DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — November 6, 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 Appropriations for STEM Education Underway

In May, cross-agency budget requests for STEM education in fiscal year (FY) 2020 were already underway. We reported that agency requests were not only in opposition to cuts proposed by the Trump administration, but they were the first budgetary items in line with the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) five-year implementation plan for these programs. Announced in January, this plan seeks to build a strong foundation for STEM literacy; increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM; and prepare the STEM workforce for the future. The plan can be read in full here.

Appropriations for STEM education are following the same template as preliminary budgets in the spring. Both the House and Senate are campaigning for increased STEM education funding. T2-related budgetary items under these appropriations include the following:

  • Department of Education: While the Trump administration has called for the termination of three major STEM grant programs, Congress reauthorized the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA would be authorized with $1.6 billion of funding for FY 2020, while other grant programs, like Student Support and Academic Enrichment as well as those for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, would receive $1.2 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively. Additionally, the Department’s budget for the Education Innovation and Research program budget would be doubled from $130 million to $300 million. $100 million of that amount would be dedicated to supporting STEM education reform projects.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): Just as in May, NSF’s INCLUDES program—designed to broaden participation in STEM by encouraging diversity—would receive $20 million in funding as it did last FY. NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program would increase by $9 million to $75 million, as written in the Senate appropriations package.
  • Department of Defense (DoD): The DoD’s National Defense Education Program has grown to a funding level of $136 million since FY 2015. While the Senate suggests that the program should be scaled back to a $100 million budget, the House suggests staying the course—increasing its budget to $142 million.
  • Department of Energy (DOE): DOE’s Office of Science’s Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists programs would receive a $2.5 million increase to $25 million under both House and Senate bills. The funding will fuel the Office of Science’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program.

More details on current and future appropriations are available here.

Policy Pulse

President Trump Revitalizes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that reestablished the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST will include OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier, as well as 16 additional members appointed by presidential nomination. The latest PCAST council includes seven members already appointed by President Trump, including IBM Research director Dario Gil and former DOE Office of Nuclear Energy acting director Edward McGinnis, who will serve as PCAST’s staff director. As more nominations are formalized, it’s important to note that most of the experts comprising PCAST are leading-edge thinkers in leading-edge technologies, primarily QIS and AI.

PCAST will advise the White House regarding science and technology (S&T) activities across agencies. When PCAST was active during the Obama administration, several studies were conducted and sent to the White House for further deliberation. PCAST has been active in every presidency since George H.W. Bush, who formed the first PCAST in 1990. Predecessors to this executive body include President Eisenhower’s Science Advisory Committee in 1957.

The executive order regarding PCAST can be read in full here.

Inside Upcoming White House Cyber Initiatives

Several Trump administration leaders in information technology (IT) convened in Philadelphia earlier this month for ACT-IAC’s Imagine Nation conference. The administration, including federal chief information officer (CIO) Suzette Kent, has doubled down on IT modernization efforts like those we’ve previously reported on extensively. (In fact, the Imagine Nation conference took place as two Technology Modernization Fund projects received initial funding.) Kent focused on safeguarding government data, while also using “artificial intelligence and other automated technologies” to facilitate interagency information sharing.

Kent spoke again at CyberScoop’s CyberTalks conference, this time focusing on executive cybersecurity initiatives. Encryption mechanisms, behavioral analytics, and digital identity management will be employed across agencies to keep unauthorized users away from government systems. Much like the STEM education roadmap, the White House is pushing for more training and workforce programs. Partnerships with industry are also integral to ensuring standardized continuous monitoring tools. At the same conference, federal chief information security officer Grant Schneider teased government efforts to secure America’s IT supply chain—taking into account risks vendors and products place on the digital ecosystem.

Agency Activities

Upcoming Memo to Outline How the Public Can Trust AI

Lynne Parker, the OSTP’s assistant director for artificial intelligence (AI), referenced an upcoming memo to build both public and agency confidence in the leading-edge technology. According to Parker, the memo is directed primarily to “agencies that suggests regulatory and non-regulatory principles for how you oversee the use of AI in the private sector.” This ideology heavily draws on an executive order from February, which is an extension of research and development (R&D) released by the OSTP in August 2018. Trump’s executive order—“Maintaining American Leadership in AI”—encouraged the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop and enforce AI technical standards so the technology could be widely adopted, homogenized, and more sensitive to public trust. However, this in-progress memo will be the first document legally regulating AI. According to Parker, “on the one hand, we say we want AI that’s trustworthy, but on the other hand, we have no way of knowing how to achieve it—because we don’t know the standard for trustworthiness. So these technical standards are critically important.”

DC Dispatch