House Science Committee Releases More Details on Legislative Agenda

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Greetings from D.C.  The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has now added more details to its upcoming legislative agenda (see the February DC on T2) with the release of its annual “views and estimates” assessment for FY 2018.  Focusing on this committee’s activities is particularly informative since its authority extends across agencies, especially in the obvious area of science and technology authorization and funding. 

In his letter transmitting the committee’s views and estimate for 2018 to the Budget Committee, Chairman Smith (R-TX) noted that “[T]he Committee on Science, Space and Technology oversees agency budgets totaling over $42 billion, most of which are focused on research and development (R&D).  A full reauthorization of the science agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction will allow the committee to rebalance priorities and ensure that our nation’s science agencies are on a trajectory to keep America’s agencies at the forefront of scientific knowledge and discovery.  To maintain our competitive advantage, we must continue to support the fundamental R&D that encourages innovation in the creation and design of next generation technology.”

“[I]n reauthorizing the agencies within the Science Committee’s jurisdiction, the Committee seeks to improve accountability and transparency, reduce administrative burdens on researchers, enhance agency oversight, improve research coordination, and reform federal research science agencies to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research. 

The devil is in the details, of course, and the assessment does specify where attention will be focused—NSF, NIST, DOE (Office of Science, particularly), NOAA, NASA, FAA, DOT, EPA, DHS, and the multi-agency U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.

Select highlights include the following (verbatim, with my emphasis added):

  • “The Committee will ensure that research conducted through NSF, and all agencies, is in the national interest. … A defined ‘national interest’ requirement and criteria ... will go a long way towards ensuring the grant-making process at NSF is transparent and accountable to the American public.”
  • “Increase the core lab funding for generic technology transition to innovation by the NIST Scientific and Technical Research and Services Account and the NIST Facilities Account [to be offset by reducing the NIST Industrial Technology Services Account].” 
  • “The Committee seeks to prioritize basic research and science at the DOE national labs … The Committee seeks to enable researchers in all 50 states to have access to world-class user facilities, including supercomputers and high-intensity light sources. … [The Committee will also seek to] reduce Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy R&D and ARPA-E funding ... by at least $750 million.”
  • “Maintain the overall level of investment at NASA by reducing NASA Earth and Science funding to $1.45 billion ... and reallocate the resulting $471 million to Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, the Orion Space Exploration Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle, the Commercial Crew Program and Exploration R&D.” 

More details pertaining to these and other science agencies under the Committee’s purview are noted in the letter.  Of course, these “views and estimates” primarily reflect the majority’s perspective on many of these issues, and the minority will have something to say about each as well.

Gary can be reached at gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org.

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