DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — June 19, 2019

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

House Appropriators Approve Federal Pay Raise

The House Appropriations Committee has continued making appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The latest bill concerns making budgetary provisions for general government services, the full text of which can be read here.

Last week, the Committee cleared a 3.1% pay raise for all federal workers. This raise ensures a 2.6% increase for all agency employees, with 0.5% additionally allocated and adjusted for locality pay. (A pay raise is currently being deliberated in the Senate.) According to a statement by National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon, “improving pay for all frontline federal workers and alleviating the staffing crisis at the ports of entry are two major developments from Capitol Hill that will resonate across the country.” This pay raise initiative follows the Trump administration’s request for a proposed pay freeze for civilian employees, a mandate that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) envisioned would reward the highest federal performers rather than implement increased wages across all agency sectors.

Policy Pulse

OSTP Continues to Roadmap National Quantum Initiative

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently held a roundtable to implement the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act. Selected roundtable participants included OSTP Director for Quantum Information Science (QIS) Jake Taylor and OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier. Stakeholders discussed quantum academic development and workforce development, lab-to-market integration opportunities, and negotiating the QIS private-public model.

The roundtable followed recent NQI Act development, including the stand-ups of dedicated research centers for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF); a quantum economic development consortium for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); as well as the establishment of the National Quantum Coordination Office to oversee interagency efforts.

At the event, the NSF confirmed agency plans to fund $5 million a year over five years for the agency’s Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes program. NSF Director France Córdova emphasized the Foundation’s commitment to interdisciplinary research. Regional research hubs, including those in Chicago and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), were discussed as examples for the DOE and NSF to follow, as each is required to establish between two and five new research centers under the Act.

This Year’s NDAA Heads to Congress

This year’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has entered the Senate after the House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the bill. Regarding the House version, the NDAA was amended to include the Securing American Science and Technology Act, which will establish an interagency working group and accompanying reporting structure to defend against foreign intervention in American research and development (R&D). This follows a similar amendment in the approved NDAA last year. In tandem with this amendment, two additional amendments were proposed in the House: the first lists foreign entities posing a threat to critical American R&D, and the second urges congressional Committees on Armed Services to list Chinese and Russian academic institutions that may pose threats to national security research.

The House and Senate versions of the NDAA can be read here. The NDAA, as it advances in both chambers, will be deliberated in further detail in this month’s upcoming Capitol Corner.

Agency Activities

HHS CIO Sets Sights on Technology Innovation

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently named Jose Arrieta as its new chief information officer (CIO). Arrieta has already begun to transform a CIO’s responsibilities within the agency in order to establish interagency collaboration to best utilize emerging technologies. HHS has interfaced with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to update network security protocols to protect personal information, a project which may begin as soon as next week. Arietta has also mentioned HHS’s interest in the internet of things (IoT) and that federal agencies must take the first leap into these new avenues before the private sector may be comfortable to follow. At a recent American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) forum, Arrieta stated that “innovation will occur in private industry, but government taking the first step is a big thing because it says ‘it’s okay,’ and once we say it’s okay we know folks in private industry will go build something that maybe we could never imagine.”

National Strategic Computing Initiative’s Strategic Plan Under Review

In July 2016, the OSTP and OMB released the National Strategic Computing Initiative’s (NSCI) Strategic Plan. The Plan outlined five objectives: to achieve capable exascale computing; establish streamlined technology coherence; compute beyond Moore’s Law—the principle that computing speed and power is expected to double every two years; stand up an enduring national high-performance computing (HPC) ecosystem, and advance public-private collaboration across all of the previous four objectives.

According to the NSF, “Since the launch of NSCI, there have been significant near- and long-term advances that support the efforts towards exascale computing. There have also been changes in the technology landscape, such as the availability of resources and usage models, the nature and requirements of applications, and the means and methods of implementation.” As such, the agency (and its Networking and IT R&D National Coordination Office) has requested public feedback to update, consolidate, or revise these strategic objectives. Comments will be accepted and read through the end of August.

The NSCI Strategic Plan, as released in 2016, can be read in full here.

DC Dispatch