DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint —July 18, 2018

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 2019 NIST Budget Update: Funding Rollbacks Proposed by Both House and Senate
The latest appropriations for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been released by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for fiscal year (FY) 2019. In contrast to the 26-percent funding increase proposed for FY 2018, both the House and Senate have suggested that NIST’s budget be reduced by 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Most of these reductions have been to the agency’s research facility construction budget. Yet, these cuts are relatively conservative when compared to the Trump administration’s FY 2019 request—which suggested the budget be nearly halved, or reduced by 48 percent. (Under this request, NIST’s research facility construction portfolio would have seen a 63-percent decrease.)
NIST’s research facilities construction account was funded at $319 million for FY 2018. This surplus is being used to complete the Radiation Physics Building at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland, as well as renovate the main laboratory building in Boulder, Colorado. However, FY 2019 funding would see a substantial decrease in this area, by 62 percent in the House and 50 percent in the Senate.
Other House and Senate budget deliberations include the following:
  • House anticipates no cuts to laboratory funding from FY 2018. Laboratory programs within NIST’s Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) account received $605 million in FY 2017—almost two-thirds of the agency’s entire budget. FY 2018’s proposal called for a 5-percent increase, a mandate the House clarifies in the FY 2019 proposal. NIST’s laboratory programs include the Communications Technology Laboratory, Engineering Laboratory, Information Technology Laboratory, Material Measurement Laboratory, and Physical Measurement Laboratory, as well as the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Center for Neutron Research. (This trend follows House and Senate approval of FY 2019 funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which also proposed no major cuts to research budgets.)
  • However, STRS special programs would see slashes or terminations. The House has proposed that programs such as the Urban Dome, an environmental monitoring and human health program, be terminated. (The Senate rejected this notion, suggesting Urban Dome funding be kept at the FY 2018 level.) This also includes the troubling closure of the Lab-to-Market program, which lies at odds with a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal set to improve the transfer of federally funded technologies from labs to market.
  • Senate proposes the establishment of quantum science consortium. The Senate’s appropriations suggested that $5 million be used to establish a private-public consortium to advance quantum science and engineering. This seems appropriate as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is ramping up support for a National Quantum Initiative.
A graphical representation of these budget proposals, as well as a side-by-side comparison of report language between the House and the Senate, is available here.
FY 2019 STEM Education Budget Update: Funding Rollbacks Proposed by Both House and Senate
The latest appropriations for various federal programs and agencies interested in advancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education have been released by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for FY 2019. In contrast to the Trump administration’s request to eliminate several STEM programs in FY 2018 and 2019, both the House and Senate propose that portfolios for STEM education programs be boosted. (Despite the suggested cuts, the Trump administration directed $200 million of federal funds to support STEM education in a memorandum last year.)
House and Senate budget deliberations for STEM programs across agencies include the following:
  • Department of Education (DoEd). Several DoEd STEM programs are affected by this latest series of appropriations bills. The Department’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program promotes evidence-based solutions to educational challenges. Although the Trump administration requested $180 million, the House proposes a $145 million budget for EIR, with the Senate proposing $135 million. The Senate report specifically allocated that $65 million be forwarded for STEM activities in coordination with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other agencies. In addition, the House and Senate upheld major DoEd grant programs authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), valued at $4.4 billion, as well as the Department’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. The CTE program’s advancement would expand programs in STEM and computer science.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF). House appropriators propose maintaining NSF STEM funding—anchored by the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate—at $902 million, while the Senate suggests a 1-percent increase from that figure. This EHR budget would be used for fellowships and scholarships, STEM apprenticeships and advanced education, and STEM participation programs for minorities, including Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI).
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The House and Senate pushed against the Trump administration’s call to eliminate NASA’s Office of Education. The Senate suggests a 10-percent increase in funding for the Office and that it be renamed the Office of STEM Opportunities. (The House proposes $90 million.) The funding for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and its education activities would be maintained between $44 and $45 million.
  • Department of Energy (DOE). Both committees reject the administration’s cuts to the DOE Office of Science’s Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program, with the House maintaining funding at $20 million and the Senate proposing an additional $4.5 million for the Department’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship and Graduate Student Research program. In addition, the House proposes increased funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Academic Alliances and Partnerships program, with $63 million to develop the next-generation nuclear security workforce. The Senate proposes to maintain the budget at $53 million.
A graphical representation of these budget proposals, as well as a side-by-side comparison of report language between the House and the Senate, is available here.

