DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — October 17, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.


Budget Bulletin

Final FY 2019 Appropriations for DoD RDT&E Released

As fiscal year (FY) 2019 opened, the final funding numbers for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) sub-office have increased 8 percent from last year’s figures. (This also is the first time in 10 years that the DoD has received timely appropriations, thanks to a last-minute spending package signed before FY 2018 closed.) RDT&E activities will be allocated $96.1 billion, following $22 billion in budget increases for the division earlier this year. Reports have indicated that both increases underscore a desire to match—and ultimately surpass—the advances in research and development (R&D) championed by China and Russia. As such, $16 billion will be divided between RDT&E’s Science and Technology (S&T) accounts for basic research (receiving $2.3 billion), applied research ($5.1 billion), and advanced technology development ($6.3 billion).

DoD’s basic research budget has received an uncharacteristically high increase for this fiscal year, rising 8 percent to $2.53 billion. Under this umbrella, the Department’s defense research sciences, including projects underway via the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and minority-serving institutions, will either receive sharp budget increases or maintain FY 2018 budgetary levels.

T2 initiatives at the DoD will receive a massive funding hike via the Air Force’s Technology Transition and Defense-Wide Technology Maturation initiatives. These two line items will be funded at $1.45 billion and $317 million, respectively.

A detailed breakdown of the FY19 budget and a comparison between previous FYs is available here.

Final FY 2019 Appropriations for NIH Released

For the first time since 1996, timely appropriations have also been posted for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with this FY’s budget marking the fourth consecutive annual increase in multibillion dollar funding. The FY 2019 budget for NIH has been approved at $39 billion, a 5-percent increase from last year.

In a provision relevant to ongoing coverage, $5 million of the allocated budget will be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General to safeguard the integrity of NIH grant applications. This follows overlapping concerns about the theft of American R&D. In August, NIH Director Francis Collins sent a letter to thousands of grantees and institutions regarding this potential international threat, and has since created a working group to improve the reporting of financial contributions to NIH grant programs and ensure tightened security of federally funded intellectual property. In addition, $30 million will be devoted to advancing NIH’s strategic plan for data science.

With that said, the FY 2019 budget does not authorize funding to establish and operate the Research Policy Board. This Board, if and when funded, would “raise issues of regulatory importance, that is, regarding laws, general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register, agency policies and policy guidance (including FAQs), and executive actions, and identify best practices for facilitating a strong government–research university partnership.”

A detailed breakdown of the FY19 budget and a comparison between previous FYs is available here.


Policy Pulse

NIST Reauthorization Act of 2018 Passes House

The House of Representatives recently approved the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Reauthorization Act of 2018. The bill would authorize $125 million in additional funding to boost NIST’s research and laboratory account. R&D under this account includes quantum information science, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things—all topics of note in our previous coverage. NIST is reauthorized for two years under this pending legislation.

NIST Chairman Lamar Smith echoed long-standing sentiments about American R&D dominance when announcing this bill’s passing in the House. Smith asserts that the Act “will help ensure NIST maintains its position as a global leader in science and technology and keep American industry at the forefront.”

The Act, as written, can be viewed in full here.

Inside the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act

During the same session, the House also approved the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act. Written for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Act would direct the NSF to allocate funds for awards given to universities with innovative and robust STEM education programs. This move toward an increased focus on boosting the STEM workforce follows a recent reauthorization of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at the Department of Education.

Like the CTE program, this bill focuses on revitalizing a waning STEM workforce, as two million jobs are projected to go unfilled in these fields due to inadequate training. To combat this, apprenticeships and other short-term learning opportunities (like two-year accelerated degree programs) will be funded by the NSF under this Act’s direction.

The Act, as written, can be viewed in full here. STEM Education Coalition Executive Director James Brown also issued a statement of support for the Act, which can be read here.


Agency Activities

Clean Energy R&D Activities Subject of National Academy Forums

In August, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released their annual Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. We previously reported that the OMB and OSTP selected American energy dominance as an R&D budget priority for FY 2020. We wrote that the memo asserted “boosting American sources of clean, affordable, and reliable energy begins with the investment in, and subsequent adoption of, next-generation energy technologies” and that “it places an emphasis on the private sector, as well as collaboration with industry and academia, to pilot these breakthroughs.”

Ahead of that FY, the National Academy of Science held two forums focused on clean energy R&D. The first concentrated on decarbonizing the energy landscape, while the second surrounded R&D investments in clean energy. Speakers for the latter included policymakers and private-sector partners from the U.S. and abroad to help better “translate research findings into actionable policy and industry approaches that can drive clean energy innovation.”

DHS Reorganizes Research Office to Monitor Emerging Threats

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its S&T Directorate have restructured the S&T Research Office to streamline federal adoption of commercial technologies and the introduction of tech startups into the federal sector. The reorganized office creates a point person for each agency component—responsible for tackling everything from cybersecurity to emergency services—to assemble research teams and oversee projects. The new hierarchy also accounts for the Directorate’s new technology centers, which are currently responsible for piloting DHS data science projects. These centers are “individually tailored to the S&T program needs by identifying and sharing best practices, subject-matter expertise, knowledge products and technical services” while juggling multiple, simultaneous use cases.

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DC Dispatch