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Get more information about the Washington Office and AMS Government Relations and Programs and check out the Capital Currents blog.

LATEST NEWS

Washington Update
October 16, 2017: The new federal fiscal year 2018 began October 1 and federal agencies are operating under a continuing resolution, enacted last month. The CR extends government funding through December 8, at levels close to those for fiscal year 2017 appropriations. Congress continues their work on the FY2018 budget, and the current state is (still) that both the House and Senate propose to cut the NSF budget by about 2%. Proposed trimmings are different; for example, the House cuts funding for research vessels and the Senate cuts from the Directorate for Education and Human Resources.
 
Science agencies will probably tread carefully with spending, until they are assured of their funding levels for the coming year. At this same time, Congress is addressing budget caps and -- given the state of play and lack of Congressional success this year -- we could still see a government shutdown when the CR expires in December. At the link about budget caps there is a letter to Congressional leaders to increase the total for government funding; the AMS is a member of two of the coalitions (CNSF and TFAI) that signed the letter. Also, as mentioned in my preceding post, agencies are working on the FY2019 budget requests.
 
In the White House, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) remains without leadership. However, President Trump issued an executive order over the weekend renewing the charter of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which had been set to expire on September 30. Even though the charter is now renewed through September 2019, we do not have reassurance that a PCAST will see the light of day; this will happen after an OSPT leader is named.

Congressional Budget Watch & Info
September 5, 2017: As Congress returns to Washington this week, funding decisions for FY2018 still have to be made. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed work on the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills that fund the National Science Foundation, rejecting the Administration's proposed 11% reduction to the research agency. Both bills would provide approximately $7.3 billion, a 2% decrease from the fiscal year 2017 level. These bills however, differ vastly in how the funds are distributed within the NSF and must be reconciled as (only a small) part of full budget decisions to be made.
 
While Senators and Representatives were busy in their home states and districts during recess, the White House issued its memo providing guidance for the FY2019 budget, which puts front and center the priority to “streamline government by ensuring that the Federal Government spends precious taxpayer dollars only on worthwhile policies, and in the most efficient, effective manner.” We see this already rearing its head in, for example, the House Republicans 2018 budget plan which proposes that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) be consolidated within the NSF. 
 
The White House has also issued its memo outlining its research and development budget priorities; these priorities are to receive focus from the various federal agencies (including the NSF) as they develop their FY2019 budget requests. In summary, these priorities are military superiority; security against physical and cyber threats both at home and abroad; job creation in “emerging technology” fields; development of domestic energy sources and cost-lowering; and biomedical programs that improve health outcomes while lowering healthcare costs. This memo also highlights supporting innovation in early-stage research, maximizing inter-agency coordination, maintaining and modernizing research infrastructure, and improving STEM education.

Senator Whitehouse visits the AMS
On August 24 Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse visited the AMS Printing and Distribution Department in Pawtucket. The printshop prints approximately 80 new books per year and about 100 mathematical journal issues, and the Distribution Department houses and fulfills orders for over 3,000 AMS book titles, AMS journals, and posters, as well as publications of other societies and publishers. AMS staff enjoyed the visit and the opportunity to meet the Senator and show off the good work being done in Pawtucket.

Catherine Roberts showing Senator Whitehouse the 2018 Calendar of Mathematical Imagery ?hot off the press?. The Senator is shown the machines by Don Proulx (right) and Jonathan Oulette (left).


From Providence headquarters, Executive Director Catherine Roberts; Director of Printing and Distribution Department Donald Proulx; Associate Executive Director, Publishing, Robert Harington; and Public Awareness Officer Annette Emerson all accompanied the Senator on his visit. They were also joined by Board of Trustees member and Brown University faculty member Joe Silverman.

Ron Rose watches as the Senator prepares a package for shipping.  Steve Hultquist appears in the background.As usual, it was very loud at the site, as every machine was humming. Each machine had a different function (printing, collating, folding, gluing, trimming), which gave an opportunity to feature our journals, books, and the AMS Calendar of Mathematical Imagery in various stages of production. Senator Whitehouse shook hands and spoke with each employee. Robert Harington explained how important it is that we do it all here in Rhode Island – starting with hiring mathematicians to acquire books from mathematicians, to working with the author to construct the book files, to printing the book, to warehousing the book, to taking the orders for the purchase of the book, to packing up the book and mailing it out. The Senator even packed up an envelope, scanned the invoice, printed out the postage label and sealed it all up.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a lawyer by training, and has served as one of the U.S. Senators from Rhode Island since 2007. Before that he served the state in many ways, including as Policy Director for the Governor, as Director of the Department of Business Regulation, and as Attorney General. As a Senator, one of his legislative priorities is economic opportunity. On April 25, 2017 Catherine Roberts and AMS Washington Office Director Karen Saxe met with Senator Whitehouse and two of his staff members in Washington. At that time, the Senator expressed interest in visiting the Pawtucket facility; the visit finally came to fruition on August 24.
 
