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September Public Policy News

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PRESIDENT OBAMA TO ISSUE EXECUTIVE ORDER STREAMLINING AND MODERNIZING EXPORT CONTROLS: President Obama delivered video remarks before the Department of Commerce's Annual Export Control Conference on 31 August in which he promised to streamline and modernize the U.S. export control system in collaboration with Congress. The move, long sought by U.S.-based exporters and SPIE, may address many of the concerns described in the 2009 study Beyond "Fortress America" National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World  issued by the National Research Council's Committee on Science, Security, and Prosperity of the National Research Council.

Additional details on the export control overhaul were provided by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who said that export controls would be simplified and changed to reflect a "positive list" approach to regulations. According to Locke, export controls will also be centralized under a new entity after negotiations with Congress are completed.

CONGRESSIONAL CALENDAR: The House will return from break 13 September and its target date for adjournment of this session is 8 October. The Senate will follow a similar schedule but has not announced a target adjournment date for the session. In the meantime, Washington could see Democratic losses in the upcoming November elections, with some pundits predicting loss of majority status for Democrats in the House, and others predicting a similar outcome in the Senate.

DIMINISHED DEMOCRAT MAJORITIES COULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON CURRENT SCIENCE BUDGETS: Given Republican efforts to control government spending, many agency science budgets appear to be in the cross-hairs. While a generally bipartisan consensus still exists to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act and to continue adequate funding for key science agencies, government spending is on the public's mind. It's unclear whether an Omnibus Budget bill will be passed by the upcoming Lame Duck session post-November. If not, federal agency spending will remain frozen at FY 2010 levels, perhaps well into 2011.

SBIR PROGRAM REAUTHORIZATION: Congress has extended authorization (and hence, funding) for the many Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) programs in government agencies through 30 September. There has been no word whether the House and Senate have reached a compromise over differences in their respective versions of SBIR Reauthorization, but negotiations continue between the two Houses.

In a related matter, SPIE has drafted support letters regarding the Rapid Innovation Program contained in the House-passed FY 2011 Department of Defense Reauthorization bill. The proposed program would target about $500 million in new spending for small businesses. The bill has been placed on the Senate calendar for action, probably post-Labor Day.

KAUFFMAN STUDY ON STARTUPS AND JOB CREATION: The Kauffman Foundation has released a  new study on small business startups and job creation at a time of growing concern about the "jobless" economic recovery that is now underway titled "Neutralism and Entrepreneurship: The Structural Dynamics of Startups, Young Firms, and Job Creation."

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