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December Public Policy News

December 31, 2011: National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 passed: Today, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, representing a huge victory for SBIR programs that were included in the legislation. SBIR programs, which were set to expire on December 16th, were saved by a last-minute deal reached by Congress. Read here for SPIE's statement supporting the Congressional action, which reauthorized funding for another six years.

December 31, 2011: NASA Mars Mission and James Webb Space Telescope Update: NASA will make a decision about two manned missions to Mars when the President submits his FY 2013 budget request in early February.  According to published reports, a bipartisan group of Members of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics have expressed frustration about what they believe is a “lack of commitment” to the two Mars missions, planned for 2016 and 2018.  According to Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) “The conundrum now facing NASA is selecting a mission that is the next logical step in our exploration of Mars, and how to pay for it.”   

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) expressed concern about OMB, and raised another issue – the James Webb Space Telescope:
“In order to keep the vitally important James Webb Space Telescope on track, NASA will need to find an additional $1.2 billion over the next five years from within its science and agency operations budgets. Decisions on how those science budget offsets will be made have significant implications for the future of the Mars program. Reportedly, OMB officials are overruling the scientific experts at NASA on how those offsets should best be allocated across the agency’s science programs, with the result that NASA’s long-planned joint NASA-ESA Mars program appears to be in serious jeopardy.”

December 28, 2011: Battelle's 2012 Global R&D Funding Forecast predicts continuation of China's massive increase in R&D spending: The "2012 Global R&D Funding Forecast" report released by Battelle and R&D Magazine forecasts that Asian economies will increase R&D spending for innovation by 9%, Europe by 3.5%, and that overall U.S. R&D spending will increase by only 2.1% next year.  Total global R&D spending will increase at a 5.2% rate from last year, a “healthy rate of increase” according to Battelle.  "China's profile as the second-largest sponsor of global R&D continues to increase, whether measured in terms of funding or generation of intellectual capital," says Battelle’s CEO Jeffrey Wadsworth, in his introduction to the report. "Even so, with over $400 billion in annual R&D funding from both public and private sectors, the United States continues its historic and world-leading commitment to innovation as an essential catalyst for prosperity and growth." According to Battelle, while U.S. federal R&D spending continues its ongoing decline — down to about $125.7 billion in 2012 (a 1.6% drop) — it will be "partially offset" by U.S. private spending of $279.7 billion (a 3.8% increase).

 About 18% of U.S. spending is on basic research according to Battelle.  Battelle’s numbers are slightly at variance with recent data released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) new Director of its Science R&D Budget and Policy Program, Matt Hourihan.  Hourihan’s figures are based upon the final appropriations measure signed in late December by President Obama.  Hourihan opined during a recent AAAS program that “Essentially flat funding is good news these days, given real and threatened budget cuts across the government." Hourihan forecasts that the government will spend about $142 billion on R&D in FY12, down 1.3 percent from FY11 and 5 percent below the administration's request.  He summarized that Defense RDT&E is down 3.4 percent overall from last year; and NIH is "essentially unchanged," but also gets a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Hourihan concluded “the appropriations bill was fairly generous to energy and environment R&D. A fuller analysis is found at here.  

December 27, 2011: Defense and DOE FY 2012 Appropriations Update: Congress and the Administration agreed upon a final FY 2012 appropriations bill in early December (H.R. 2055) which contained nine funding bills.  Of interest to SPIE members are some updated numbers related to the Departments of Defense and of Energy, which did not make it into our last report.  For more information, see House Report 112-331.  This voluminous   report contains the bill language and a second section with the appropriators’ recommendations. Page 671 for the funding levels for various defense science and technology programs and report language on specific programs. DOD 6.1 Basic Research was funded at $31.025 billion an increase of 6.5% from FY 2011, DOD 6.2 Applied Research was funded at $33.180 billion an increase of 6.3% over FY 2011, and DOD 6.3 Development was funded at $75,498 billion, a decrease of 4.7% from FY 2011 and about 5.1% less than the Administration requested.  The Department of Energy’s Office of Science received $4.459 billion, an increase of 4.9% over FY 2011, but about 9.7% less than the Administration requested.

December 9, 2011: White House releases STEM Education Inventory: The National Science and Technology Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) has issued its much-anticipated Inventory of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Programs.  The Inventory follows months of effort by federal agencies and the White House to fulfill a requirement of the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to identify federal STEM education efforts, detect overlaps and duplication of such programs, and analyze other characteristics of federal STEM education activities for Congress.   As well, CoSTEM plans to use results of the study to develop a five-year strategic plan for the coordination and advancement of STEM education in the United States.  Following issuance of the CoSTEM Inventory, the new Internet STEM Site — http://stemconnector.org/  — announced that it had begun the process of creating Special CoSTEM Profiles of these programs.  For more information, visit http://stemconnector.org/stemdirectory  To access a copy of the report, see here.

December 1, 2011: European Commission details €80BN innovation proposal: The European Commission (EC) has spelled out its proposals for an €80 billion investment in research and innovation for the next European Union budget running from 2014 to 2020, highlighting a greater emphasis on applied research to compete in the global economy, and moves to ease bureaucracy for project participants. If the budget can emerge from negotiations with the European Parliament and Council relatively unscathed – something that would appear challenging, given the current debt crisis – the plan would become operational in January 2014 and provide a major increase in overall funding compared with the EC’s existing research program. Read more about this here at optics.org.