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January 2012 Public Policy News

January 27, 2012: Defense Secretary Promises to protect department's R&D budget: With concern over the fate of the Department of Defense's R&D spending mounting and major aerospace and military contractors preparing contingency plans for significant layoffs and build-downs on a scale not seen since the end of the Cold War, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held a briefing in which he promised that the FY 2013 budget proposal will protect science and technology programs. He said:

"... with regards to key inestments in technology and new capabilities, we have to retain a decisive technological edge. We have to retain the kind of leverage the lessons of recent conflicts have given us. And we need to stay ahead of the most lethal and disruptive threats that we're going to face in the future. That means protecting or increasing investments in cyber capabilities, the ability to project power in denied areas, special operations forces - the kind that we saw conducted in the Bin Laden raid and the hostage rescue operation - homeland missile defense, and countering weapons of mass destruction. In order to protect vital investments for the future, we protected science and technology programs as well."

The President's FY 2013 request (due February 13th) has been shaped by strategic guidance that was released last month by President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, entitled: "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership - Priorities for the 21st Century Defense."

January 24, 2012: President emphasizes importance of R&D in State of the Union: President Obama's State of the Union address spoke of the importance of science and technology and the role that the federal government plays in the support of research. His remarks included:

"Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave health ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don't gut these investments in our budget. Don't let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip an the internet; to new American jobs and new American industries."

January 17, 2012: Debate continues over controversial GRANT Act: The Grant Reform and Transparency Act of 2011 (GRANT Act/H.R. 3433) was introduced late last year by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) and would require federal agencies to establish additional transparency measures in their grantmaking processes. However, the bill is being met with alarm by advocates and scientists who are concerned about its potential impact on science. Controversial provisions contained in the GRANT Act would require that peer review deliberations and communications be made available to the general public, including protected intellectual property and proprietary information. Members of Congress have been circulating "Dear Colleague" letters asking their colleagues to work to change the legislation before it reaches the House floor.

January 6, 2012: PCAST briefed on State Department science and technology activities: Members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology were briefed by the State Deparment's E. William Colglazier as to the State Department's activities. Colglazier said there was great interest by other nations in the State Department increasing its abilities and expertise in scientific and technology matters. Colglazier summarized ten key science-related activities currently underway at the State Department: Strengthening innovation policy dialogues, sourcing innovation, encouraging more global scientific knowledge and capacity building on behalf of the US, maintaining support for the fellowship programs with the State Deparment, building structures for scientific advice to foreign governments, science advice inside the State Department, public diplomacy related to s&t topics, partnerships with USAID, supporting women in science, and understanding the societal impact of disruptive and transformational technologies. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.