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August Public Policy News

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ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS DECADAL SURVEY RECOMMENDATIONS RELEASED: The Astro2010 Survey Committee report, "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics," was released by the National Academies in Washington, DC, on Friday, 13 August. The report recommended priorities of the most important scientific and technical activities for astronomy and astrophysics over the next 10 years. See the complete story in the SPIE Newsroom .

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ISSUES AGENCY GUIDANCE ON 2012 SCIENCE & ENGINEERING R&D SPENDING: The FY 2012 Presidential Budget Request (PBR) will be submitted to the new Congress in February 2011. On 23 July, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released the Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2012 .

For FY 2011, which begins October 1, the Administration has proposed modest to healthy increases for many scientific and engineering programs supported by SPIE. Appropriations for such funding will probably not be enacted until later this year, and spending will be governed by "continuing resolution" after September 30. That means that agencies will be frozen at FY 2010 levels of funding.

SBIR PROGRAM REAUTHORIZATION EXTENDED YET AGAIN - THROUGH 30 SEPTEMBER 2010: Congress has extended (yet again) authorization and funding for the many Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) programs in government agencies through 30 September 2010. The House and Senate Small Business Committees have been unable to resolve differences between two Small Business Innovation & Research Program (SBIR) authorization measures for nearly two years. Without such extensions, agencies would be unable to fund SBIR programs at any agency other than the Department of Defense, which managed to break its own SBIR funding off from the larger measure last year. For more background see http://www.sbtc.org/sbir/index.shtml .

CRITICAL "JOBS" BILL THAT INCLUDES CUTS TO SELECTED R&D, SCIENCE BUDGETS passes: House Democrats went into summer recess at the end of July but returned to vote on a critical jobs bill passed by the Senate, S. 4567. As of this writing, it appears that significant cuts to DOD weapons programs provided the main source of "paygo" (for "Pay-as-you-go") funding to continue unemployment benefits for individuals whose unemployment insurance had expired. "Paygo" rules require that Congress cut spending from existing programs in order to fund new spending. So, where did the paygo money come from? About $302 million was taken out of the Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunity Program and at least $600 million was taken out of various DOD research & development programs.

$500 MILLION SMALL BUSINESS RAPID INNOVATION BILL PASSES HOUSE, PENDING IN SENATE: H.R. 5136, the FY 2011 Defense Reauthorization bill, passed the House last month and contains a beneficial "Rapid Innovation" Program for small business DOD contractors. The bill has been placed on the Senate calendar for action, probably post-Labor Day.

SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE PASSES AMERICA COMPETES AUTHORIZATION MEASURE: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed its version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, S. 3605 during a session on July 22 by unanimous vote. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said that the committee staff had already spent hours working out the details on various amendments "to try to make people happy." Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also spoke about the importance of passing the bill, commenting on the importance of science and technology, which "… are at the core of America's ability to compete in an increasingly globalized economy and for solving many of the challenges we face as a nation in energy independence, biotechnology, and healthcare."Hutchison's written remarks also warned: "While I appreciate the Chairman's [Rockefeller] willingness to work with me to reduce the funding levels by about 10% from the measure introduced, I believe we will need to further adjust the funding levels…"

A September or October vote by the full Senate is currently being planned. The Senate version of COMPETES is already contentious because it plans cutting authorization levels by 10%, eliminating any new programs that were not contained in the original 2007 COMPETES Act, and limiting its coverage to only three fiscal years.

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