APS News

July 2012 (Volume 21, Number 7)

The Washington Dispatch

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ISSUE: Budget and Authorization Environment
Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations
The Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) appropriations bills are moving through both chambers. But the legislative process is expected to come to a halt once the Senate and House bills are ready for conferences to resolve the differences. The most likely outcome is a continuing resolution that will fund the government until after elections, perhaps into February or March of 2013. The funding debate centers on the House’s funding levels that are below the mandates of last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA) agreement. The president has pledged to veto any individual appropriations bill until all twelve bills are ready for his signature. The Administration is concerned that the House will hold hostage the Labor-Health & Human Services bill that contains funding for health care reform.

It is highly doubtful that the post-election, 20-day lame duck congressional session will be able to achieve very much, since the fiscal issues requiring resolution are exceedingly large. On the table will be $600 billion associated with BCA “sequestrations,” expiration of the Bush era tax cuts, the payroll tax holiday, the Medicare “doc fix” and a host of smaller issues. The 112th Congress will probably opt to let the 113th Congress deal with most of the problems when it convenes next January.

The House and Senate appropriations subcommittees have already completed much of their work, including passage of the Energy & Water and Commerce, Justice & Science funding bills, which also cleared the House floor after extensive debate. All told, the House has passed six of the twelve bills, while the Senate has yet to take up any of them. In floor action, the House adopted a number of amendments related to science funding, including the elimination of NSF’s Climate Change Education Program and its political science research programs. The House Defense appropriations markup requests a decrease in funding for Department of Defense applied research and maintains flat funding for basic research. The House also slashed funding for ARPA-E and Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy in DOE’s budget, modestly reduced appropriations for the Office of Science (SC) and reallocated SC’s spending by restoring proposed presidential cuts to the domestic fusion program, fully funding ITER, adding a small amount of money for neutrino work at Fermilab, adjusting Nuclear Physics upward from the presidential request and cutting the presidential spending levels for Biological and Environmental Research, Basic Energy Sciences and Advanced Scientific Computing Research. The White House has threatened to veto the House Energy & Water bill.  

STEM education has been an important part of appropriations discussions. NSF’s Education and Human Resources budget is slated to receive increases from both the House and the Senate. During the Senate Labor-HHS markup funding was restored for Math-Science partnerships, which had originally been slated to be cut by a third. The House Defense appropriations subcommittee tasked the Department of Defense “to support the development of STEM skill sets” with funds appropriated for Operations and Maintenance.

Any good news regarding science related appropriations must still be tempered by the sequestrations mandated in January of 2013 by the Budget Control Act. Taking into account sequestrations, most all science accounts would see a relative decrease in FY13.

Be sure to follow the APS Washington Office for the latest news on the FY13 Budget:
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At its June meeting, POPA approved a proposal for a study of the technical issues that surround the extension of nuclear reactor licenses from 60 to 80 years.  

A study for the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) regarding trends in nuclear and radiological detection, sponsored jointly by APS and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is underway and will be completed within the year. The group’s first briefings were held in late May; they are due to convene again in late July.

A non-proliferation workshop will be held, in conjunction with the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), in early 2013.

POPA also approved a template for all future study proposals at their February 2012 meeting. The template is posted with the POPA suggestion box for future POPA studies.
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ISSUE: Media Update
Michael S. Lubell, APS Director of Public Affairs, in his recurring Roll Call column, wrote a piece on May 31 titled “Science Funding and the Ideological Divide.”

APS Member Carol Hirschmugl, physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, authored an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel titled “Investing in Science Boosts Economy.”

APS vice-President Malcolm Beasley, emeritus professor of Applied Physics at Stanford, wrote an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News defending the need for scientifically vetted information as well as open access to information.
Gray arrow "Proposal in Congress threatens peer review to validate research"

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Editor: Alan Chodos

July 2012 (Volume 21, Number 7)

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Articles in this Issue
APS Members Weigh in on Strategic Plan
Back-to-Back Conferences Confront the Health of Physics Education
All-Electric Cars Need Battery Breakthrough
Radio Telescope Boosts South Africa’s Science Credentials
Winning PhysicsQuest Class Helps Outwit Maxwell’s Demon
Top High School Students Prepare for International Physics Competition in Estonia
Dresselhaus Wins Kavli Nanoscience Prize
Texas Physics Consortium Moves Ahead Slowly
Letters to the Editor
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
The Washington Dispatch
International News
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Focus on APS Sections