Policy Pulse

Restoring America's Leadership in Innovation Act Seeks to Reverse U.S. Patent System Damage
Earlier this week, Kentucky representative Thomas Massie introduced the Restoring America's Leadership in Innovation Act of 2018. This Act seeks to repeal many of the provisions written into the America Invents Act (AIA), which has contributed to patent slowdowns and protection difficulties, as well as the U.S. patent system’s 12th-place ranking in a recent Global IP Index. This new Act would reverse many AIA enactments, including restoring the right of the first inventor, which would give the right of invention to the first person to conceive of it, not the one to first file a patent application. The Act also proposes the closure of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which would be replaced by the pre-AIA Board and Patent Appeals and Interferences for inventors to appeal and challenge patent examinations. The Restoring America's Leadership in Innovation Act also legitimizes the patentability of scientific discoveries and software inventions, restores patents as a property right, and terminates the automatic publication of patent applications.
A section-by-section breakdown of Massie’s Act is available here, with the full text reproduced here.
House Intelligence Committee to Examine Chinese Threats to U.S. Research and Development
The House Intelligence Committee will hold an open hearing titled “China’s Threat to American Government and Private Sector Research and Innovation Leadership” to turn attention to China’s pursuit of U.S. research and development (R&D) through espionage of American academic institutions. Witnesses include representatives from Symantec Corporation and the Center for a New American Security, among others. This is a topic that has gripped the Department of Defense (DoD) at length, including provisions in 2018’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
This latest hearing follows June’s hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee, which was particularly focused on reverting to a Cold War-era posture towards Chinese academic and business communities. This stance, championed by Undersecretary of Defense and Engineering Mike Griffin, underlines a “whole-of-government” strategy to curbing theft of American technology transfer. Committee Chair and Texas representative Mac Thornberry cited a report commissioned by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIUx). This report found that “the U.S. does not have a comprehensive policy or the tools to address this massive technology transfer to China [and] does not have a holistic view of how fast this technology transfer is occurring, the level of Chinese investment in U.S. technology, or what technologies we should be protecting.” To rectify this, the House suggested denying funding to researchers participating in foreign talent recruitment programs that may promote the “use of intelligence networks to exploit open research and development.”

Agency Activities                                                

Artificial Intelligence Update: From the Pentagon to the National Science Board
In May, the White House founded an interagency committee within the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). This committee would advise the White House on government artificial intelligence (AI) R&D. The following month saw NIST convening to discuss the agency’s role in advancing AI, developing concepts like machine concepts with futureproof laboratory construction. This artificial intelligence has continued the AI conversation both on the agency-specific and federal stages.
The issue remains that the U.S. doesn’t currently have a holistic AI strategy for implementation and progress. By contrast, China, France, Canada, and the European Union all have unique plans for advancing R&D in this leading-edge technology sector. China, in particular, has built a collaborative innovation ecosystem to spearhead invention in this area and beyond. Texas representative Will Hurd recently spoke on behalf of the Congressional AI Caucus, claiming America is “tied with China” and that “we’re still the benchmark because the greatest innovators, the smartest people are here in the United States of America, but … [China’s] ability to move quickly because they can force action is one of the reasons they could potentially get a leg up on us.”
The National Science Board (NSB) is moving quickly, with its quarterly meeting this week focused on AI. The NSB is the governing board of the NSF, which invests $100 million annually in AI. This figure—and focus—will only increase as part of the Foundation’s “Big Ideas,” according to a newsletter issued by NSF Director France Córdova. In the defense sector, the Pentagon is weeks away from publishing and roadmapping its first strategy for AI capabilities. The Pentagon last week announced plans to establish an AI innovation center, which would employ 200 researchers within the next two years to collaborate with the private sector and academia.  This echoes Defense Secretary James Mattis’ remarks that AI could enhance military operations and Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy’s listing of AI as a National Defense Strategy modernization area.
More on this as it develops, which it may soon in Congress according to National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Associate Director Kristin St. Peter. “I think [AI] is an area of interest, and any time that the government’s interested in spending money on something, they’re going to be interested in telling us how they want that money spent,” she said. “I would expect that, yes, eventually the legislation will catch up with any appropriations that may or may not be coming from the Hill.”
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