a sweeping biomedical innovation law enacted in January. Among its many provisions, the bill established a funding stream to provide the Cancer Moonshot, BRAIN, and Precision Medicine Initiatives with $4.8 billion over 10 years. Testifying before the subcommittee are National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
The NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee is meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. A detailed agenda has not yet been released, but the committee will hear an update from the committee’s Big Data Task Force and a presentation on research and analysis (R&A) activities associated with NASA’s science missions. From Wednesday through Friday, NASA’s Heliophysics Advisory Committee will also be meeting at the same location. Topics on the agenda include the Government Performance and Results process, the use of CubeSats for heliophysics, Heliophysics Science Centers, and the NASA Heliophysics Division’s R&A program. Remote access to both meetings is available.
On Thursday and Friday, the Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics (HEP) Advisory Panel is meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland. On Thursday, Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer will be delivering a report on the lab’s activities, and the panel will hear from the subpanels of the Department of Energy’s HEP portfolio review. On Friday, the panel will hear reports from DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences program, divisions of the American Physical Society, and the Cosmic Microwave Background-Stage 4 Concept Definition Team. Remote access to the meeting is available.
On Thursday, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing to discuss four bills, three of which focus on the U.S. Geological Survey:
- The “National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization Act” would reauthorize policies governing USGS geological mapping programs through fiscal year 2023. The current authorization is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2018.
- The “National Landslide Preparedness Act” would direct USGS to establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program, develop a national strategy for addressing such hazards, and establish a 3D elevation program, among other actions.
- The ‘‘National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act’’ would direct USGS to unify and expand its volcano monitoring systems, authorizing $15 million annually between fiscal years 2018 and 2024 for implementation.
Senate Defense Spending Bill Holds Topline S&T Accounts Steady
The Senate Appropriations Committee released its draft spending bill for the Department of Defense on Nov. 21. The bill would provide $581 billion in base funding for the department — $15 billion above the Trump administration’s request — and would maintain overall funding for basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development close to current levels. The bill does provide for larger shifts in funding within the service branches. See FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker for details.
Senate Interior-Environment Spending Bill Keeps USGS Flat, Cuts EPA S&T By 10%
The Senate Appropriations Committee also released its draft Interior-Environment spending bill last week. The bill rebuffs the Trump administration’s proposed 15 percent cut to the U.S. Geological Survey, instead maintaining its overall budget at the fiscal year 2017 level of $1.1 billion. It also rejects the administration’s proposed reorganization of USGS’s Climate and Land Use Change Program. However, the bill would not similarly hold the line on funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science and Technology activities, cutting it by 10 percent below its fiscal year 2017 level of $706 million. The administration and the House have proposed cuts of 36 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The Senate bill would also disband EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System program, which assesses the health hazards of chemicals, and transfer its responsibilities to a recently-reformed Toxic Substances Control Act program. The committee minority has detailed its objections to this and many other aspects of the bill in a statement.