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 FY16 BUDGET RESOLUTION WOULD FREEZE NONDEFENSE DISCRETIONARY SPENDING
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 PUBLISHES FY16 AGENCY AND PROGRAM FUNDING REQUESTS
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.
SENATE PANEL HOLDS HEARING ON ABUSIVE PATENT PRACTICES
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 DURBIN INTRODUCES AMERICAN INNOVATION ACT
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
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.
SENATORS INTRODUCE MANUFACTURING UNIVERSITIES BILL
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
AAU and several other associations and individual universities have endorsed the bill.
ASSOCIATIONS AND UNIVERSITIES EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT "SECRET SCIENCE" 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
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."
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