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


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!"


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.

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