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August Public Policy News

 August 31, 2011: SBIR/STTR Programs Likely to Lapse?: According to Small Business Insider's Rich Shindell, SBIR reauthorization is in trouble and in danger of lapsing entirely on October 31. The latest extension of the program, reached after the House and Senate resolved their impasse over funding and qualification details earlier this year, ends September 30, According to Shindell: "The news on SBIR reauthorization is not good. In fact, at this time, the odds for obtaining reauthorization by the September 30, 2011 deadline is grim, and Congress seems to have no taste for what would be the 13th continuing resolution (CR or extender) of the program. In short, SBIR/STTR programs are likely to lapse, at least for a time, but perhaps permanently." For more information, see Small Business Insider.

31 August 2001: Possibility of additional continuing resolution to fund federal government: The government’s fiscal year 2011 ends September 30 and SPIE anticipates that Congress will pass a continuing resolution so that federal agencies can carry out most ongoing scientific & engineering research programs while Congress continues to debate the final budget numbers for FY 2012.  The recent agreement as part of the August 2, 2011 debt ceiling compromise included an overall cap on FY 2012 discretionary spending, which might mean that final budget numbers are easier to negotiate than in prior sessions of Congress, but this will largely be determined by the bipartisan Joint Congressional Committee that will make spending recommendations in late November. SPIE has created a chart that contains updated appropriations numbers (where available), for key science & engineering agencies of interest to SPIE members. 

August 31, 2011: DOD launches Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) for small business innovators: The SPIE-supported Rapid Innovation Program, a component of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, has been “renamed” the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) after several months of internal negotiations at the Pentagon. RIF is an opportunity for SPIE members to take advantage of Defense Department funding to facilitate rapid insertion of innovative technologies into military systems and programs that meet critical national security needs.  An August 12 DOD memo has been released that identifies RIF Goals and Implementation Guidelines and according to ESTeP Committee member Jim McNally, a launch of the program occurred September 1. 

The new RIF is not a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, and it does not use SBIR dollars, but the initial launch emphasizes the importance of SBIR Phase II projects and this looks like a great opportunity for smaller tech companies to get involved in what could expand into a very significant (about $500 million in funding) future program.  The purpose of RIF is to transition innovative technologies — primarily those developed by small businesses, including SBIR Phase II projects — that “resolve operational challenges characterized by Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statements (JUONS) or other critical national security needs developed by DOD.”   RIF is designed to focus primarily on small businesses and to make sure that smaller companies are rapidly assimilated into existing Acquisition Category programs or other defense acquisition programs that fit.  The program also will focus on DOD-reimbursed Independent Research & Development (IR&D) technologies developed by Defense Industrial Base Tier 2 and 3 suppliers that resolve operational challenges described by JUONS or other needs.

RIF will be phased in after a somewhat tepid reception at DOD. About $99 million in funding has been targeted for grants through December, with the Army, Air Force and Navy each receiving about $24 million in initial funding to launch the initiative.  Another $27.5 million is available for “Defense-wide” use.  Phase I of the launch of RIF will be implemented from early September through December.  DOD is calling for an assessment of Phase I of the program by December 23.  For more information see here, or contact Mr. Ron Kurjanowicz, ASD (R&E) at 703/697-5776 or ronaldkurjanowicz@ods.mil

30 August 2011: SPIE joins other societies in appealing to Iran for release of optics student: SPIE president Katarina Svanberg joined the European Optical Society, the International Commission for Optics and OSA in writing a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, appealing for the quick review of Omid Kokabee, an Iranian PhD student, who is currently charged with communicating with a hostile government and receiving illegal earnings. Kokabee, an SPIE member, was scheduled to go on trial in July, but the date has been postponed indefinitely.

22 August 2011: NASA announces invitation for public to nominate individuals for consideration as potential members of NASA’s federal advisory committee: NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their expertise, knowledge, and contribution to the relevant subject area. The deadline for nominations is September 20, 2011.

Nominations and self-nominations from interested individuals must be sent to NASA in letter form, be signed, and must include the name of the specific NASA Federal advisory committee of interest for consideration. Such letters must be accompanied by the following additional information: (1) Resume and/or curriculum vitae; (2) professional biography (one page maximum). Letters may be submitted electronically, in hard-copy, or both. Please send all letters and accompanying information to: Ms. Susan Burch, Advisory Committee Management Division, Office of International and Interagency Relations, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546; or electronically to: susan.burch@nasa.gov. 

5 August 2011: SPIE objects to House subcommittee decision to end James Webb Space Telescope; urges full funding: SPIE responded to the decision of the of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Space to terminate the JWST by sending a letter to members of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging that the project be fully funded and seen to its completion. Ending the JWST would waste billions of taxpayer dollars that have already been invested, undermine American leadership and innovation in space technology, and eliminate much-needed jobs and economic growth, the letter argues. For the full text, click here.

1 August 2011: Congress holds hearing on NIST: On July 25, 2011, NIST  Director Dr. Patrick Gallagher testified before the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship on the role of small businesses in strengthening cybersecurity efforts in the United States. Gallagher said: “When implementing new technologies, small businesses need to fully understand all of the potential security risks created by connecting to the Internet. Indeed, the risks to our systems are so complex and pervasive, that we cannot reasonably expect small businesses to be experts in all areas of security, including properly implementing security controls for complex system configurations and assessing security features associated with new and emerging technology. It is critical that small business needs and requirements are considered as cybersecurity standards and guidelines are developed. NIST’s mission in cybersecurity is to work with federal agencies, industry, and academia to research, develop and deploy information security standards and technology to protect information systems against threats to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information and services.” Read the full testimony here.