This visit was a great opportunity for an elected policy maker to learn about the AMS and engage with constituents. The Washington Office is here to help you tell your stories to your elected officials -- if you are interested in inviting your elected officials to your university or business and want some help, please get in touch!
 

OTHER NEWS

Hirono Introduces STEM Opportunities Acts
Senator Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI) has introduced the STEM Opportunities Act (S. 1270) and the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act (S.1246), in a plan to increase opportunities for women and minorities in STEM.  Introduced with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) Ranking Member on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Act would help create grant opportunities and better promote inclusion efforts at federal sciences agencies and elsewhere.

Karen Saxe, Director of the AMS Washington Office, explains "women and minorities are lost at every key point along the way in STEM classes and degree programs.  Success in mathematics in particular is the most significant barrier to degree completion in both STEM and non-STEM fields ... it is critically important that we have programs in place -- like those promoted by the STEM Opportunities and STEM Booster Acts -- that help share best practices for overcoming these barriers and ensure that we are able to retain women and minorities in STEM fields."  Learn more about this new legislation.
 

NEWS ARCHIVE

Congressional Budget Watch & Info
August 8, 2017:  Last week Senators Tom Cotton (AR) and David Perdue (GA) introduced their “RAISE Act” which would reduce legal immigration by half within 10 years. The RAISE Act introduces a “point system”, whereby the government would decide who has “high skills” and would take power away from universities in making hiring decisions. President Trump is supporting this bill, and it fits with another proposal that would affect academia -- his promise to scrutinize the H-1B visa program. Additionally, the RAISE Act would eliminate visa preferences for extended family members, and decrease the number of refugees.
 
Both House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed their work on their respective funding bills for the NSF for FY2018. For the total NSF appropriation, these two bills agree on a 2% decrease, much more favorable than President Trump’s suggested 11% decrease. Most AMS member’s research grants come from the NSF’s Research and Related Activities account; the president proposes an 11% decrease, the Senate a 2% decrease, and the House flat funding for this account. We are appreciative that these bills to not give explicit direction on how the NSF should distribute funds among its six research directorates. The Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) sits inside the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). The House and Senate bills must be reconciled, as a next step.
 
Federal funding of STEM education is also on the chopping block. Big cuts are proposed to NSF, Department of Education, Department of Energy and other agencies that fund programs in STEM education. As just one example, Trump’s budget includes elimination altogether of the Offices of Education at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
While the House and Senate appropriators are moving forward, there is a long way to go and a government shutdown is possible if a budget is not fixed by the end of September. Another barrier to a budget agreement is that the proposed figures exceed the spending caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which the White House is supposed to enforce. However, since the White House has also called for military spending that busts the caps, it is unlikely the caps will be enforced. September will most likely be a dramatic month of budget negotiations for our senators and representatives.
 
See the Washington Office blog for information on how the annual Congressional process unfolds (or should unfold).  And, see the latest updates from the AAAS Research and Development Budget Program, including a mid-session review of where we are with appropriations and where we are headed next.
 

House Republican Group Advocates Lifting Spending Caps
Some members of the Tuesday Group Caucus, a centrist Republican group in the U.S. House of Representatives, have sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan with concerns about the FY2018 budget process.

The group wants to lift spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs.  Crafting a bipartisan, bicameral budget that will raise these caps will allow spending levels for agencies like the National Science Foundation to be increased.  There is also concern among the group that spending cuts will hamper tax reform efforts and they do not want to proceed with the FY2018 budget process until the health care debate has reached a conclusion.

The AMS encourages mathematicians and others whose representatives signed on to this letter to thank them for recognizing that these spending cuts, if they are perpetuated, will certainly do harm to scientific research efforts.  As Congress prepares for its August recess, please also consider meeting with your representatives while they are in their home districts in addition to writing them in their Washington, DC offices.

Mathematics on Capitol Hill
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) co-sponsored a Congressional lunch briefing on June 28, 2017.  Professor David Donoho (Stanford University) explained to Congressional representatives how federally funded mathematical research transitioned in just 10 years from ‘brainiac’ math journals to FDA approved medical devices. His Stanford patents on compressed sensing are licensed by both GE and Siemens in their new generation FDA-approved scanners. The improved technology will save lives, reach new demographic groups, and increase productivity in the use of healthcare resources.  See the Washington Office blog "ICYMI - A great Congressional Briefing!"


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