• House approves $447 for Cyber Command

    The House of Representatives approved a fiscal 2014 stop-gap budget last Monday (it approved to full spending bill on Wednesday), which allocates $447 million to the Defense Department’s Cyber Command. This is more than twice the $191 million budget for Cyber Command in 2013.

  • House bill cuts $200 million from DHS headquarters project

    The House yesterday (Wednesday) approved a spending measure which would reduce funding for a new DHS headquarters in Southeast Washington by about $200 relative to the funds requested by the agencies overseeing that project for 2014. DHS, created in 2003, is the third largest government department, and it operates out of fifty different facilities located in Washington, D.C. and neighboring states. In 2008 Congress approved the establishment of a single DHS campus on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s, a former government-run mental hospital in Anacostia. The project has been hobbled by delays and cost overruns.

  • U.S. disaster preparedness threatened by funding problems

    The 9/11 attacks in New York City prompted large increases in government funding to help communities respond and recover after man-made and natural disasters. This funding, however, has fallen considerably since the economic crisis in 2008. Furthermore, disaster funding distribution is deeply inefficient: huge cash infusions are disbursed right after a disaster, only to fall abruptly after interest wanes. These issues have exposed significant problems with our nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies. Researchers list seven recommendations to enhance preparedness for public health emergencies in the U.S.

  • Funding gap makes the high costs of research at universities more onerous

    Although more opportunity exists for university-based researchers to be innovative, and there is more financial support for innovation than ever before, the cost of university research is rising to new levels and presents a serious funding problem. The “real costs” of research — costs that include indirect costs — often extend far beyond support from a university’s central research office and are almost never covered by funding. As a result, the aggressive research agendas set by universities have costs that often outweigh the ultimate revenue universities hope to gain from research.

  • Thinking outside the box: Free public education that pays for itself

    A U.K. researcher proposes an innovative way to pay for college and graduate education: students would not pay for their education while at school. Rather, they will commit to paying a fixed percentage of their income (say, 6 percent) during their prime earning years (35-54, for example) to the university that awarded their degree. These student promises for a given university cohort will be bundled and sold to investors as “education securities.” Investors would receive a share of the average income for the cohort. Because average income moves with inflation, investors would be assured of getting their initial investment back plus whatever amount is necessary to cover changes in the value of their money. The securities could even be designed to include a real return (over inflation) of as much as 3 percent.

  • U.S. global share of biomedical research spending declines

    The U.S. global share of biomedical research spending fell from 51 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2012, while Japan and China saw dramatic increases in research spending. The research and development spending in the United States dropped from $131 billion to $119 billion, when adjusted for inflation, from 2007 to 2012, while Japan increased spending by $9 billion and China increased by $6.4 billion. Overall, Asia’s share of spending grew from 18 percent to 24 percent. Europe held steady at 29 percent.

  • U.S. nuclear weapon programs to cost $355 billion over a decade: CBO

    In its most recent review of U.S. nuclear policy, the Obama administration decided to maintain all three types of systems that can deliver nuclear weapons over long ranges — submarines that launch ballistic missiles (SSBNs), land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and long-range bombers — known collectively as the strategic nuclear triad. The administration also decided to preserve the ability to deploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons carried by fighter aircraft overseas in support of allies. Nearly all of these delivery systems and the nuclear weapons they carry are nearing the end of their planned operational lives and will need to be modernized or replaced by new systems over the next two decades. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that between 2014 and 2023, the costs of the administration’s plans for nuclear forces will total $355 billion.

  • How effective are renewable energy subsidies? It depends

    Renewable energy subsidies have led to explosive growth in wind power installations across the United States, especially in the Midwest and Texas. Electricity produced by wind is emission free, so the development of wind-power may reduce aggregate pollution by offsetting production from fossil fuel generated electricity production. Emission rates of fossil fuel generators, however, vary greatly by generator (coal-fired, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower). Thus, the quantity of emissions offset by wind power will depend crucially on which generators reduce their output. In other words, the quantity of pollutants offset by wind power depends crucially on which generators reduce production when wind power comes online.

  • Federal IT spending to exceed $11 billion by 2018

    A new report from Delteks, contracted spending on cybersecurity will continue to grow from nearly $9 billion in FY2013 to $11.4 billion in FY2018, driven by multiple initiatives aimed at improving the overall cybersecurity posture of federal agencies. Persistent threats, complex and evolving policy issues, and changing technologies highlight ongoing cyber-workforce shortages to drive investments despite constrained federal IT funding.

  • FY 2012 sees first constant-dollar decline in higher education R&D since FY 1974

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) says that university spending on R&D in all fields totaled $65.8 billion in FY 2012. After adjusting for inflation, higher education R&D declined by 1 percent in FY 2012. This represents the first constant-dollar decline since FY 1974 and ends a period of modest growth in higher education R&D during FYs 2009-11, when R&D expenditures increased an average of 5 percent each year.

  • Sequestration already eroding U.S. research capabilities

    As congressional budget leaders continue negotiations over Fiscal Year 2014 spending levels, three organizations representing the U.S. leading public and private research universities say that the results of a new survey reveal the pernicious impact of sequestration on scientific research across the country. Budget cuts have already led to fewer grants, cancelled projects, staff reductions, and reduced learning opportunities. “If Congress fails to reverse course and doesn’t begin to value investments in research and higher education, then the innovation deficit this country is facing will worsen as our foreign competitors continue to seize on this nation’s shortfall,” the leader of one of the organizations said.

  • Unjustified overtime pay routinely used by DHS employees

    A report by the Federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) offers details of what it calls a “gross waste of government funds” and a “profound and entrenched problem”: illegally claimed overtime by DHS employees. The practice, which may add up to 25 percent to an employee’s paycheck, has become so routine that it is often promoted as a perk when managers try to recruit new employees.

  • S&P: U.S. government shutdown shaved 0.6 percent off Q4 annualized GDP

    Standard & Poor’s said the U.S. government shutdown trimmed 0.6 percent off fourth quarter growth, taking $24 billion out of the economy. S&P notes that in September, the rating agency expected 3 percent annualized growth of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter, but that that expectation was based on the assumption that “politicians would have learned from 2011 and taken steps to avoid things like a government shutdown and the possibility of a sovereign default. Since our forecast didn’t hold, we now have to lower our fourth-quarter growth estimate to closer to 2 percent.” S&P warns that “If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their checkbooks. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

  • Budget impasse halts enforcement of chemical plants safety standards

    Security experts say that short of a direct nuclear attack on a U.S. city, the most dangerous, mass-casualty catastrophe the United States faces is a terrorist attack on, or an accident in, a chemical facility which would release toxic clouds over neighboring cities and towns. The federal government partial shutdown is making it impossible to enforce safety and security standards formulated to strengthen the ability of thousands of U.S. chemical facilities to withstand terrorist attacks.

  • ASCB: U.S. scientific research will "pay dearly" for shutdown

    The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) added its voice to those of other scientific and professional groups in warning that the federal government’s partial shutdown will hurt patients, researchers, and especially the U.S. research effort, long after an agreement to end the impasse is reached. “As America keeps hitting the brakes on scientific research, we are, in effect, accelerating the damage done to our continued leadership in global bioscience, in health outcomes and in the economic power that we have always derived from basic research,” Dr. Bertuzzi, executive director of the ASCB said. “Americans will pay dearly for these slowdowns, sequestrations, and shutdowns in finding cures and on maintaining economic competitiveness.”