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August 2013 Public Policy News

30 August: Representatives Request Government Accountability Office Study on Gender Bias in STEM fields:
Three representatives have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the "government's effectiveness in combating gender bias in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields."

Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) called for the study and have been actively working to address this issue throughout their careers in Congress. This GAO study request was in response to a 2012 study by Yale University researchers which concluded that female undergraduate students are viewed as less qualified for employment in STEM fields than their male counterparts.

Johnson is Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where she introduced H.R. 1358, the STEM Opportunities Act in March of this year and also introduced it in previous years. The bill would require the National Science Foundation to collect comprehensive gender data on the recipients of federal research funding and on STEM faculty at US universities. It would also require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop federal policies and guidelines for researchers who are recipients of federal funding and who have caregiving responsibilities.
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30 August: No Solution in Sight: Attempts to Craft Federal Budget Deal Fail With One Month to Go: Following an announcement that high-level talks had ended on crafting a budget deal to continue federal funding in FY 2014, there are no clear next steps on how to proceed. A week from tomorrow marks the final month of the current fiscal year, and Congress has two major items on its fiscal agenda in September: providing funding for FY 2014 that begins on October 1, and raising the national debt limit to avoid a default.

There is a persistent hope that both can be resolved in a so-called "grand bargain" that would include other changes in federal spending such as entitlement reform. If a deal can be struck there is the possibility that the second year of mandated budget cuts - or sequestration - could be eliminated. Read more

29 August: Divergent Numbers: Senate Committee Approves NASA Authorization Bill on Party Line Vote: NASA reauthorization bill was passed by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The committee's consideration of this bill contrasted greatly with that of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's passage of its own version of this bill on July 18, but the outcome was the same: a deep division between the Republicans and Democrats on both committees about federal spending. In each instance, the committees' majorities prevailed, with little indication that there is a middle ground between the Members. Read more

23 August: FY 2014 Senate Department of Defense Appropriations Bill: S&T Programs: Earlier in August, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 1429, the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for FY 2014. Accompanying this $594.4 billion bill is Senate Report 113-85 detailing the committee's budget and policy recommendations.

Title IV of this report, starting on page 144, outlines the committee's recommendations regarding Research, Development, Test and Evaluation. The Obama Administration requested $67,520.2 million; the bill provides $65,806.8 million.

House appropriators have approved their version of this FY 2014 funding bill; as explained: The tables in the committee report did not show current post-sequestration funding levels, using only the "Budget Request" for comparison purposes. Read more

22 August: Cordova to be Nominated as Next NSF Director: The White House announced that President Obama will nominate France Anne Cordova to become the next director of the National Science Foundation. The term for this position is six years.

Cordova has served in a broad range of scientific and academic positions. She is currently the chair of the Smithsonian Institution's 17-member Board of Regents. Cordova completed a five year term as the president of Purdue University in July 2012. She has held positions at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, NASA (serving as Chief Scientist), and two campuses of the University of California.

Cordova's nomination will be the subject of a hearing this fall by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Read more

6 August: Science Committee Members Hear from Secretary of Energy on National Labs: Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of the House Subcommittee on Energy recently sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz requesting information on Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Moniz responded on July 10, giving an overview of science and technology priorities which were the subject of a recent hearing.

Moniz acknowledged the recent report, Reimaging the National Labs in the 21st Century Economy, and described the common perspectives between that report and the reports on the National Laboratories by the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Academy of Sciences. Moniz was pleased that in all of these reports, there was a "consensus that the Department's National Laboratory System is a key element in the US Innovation Enterprise." Read more