April 22, 2016

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

  • Congress: Senate Moves Science Related Appropriations Bills
  • NASA: Proposals Sought for Aeronautics University Leadership Initiative
  • Defense Research: Funding Opportunity Announced for Basic Research Challenge
  • Space Weather: Legislation Introduced to Implement Space Weather Strategy
  • Research Enterprise: Federal Research Spending Increases by 6% in 2014


The Senate Appropriations Committee continued action on spending bills with unprecedented speed while the House remained deadlocked over how to overcome opposition to a budget resolution. The Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill which provides funding for NSF, NASA, NOAA, and NIST cleared the committee with little controversy.

Since the President’s request includes a mix of discretionary and mandatory spending, direct comparison with the stated programmatic request levels in the President’s budget is complex in many cases. Members have been strongly critical of the mandatory spending proposals.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.3 billion, $21 million above the FY16 spending level and $1 billion above the FY17 discretionary request. The increases were primarily focused on the Space Launch System and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. For the Science Mission Directorate, the bill provides $5.4 billion, which is $194 million below the FY16 spending level and $92 million above the FY17 discretionary request. Including mandatory spending, this is $200 million below the total request.

For NSF, the bill provides $7.51 billion, about $46 million above FY16. This is slightly less than the FY17 discretionary request level of $7.56 billion and $54 million below the total request level including mandatory spending. For Research and Related Activities, the bill provides $6 billion, flat relative to FY16 and $45.7 million below the FY17 discretionary request.

For NIST the bill provides $974 million, a $10 million increase over FY16. For NOAA the bill provides $5.69 billion, a reduction of $74.4 million below FY16.

In other action, the Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act,  which addresses a wide range of policy issues such as energy supply and energy efficiency. Although not binding, the bill also provides a multi-year authorization for programs within the Department of Energy. The DOE Office of Science would increase by 5% per year through the year 2020, substantially greater than currently envisioned in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bills now being considered in the House and Senate.

Read More: SpacePolicy Online, Science Insider


NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is soliciting proposals for the University Leadership Initiative, which seeks to address future aviation problems, and build multi-disciplinary research capacity within the university community. These university-led partnerships will provide strategic leadership that advances selected research objectives and promotes education of the next generation of engineers.

Solicitation NNH16ZEA001N-ULI specifies topics that include: safe, efficient growth in global operations; innovation in commercial supersonic aircraft; ultra-efficient commercial vehicles; transition to low-carbon propulsion; real-time system-wide safety assurance; and, assured autonomy for aviation transformation. A Notice of Intent is due May 5, with initial proposals due June 7.

Defense Research

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Basic Research Challenge (BRC) program was established to address promising research programs in new areas not addressed by the current ONR basic research program. Topics are selected that foster leading-edge science and attract new principal investigators and organizations.

ONR has issued an announcement for its Basic Research Challenge for FY17. Among the seven topics specific to this solicitation are: cavitation in soft materials; improvements in space weather modeling; understanding data-rich environments; and, turbulence modeling. White Papers are due June 3, with full proposals due by August 12. BRC awards are normally for four years.

Space Weather

Solar flares, solar energetic particles, and coronal mass ejections have been shown to have a great potential to impact critical civilian and defense satellites, power grids, aircraft safety, and other systems.  Responsibility for research, assessment, and operational forecasting has been spread among thirteen federal agencies.  Clearly aligning agency roles and budgetary resources has been difficult.  The solar and space physics decadal survey, A Science for a Technological Society, identified multiple gaps in the multi-agency effort and and recommended rechartering a National Space Weather Program.  In response, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has developed a National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan.

In an effort to codify these roles and ensure the strategy can transition to a new Administration, Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have introduced a counterpart bill entitled The Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S. 2817) 

The bill pays particular attention to planning for replacement satellites for NASA research missions that have also provided data essential for operational forecasting. For example, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, launched in 1995, has provided a major source of data for forecasting models, but is now well beyond its design life. The budget to achieve full continuity in space weather operational satellites was estimated by the decadal survey to be as much as $200 million annually.

Read More: Space News

Research Enterprise

New data released by the NSF indicates that federal funding for research rose by $3.7 billion, or 6 percent, between fiscal years 2013 and 2014 with basic and applied research making equal gains. InfoBrief 16-311 shows NIH, DOE, DOD, and NSF all increased, and some reversed losses from prior years. NASA research, however, decreased by 2% between over this time frame. The InfoBrief also projects that research funding is estimated to remain relatively flat in FY 2015 and will increase by 4% in FY 2016.

Read More: NSF Press Release


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