Washington Update
Week of September 12 - 16
U-M Professor Dr. Sridhar Kota Testifies Before House Energy & Commerce Committee
On September 14, 2016, Dr. Sridhar Kota, the U-M Herrick Professor of Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. The hearing, titled "Disrupter Series: Advanced Robotics" explored the future of advanced robotics applications, educational initiatives, and how the U.S. is positioned to leverage these innovations in the future. Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced Dr. Kota.

Dr. Kota's testimony discussed the promising potential of robots in fields ranging from manufacturing to medicine. He noted that in order to utilize this technology, we need to think about translational research and workforce training. Among other items, Dr. Kota discussed the idea of a whole-of-government approach to ensure we translate promising discoveries and inventions into successful manufactured products. Dr. Kota believes we can use robots to improve human lives and livelihoods with a sustained focus on education and training and smart research investments.

Several Members of Congress posed questions for the witnesses, including questions for Dr. Kota. Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN) asked Dr. Kota about the challenges facing advanced robotics. Congressman Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) asked for a specific policy recommendation with regards to advanced robotics and Subcommittee Chairman Mike Burgess (R-TX) asked about regulations of this technology. To watch a video of this testimony, please click here.
Legislative Wrap-up

The major item on Congress' agenda continues to be funding the federal government before current funding expires at the end of the month. The current path forward will likely be a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) which will fund the government at the current FY2016 levels from the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1) until December 9, when Congress is back in session after the elections. Congressional aides are working on a short term CR to appease both chambers. Zika funding is among one of the sticking points in the negotiations. If an agreement is reached, the Senate could vote on a short-term CR early next week and then leave until after the election.

This week, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (S.2848) by a vote of 95 to 3. This legislation included provisions to address the Flint water crisis including:
  • Access to $100 million in funding to help repair Flint’s drinking water infrastructure;
  • Funding to activate over $1 billion in low-interest loans to upgrade water infrastructure in communities in Michigan and across the country;
  • $50 million to address health care needs of children who have lead exposure;
  • Authority for the State of Michigan to forgive $20 million in past drinking water loans to Flint; 
  • A requirement that EPA warn the public within 15 days of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.
These provisions were included as a result of efforts from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Gary Peters. Further information can be found in their press release here.
Senate Introduces NASA Transition Authorization Act

This week, the Senate Commerce Committee introduced the NASA Transition Authorization Act (S.3346). This legislation is intended to be a one year (FY2017) authorization that will help the agency transition between Administrations. It is by no means a comprehensive NASA Authorization bill, like we have seen in the past. This legislation reauthorizes NASA for FY2017 using the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations numbers, as passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

For the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the bill would authorize $5.395B (compared to $5.589B received in FY16). Aeronautics would be reauthorized at $601 million (compared to $640M received in FY16). Space Technology would be reauthorized at $686.5 million (flat funding from FY2016). These numbers are lower than the House Appropriations Committee-passed CJS numbers for these programs. 

Of note, Title V -- "Advancing Space Science" reaffirms language from the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 stating "a balanced and adequately funded set of activities, consisting of research and analysis grants programs, technology development, suborbital research activities, and small, medium, and large space missions, contributes to a robust and productive science program and serves as a catalyst for innovation and discovery". This section also reaffirms that the NASA Administrator should set science priorities by following the guidance provided by the scientific community through the decadal surveys. This legislation emphasizes the importance of continuing support for JWST, Mars2020, and the Europa Mission. U-M is providing an instrument for the Europa mission.

Prior to introduction of this legislation, Michigan weighed in. Our primary concern was the authorization levels. This legislation will be marked up by the full Senate Commerce Committee next week.

Legislative Activities
The Senate will convene on Monday, September 19. The House of Representatives will convene on Tuesday, September 20.

Tuesday, September 20

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Full Committee Hearing: Laboratory Testing in the Era of Precision Medicine
10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen

Wednesday, September 21

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Full Committee Markup: NASA Transition Authorization Act, Among Other Legislation
10:00 a.m., 253 Russell
Nomination Announcements
**We would like to begin featuring U-M faculty who are serving on a Federal Advisory Committee in this newsletter. If you are currently serving or have recently been selected to serve, please let Kristina or Madeline know. We would love to highlight your contributions to shaping national policies.**

Federal Advisory Committees:

NASA Federal Advisory Committees
NASA is inviting public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area. Further information is available here. Nominations are due September 30.
  • Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
  • Applied Sciences Advisory Committee
  • International Space Station (ISS) Advisory Committee
  • International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory Advisory Committee
  • NASA Advisory Council
  • National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board
NSF Advisory Committee Openings
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting nominations for positions available on its scientific and technical federal advisory committees. There are 13 advisory committees accepting nominations including:
  • Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences
  • Advisory Committee for Computer and Information Science and Engineering
  • Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure
  • Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources
  • Advisory Committee for Engineering
  • Advisory Committee for Geosciences
  • Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering
  • Advisory Committee for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Advisory Committee for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
  • Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering
  • Advisory Committee for Business and Operations
  • Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee
The federal register notice, with details on how to submit names, is available here. Nominations for membership are maintained for one year.
National Institute of Standards and Technology Federal Advisory Committees
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is accepting nominations for appointment to eight existing Federal Advisory Committees:
  • Board of Overseers of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
  • Judges Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
  • Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership Advisory Board
  • National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee
  • Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction
  • NIST Smart Grid Advisory Committee
  • Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology
Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Further information is available here.
Council on Graduate Medical Education

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accpeting nominations to fill vacancies on the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME). The COGME provides advice and recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services and members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on matters related to: supply of physicians in the U.S., physician workforce trends, training issues, and financing policies.

The agency will receive nominations on a continuous basis. Further information is available here.
News Articles
U.S. News & World Report Releases 2017 Best Colleges Rankings
Farm Scientists See Ripening Opportunity for Greater Federal Support
Colleges’ promises to diversify face one challenge: finding black faculty**
** = denotes U-M mention
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