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March 2013 Public Policy News

22 March 2013: SPIE volunteers urge Congress to boost jobs, economy through photonics support at Congressional Visits Day:
SPIE volunteers were in Washington, D.C., last week to thank Congressional representatives for recent support for photonics R&D and to urge future support for in several key areas vital to economic growth and scientific progress. They were among more than 250 scientists, engineers, and business leaders visiting Capitol Hill 12-13 March for a Congressional Visits Day (CVD) sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology (SET) Work Group. The group focused primarily on three topics identified by the SPIE ESTeP Committee, including support for a National Photonics Initiative, overhaul of export controls, and eliminating restrictions on government employee travel to scientific conferences. Read the full press release and access the position papers on these topics. Ben Franta, a student at Harvard University, called the event "an eye-opening experience. In the same way that being a scientist or engineer is very different from what most other people imagine it to be, our government operates in a way that's different from what we might expect by watching or reading the news." 

21 March 2013: U.S. Congress passes legislation to fund government through fiscal year 2013: The House and Senate have passed legislation to provide funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. This legislation, known as a continuing resolution, has been sent to the White House. H.R. 933, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2013 basically maintains funding at last year's (FY 2012) level for the rest of this fiscal year, minus $85 billion in mandated spending cuts that were made through sequestration. In general, approximately 5 percent reductions from last year's budgets will be made in nondefense programs, and approximately 8 percent in defense programs. Current funding expires on March 27.

15 March 2013: President Obama addresses impact of budget cuts on R&D spending:  President Obama visited Argonne National Laboratory on Friday afternoon and discussed the value of research and the impact of mandatory budget cuts on future R&D. His comments included: "‘This sudden halt on new starts will freeze American science in place while the rest of the world races forward, and it will knock a generation of young scientists off their stride, ultimately costing billions of dollars in missed future opportunities.' I mean, essentially because of this sequester, we're looking at two years where we don't start new research. And at a time when every month you've got to replace your smartphone because something new has come up, imagine what that means when China and Germany and Japan are all continuing to plump up their basic research, and we're just sitting there doing nothing. We can't afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races forward. We have to seize these opportunities. I want the next great job-creating breakthroughs -- whether it's in energy or nanotechnology or bioengineering -- I want those breakthroughs to be right here in the United States of America, creating American jobs and maintaining our technological lead." Read the full text of his remarks here.  

Office of Science Director William Brinkman recently testified before the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee and outlined the impacts of sequestration on Office of Science Programs. Read his testimony here.

8 March, 2013: Horizon 2020 seeks input on photonics metrics by 15 March: Horizon 2020 is seeking input from the photonics community to help it improve its analysis and measurement via an online survey. Participants can provide input on the initiative's priorities. Under the Components and Systems part of the survey, the first four priorities are directly related to photonics, organic and large area electronics, and solid state lighting. Read more about the survey

6 March 2013: SPIE signs onto letter urging prioritization of spending for science and technology: SPIE joined 32 other scientific associations and organizations in sending a letter to all Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives urging the continued prioritization of federal funding for science and technology. "Even in times of austerity, investment in scientific research is vital to ensuring our country's long-term prosperity and competitiveness." The letter calls "measures to reduce our federal deficit" to be made in a "thoughtful responsible way." This letter comes as efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to fund the federal government beyond the expiration of the continuing resolution, a short-term legislative mechanism, on March 27. Read full text of the letter

4 March, 2013: President Obama nominates New Secretary of Energy: President Obama has nominated Ernest Moniz to be the next U.S. Secretary of Energy. Describing Moniz as a "brilliant scientist," the President lauded Moniz for his work at the Department of Energy and MIT, adding "Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water, and our climate." During the Clinton Administration, Moniz was the Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, headed by John Gibbons. Moniz also served as the Undersecretary of Energy from 1997-2001 with a rather extensive portfolio, including the Office of Science. More recently, Moniz was on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Energy Future, and is currently a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

1 March, 2013: National Photonics Initiative envisioned at joint event in DC: Representatives of government and the photonics industry convened in Washington, DC on 28 February for a day-long event intended to raise awareness of the role of photonics and plan for its future in the U.S. economy and everyday life. The event was a follow-up to the groundbreaking National Academy of Sciences report "Optics & Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation," released in August 2012. Four members of the committee that produced the report attended the event: Paul McManamon and Alan Willner, committee co-chairs, along with Tom Baer and Edward White. Organized by SPIE in partnership with four other technical organizations, the meeting consisted of two segments: a morning overview of work done by subcommittees and industry sharing their future needs, and afternoon breakout sessions covering the five key optics and photonics sectors -- communication, defense, health and medicine, manufacturing, and energy. The event was held to collect input and identify focus areas for a National Photonics Initiative (NPI), a key recommendation of the Optics & Photonics report. Read more about the event