Oakland University
Monday, March 23, 2015

AAU Update

March 18, 2015

To: Council on Federal Relations

From: AAU Staff

Subject: CFR UPDATE (15-No. 10, 03-18-15)

· House FY16 Budget Resolution Would Freeze Nondefense Discretionary Spending

--Senate Takes a Different Approach in its FY16 Budget Resolution

· AAU Publishes FY16 Agency and Program Funding Requests

· Senate Panel Holds Hearing on Abusive Patent Practices

· Senator Durbin Introduces American Innovation Act

· Senators Introduce Manufacturing Universities Bill

· Associations and Universities Express Concern about "Secret Science" Bill


House Republicans on March 17 unveiled their FY16 budget resolution, proposing to reduce federal spending over the next 10 years by $5.5 trillion through a combination of cuts to several entitlement and mandatory programs and a freeze on nondefense discretionary spending. Defense discretionary spending would be increased by 30 percent over the decade. The House budget resolution seeks to balance the federal budget over 10 years.

Under the plan, nondefense discretionary spending-which includes spending for the civilian research agencies and education programs-would be essentially frozen at $493 billion in FY16. In contrast, FY16 defense discretionary spending would increase from the $523 billion level mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) to $613 billion by adding $94 billion to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which is not subject to the budget caps. (See Politico's description here.)

Among the proposed changes to higher education programs, the House budget resolution would freeze the Pell Grant maximum award for the next 10 years and calls for directing Pell Grants to the neediest students. The budget document (page 27) asserts that the proposed budget "envisions a framework that uses federal dollars more efficiently, accounts for student loans in a way that reflects their true cost, and invests in a sustainable higher education system that is good for students, institutions of higher education, and taxpayers."

--Senate Takes a Different Approach in its FY16 Budget Resolution

The Senate Budget Committee also released its FY16 budget resolution this afternoon, but with far fewer details than the House version. In general, the Senate version proposes to cut less spending over 10 years than the House-$4.4 trillion rather than $5.5 trillion-and would maintain the BCA discretionary spending caps for both defense and nondefense, reports National Journal. And rather than adding $94 billion to the President's request for the OCO fund to bolster defense spending, the Senate would allow for creation of a reserve fund. That fund would not be specified for defense only.


AAU today published its FY16 funding requests for research and higher education programs. Those available are for: the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy Office of Science, NASA, the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.


The Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing to discuss the economic impact of abusive patent litigation practices and potential legislative remedies. One of the witnesses was Dr. Michael Crum, Vice President for Economic Development and Business Engagement at Iowa State University, who appeared on behalf of his university and the six major higher education associations.

Dr. Crum told the committee that universities vigorously support efforts to rein in abusive litigation practices, but they believe that sweeping patent legislation is not the right instrument. Rather, universities stand ready to work with Members of Congress in crafting carefully targeted legislation that "can effectively combat abusive patent practices while maintaining the capacity of our robust patent system that supports the innovation and economic competitiveness that serves this nation and its citizens so well."

The Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship will hold a similar hearing tomorrow, March 19, titled, "Patent Reform: Protecting Innovation and Entrepreneurship." The hearing will focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs, examining how they interact with the patent system and the potential impact on them of proposed patent legislation.


Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 16 introduced the American Innovation Act (S. 747), legislation to provide significant and steady increases in federal non-biomedical research funding over the next decade. The measure would authorize annual budget increases of five percent above inflation over the next 10 years for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, science and technology programs at the Department of Defense, the NASA Science Directorate, and science and technical research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The bill is a complement to the American Cures Act (S. 289), which Senator Durbin introduced earlier this year to provide similar funding growth for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

AAU issued a supportive statement on the legislation.


A bipartisan group of five Senators today introduced a bill that aims to strengthen university engineering programs and high-tech manufacturing by designating 25 universities as "manufacturing universities." The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015-introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)-would provide each designated university with $5 million per year for four years to meet specific goals, including focusing engineering education programs on manufacturing, building new partnerships with manufacturing firms, expanding training opportunities, and promoting manufacturing entrepreneurship. The program would be run by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, in coordination with other federal agencies.

AAU and several other associations and individual universities have endorsed the bill.


A group of 35 associations and universities, including AAU, wrote to Members of the House of Representatives on March 16 expressing serious concerns about the possible unintended consequences of the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1030), legislation aimed at increasing access to research findings that underlie regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The bill has been approved by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and is awaiting consideration on the House floor.

The organizations' letter, spearheaded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, details the research community's concerns about key terms in the bill, the difficulty and high cost of reproducing long-term public health and other studies, and the uncompensated financial burden on research grant recipients of sharing and archiving research results that might be used in a regulatory action by EPA.

The organizations note that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with federal agencies to establish policies on access to research data and suggests that Congress "wait to review the agency policies before imposing new statutory requirements."

Please visit us at www.aau.edu and follow us on Twitter at @AAUniversities.

Created by Claudia DiMercurio (dimercur@oakland.edu) on Monday, March 23, 2015
Modified by Claudia DiMercurio (dimercur@oakland.edu) on Monday, March 23, 2015
Article Start Date: Monday, March 23, 2015