DC Perspective

T2 Touchpoint — January 10, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer 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

Governmentwide Budget Negotiations Continue as Shutdown Looms

Late last month, the House passed a short-term spending bill to extend the conversation regarding raised spending caps for both defense and civilian agencies. As Government Executive reported in December, decisions are split along party lines. Republicans proposed increasing the limit on defense spending by $54 billion and non-defense by $37 billion. (Under these metrics, defense spending would increase to $603 billion and civilian agencies to $553 billion.)  Democrats, on the other hand, propose equal limits for both agency types. Any raise in government spending limits, equal or otherwise, would require revisions to the 2011 Budget Control Act. If no agreement is reached by the January 19th deadline, government shutdown is likely.

Such a stoppage in operations is problematic. According to defense budget analyst Todd Harrison, both defense and civilian spending talks need to be finalized as “you can’t have one without the other.” With the continuing resolution still ongoing four months into FY 2018, this poses major concerns for domestic affairs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. Although former Defense Comptroller Robert Hale remains cautious about the Pentagon’s delayed budget decision, it may cause a severe ripple effect for civilian work as well. As Hale explained, “The whole contracting process gets delayed because you can’t do new starts. People are nervous, understandably, about entering in not knowing what the budget will be.”

To make matters more complicated, in a POLITICO story published after the congressional recess, Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) stated that he expects another stopgap bill to extend negotiations through Presidents Day.

Policy Pulse

Legislative Updates from the SBIR/STTR

In 2016, Congress reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) initiatives for a five-year period ending September 30, 2022. However, pilot programs reauthorized in 2012 were not renewed with this new period. These included the SBIR Administration Funding Pilot Program (AFPP), which allocated 3-percent funding from the SBIR award pool to agencies that provided additional services for small businesses.

Two bills offered last year presented changes to the reauthorized SBIR/STTR—with mixed appeal. The House passed H.R.2763, the “Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Improvements Act of 2017,” which reallocated award dollars from small businesses to universities, with no direct benefit to the SBIR/STTR program. In response, the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC) sent a letter—cosigned by over 100 small businesses—opposing this bill. The SBTC wrote in its letter that “the bill as written will divert money away from a successful, proven program that produces technologies and jobs by America’s entrepreneurs to fund a university- and research institute-exclusive pilot program. Congress should not take money from job-creating small businesses, which receive only 1.7% of Federal R&D, to give more to universities, which already receive ten times as much.”

In response, the Senate introduced S.1961, “SBIR and STTR Oversight and Pilot Program Extension Act of 2017.” This bill restored the 3-percent funding lost from the terminated AFPP pilot program, with a percentage forwarded to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) SBIR/STTR outreach and expansion. The Senate bill has not yet been passed. Updates to follow.

Net Neutrality Update: The Fight for Reinstatement Begins in Nebraska

Last Friday, Nebraska state legislator Adam Morfeld introduced LB856, “Internet Neutrality Act,” to reverse the FCC’s 3-2 decision to overturn net neutrality. As Morfeld told the Lincoln Journal-Star,“For me, this is an economic development and consumer protection bill… the internet drives the economy now and it’s critical people have open and fair access.” Morfeld’s bill retains the FCC’s requirements that internet service providers make transparent “accurate information regarding management practices, service performance and prices to users.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, “the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world,” has reported that California state legislator Scott Wiener has introduced his own version of a net neutrality bill, following in the footsteps of another California state bill introduced last February. Washington and New York are also penning their own as the FCC decision awaits congressional approval.

Agency Activities

New NIST Director Sets Sights on Reviewing Tech Transfer Laws

NIST Director Walter Copan, who assumed his role last October, is already beginning to reevaluate the Institute’s tech transfer policy, including the landmark Bayh-Dole and Stevenson-Wydler Acts. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reported that the Director seeks to clean up the Acts’ conflicting federal and state policy language while also spearheading more effective, streamlined engagement between the public and private sectors. Other NIST priorities under Copan’s leadership include increased innovation and investment in quantum science and engineering.

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DC Perspective