DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — May 1, 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

FY 2020 Budget Request for STEM Education

Preliminary budget requests for fiscal year (FY) 2020 have continued and similar to reports in previous T2 Touchpoints, the Trump administration has requested additional funding decreases. Similar to the administration’s request for FY 2019, STEM education efforts have a varied future, with requests proposing the elimination of programs at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Furthermore, the FY 2020 request is the first to follow the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) five-year implementation plan for STEM education. Other T2-related budgetary items under this request include the following:

  • Department of Education: To promote 21st-century workforce development, the administration requested $13 million to fund grants for career technical education (CTE) programs in STEM fields, as well as $60 million to support apprenticeships at the state level. The Department’s Innovation and Research program would see its budget doubled from $130 million to $300 million under this request, with $100 million allocated to STEM and computer science education.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): Under this request, NSF’s budget for its Education and Human Resources Directorate would decrease 10 percent to $823 million. However, NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program would see a $9 million funding increase (to $75 million). In addition, NSF’s INCLUDES network would remain funded at $20 million.
  • Department of Defense: The Department’s National Defense Education Program would receive $92 million, which is a decrease from the currently enacted $136 million. According to the American Institute of Physics (AIP), this line item “supports various STEM education and outreach activities, such as the SMART Scholarship-for-Service and the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program.”
  • Department of Energy (DOE): The Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program would return to its FY 2018 level of $19.5 million, resulting in a $3 million decrease. In addition, the request proposed cuts to the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships and Graduate Student Research programs by 13 and 45 percent, respectively. The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Academic Alliances and Partnerships program funding would be reduced by $8 million (to $45 million.)

More details on this request are available here.

Policy Pulse

AAAS Policy Forum to Discuss American Innovation, Foreign Competition

Tomorrow, OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier will address the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at its Forum on Science and Technology Policy in Washington. According to AAAS, this conference details “what is happening and what is likely to happen in the coming year on the federal budget and the growing number of policy issues that affect researchers and their institutions.” Droegemeier is returning as keynote speaker and the president’s science advisor after a two-year hiatus.

At a previous AAAS meeting, Droegemeier introduced a list of research and development (R&D)-specific policy priorities. Other topics will include a session on Chinese science and technology (S&T) strategy and the effects on American research. Additional forums by former DOE Office of Science director Cherry Murray and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz are also expected.

Agency Activities

Air Force Releases New S&T Strategy

Last month, the Air Force released its S&T strategy after outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson commissioned it in 2017. The strategy has three objectives: to develop and deliver transformational strategic capabilities, to reform the way S&T is led and managed, and to deepen and expand the scientific and technical enterprise. The objectives include the following goals:

  1. Develop and Deliver Transformational Strategic Capabilities—The Air Force intends to advance technology in the following categories to challenge adversaries that have neared “technological parity” with American innovation. Global persistent awareness will be used to support on-demand awareness of adversary actions anywhere by securely gathering, processing, and fusing multiple types of trusted data. Resilient information sharing will ensure that communications, including navigation data, are coordinated across all Air Force assets. Rapid, effective decision-making will utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and other automation methods to act faster than other adversaries. The Air Force also intends to “overwhelm” adversaries with complexity, unpredictability and mass, as well as the speed and reach of weaponry.
  2. Reform the Way S&T is Led and Managed—In order to accomplish this objective, the Air Force will establish a Chief Technology Officer and outline the responsibilities to best prioritize, plan, and budget Air Force S&T activities. This individual will also lead strategic planning at Air Force headquarters, integrate technological investments with major commands, and manage the Air Force’s S&T portfolio, including direct oversight activities at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
  3. Deepen and Expand the Scientific and Technical Enterprise—Expansion of the Air Force technological mission starts with engaging a driven workforce. The Air Force will enhance access to top national and global talent, as well as innovative workforce development, through training and education programs across the Air Force, the Department of Defense, and academia. The Air Force is also emphasizing the importance of technical partnerships through AFRL’s Open Campus, which enables Air Force scientists to collaborate with the private sector in specialized facilities and laboratories.

The Air Force’s strategy can be read in its entirety here.

NVIDIA Reaches Out to Government AI Initiatives

NVIDIA vice president Anthony Robbins mentioned the White House’s American AI Initiative in an open letter to the government, published in FCW, as an example of the “federal government’s commitment to utilizing this revolutionary technology to better the lives of citizens across the country.” Robbins, like the Initiative’s goals, believes that the federal government should ensure that its data infrastructure, computing platforms, and training ecosystem are critically upgraded to properly harness the potential of AI.

Robbins’ remarks include practical applications of AI in health care, cybersecurity, disaster relief, and defense platform costs, as well as waste, fraud, and abuse—which could lessen the burden of the billions of dollars attributed to improper government payments. As NVIDIA is a private technology company, Robbins also suggests a stronger collaborative network between the government and the commercial sector to transform AI to benefit American health, security, and prosperity.

DC Dispatch