FY2020 Budget & Appropriations Update
Congressional leaders and the White House reached a budget deal late Monday that would also raise the debt ceiling ahead of looming September deadlines for both the budget and the debt limit. Last Wednesday, APLU and the Association of American Universities (AAU) sent another letter to the White House, Treasury, and congressional leaders urging for such a bipartisan deal to raise the budget caps.
The budget deal announced Monday would avert steep budget cuts slated to take effect October 1 under a 2011 law known as the Budget Control Act. Should lawmakers fail to pass the deal and sign it into law, federal spending next fiscal year would drop by about 10 percent from current levels. If enacted, the deal reached Monday would raise overall federal spending by $320 billion over the next two years, compared with budget caps set to take effect in October. Overall, nondefense discretionary spending would increase by 4.5 percent as compared to Fiscal Year 2019 levels.
The deal still faces a number of hurdles before passage. House lawmakers are scheduled to start a six-week recess starting Friday and the Senate is set to recess next Friday. President Trump has expressed support for the deal. Yet some conservatives in the House have publicly opposed the deal, urging the president to veto it.
Associations Submit Letter on USCIS Processing Delays
Prior to a July 15 House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing on “Policy Changes and Processing Delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),” APLU joined the American Council on Education and the four other presidential higher education associations in submitting testimony for the record highlighting how universities have been negatively impacted by processing delays.
The letter calls on the administration to publicly commit to maintaining premium processing without service interruptions and recommends that the administration reconvene public meetings of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC). HSAAC brought together higher education leadership and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department to advise the Secretary of Homeland Security and senior leadership on issues affecting homeland security and the academic community, including international students, academic research and faculty exchanges, and more.
White House Reviewing Final Public Charge Rule
The White House is currently reviewing the final rule on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” The rule would restrict visas and green cards for noncitizens if they or members of their household have received are currently receiving, or are likely to receive, public assistance benefits.
Last December, APLU in coordination with the American Council on Education, AAU, and 29 other higher education associations submitted comments to USCIS calling for all Title IV federal student aid programs to be explicitly excluded from the final rule and an explicit exemption for F-1 and J-1 visa applicants, noting that these individuals must already provide evidence of “sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study” and demonstrate that they will return to their home country.
Update on NDAA
The House passed its version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 220-197. The bill includes Representative Mikie Sherrill’s (D-NJ) Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019 (SASTA), which was offered as an amendment during the House mark up last month.
APLU supports SASTA, which would establish an interagency working group of federal science, intelligence, and security agencies under the direction of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as well as a new Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable, convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, for bringing together key stakeholders from the scientific enterprise, including federal agencies, universities, and industry.
The Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on June 27 by vote of 86-8. The bill has now moved to conference and APLU will strongly support the inclusion of SASTA in the final bill.
STRONGER Patents Act Reintroduced
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Foster (D-IL) have reintroduced the Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience (STRONGER) Patents Act. The bill seeks to strengthen the patent system by making it easier and less expensive for patent holders to enforce their intellectual property. The legislation would also provide injunctive relief against those who infringe patents, make post-issuance proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) fair and efficient for all parties, address repetitive petitions at PTAB, and reduce duplication between these reviews and district court litigation.
APLU issued a joint statement with AAU, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of University Technology Managers, and the Council on Governmental Relations supporting the legislation.
NIH Issues Notice Related to Foreign Conflicts of Interest
On July 10, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a notice reminding grantees to report and document foreign activities. The notice cites the importance of openly reported and documented international collaborations and seeks to improve reporting on all sources of research support, financial interests and affiliations, both foreign and domestic. The NIH also released an FAQ document that the agency plans to update its policies are further refined.
NSF Issues Dear Colleague Letter on Research Protection
National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Córdova issued a Dear Colleague Letter on research protection. The letter outlines three initiatives and policies to help mitigate risks due to foreign influence. First, NSF will renew efforts to ensure that existing requirements to disclose current and pending support information are known, understood, and followed. To streamline the disclosure process, the agency will move to an electronic format starting in January 2020. Second, an independent scientific advisory group will assess agency risks and recommend possible best practices for NSF and its awardee organizations by the end of this fiscal year. Lastly, the agency intends to implement a policy barring NSF personnel and Intergovernmental Personnel Act Assignments as detailed to NSF from participating in foreign government talent recruitment programs.
Higher Ed Associations and ED Exchange Letters on Foreign Gift Reporting
As interest in universities’ compliance with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act foreign gift reporting requirements increases, APLU and partner organizations continue to press the Department of Education (ED) for clarification on obligations. The Department previously announced investigations of several institutions.
The investigations come as ED still has not adequately informed universities of compliance expectations. APLU and partner organizations have conveyed frustration to the Department of while expressing member institutions’ deep interest in meeting transparency requirements that need to be clarified.
APLU and partner associations sent a letter in January requesting clarification on Section 117 reporting requirements. The groups reiterated our request in June. The Department recently responded but failed to clearly and comprehensively respond to questions in which answers are needed to ensure institutional compliance with reporting requirements. The associations responded on Friday stressing the interest of member universities in meeting obligations but also the responsibility of ED to provide clear direction on how to do so.
APLU will continue to work with ED to push clarity on Section 117 requirements.
NASA Publishes Notification Requirements on Sexual Harassment
On July 10, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a new Notification Requirements Regarding Findings of Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Harassment or Sexual Assault. Public comments on the new reporting requirements are due on August 9, 2019.
The reporting requirements are similar to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Terms and Conditions requirements established last year. APLU joined others in the higher education community in submitting comments on NSF’s terms and conditions changes last May, and are working on another joint letter in response to NASA’s actions.
APLU Endorses Michael Kratsios for OSTP Posts
Ahead of his confirmation hearing today, APLU sent a letter to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) endorsing Michael Kratsios to be Associate Director of OSTP and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Mr. Krastsios currently serves as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer. He has been instrumental in the development and execution of President Trump’s technology initiatives including STEM education, advanced manufacturing, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G and broadband communications, and commercial drones.