UO Federal Affairs News

  • Federal funding moves ShakeAlert closer to reality

    First published in Around the O on April 19th, 2018. A recent boost in federal funding will move the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system closer to completion. ShakeAlert is being developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and researchers at the University of Oregon, University of Washington, California Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley. All of the schools have operated USGS seismic networks for decades and are expanding their efforts to include earthquake early warning capabilities. The omnibus spending package passed by Congress and signed by the president in March that funds the federal government through Sept. 30 allocates $12.9 million for continued development and limited public rollout of the system. It also appropriates $10 million for capital costs to add more earthquake sensors and improve system infrastructure. Congress allocated $10.2 million to ShakeAlert last year. The omnibus action more than doubles the funding for ShakeAlert by making a significant investment in the important seismic network infrastructure that supports the alert system. UO faculty members and their collaborators are revising the rollout plan, including how funds will be distributed among participating universities. “This additional funding is much needed to build out the ShakeAlert network and support the personnel that operate and maintain the system,” said Doug Toomey, a UO seismologist in the Department of Earth Sciences and lead investigator for the Oregon component of ShakeAlert. “We are appreciative of our members of Congress who continue to advocate for this needed system that will help save lives, reduce damage to infrastructure and increase the resiliency of Oregon.” Congress has consistently added funds to the USGS budget for the project. However, President Donald Trump’s request for the coming budget year zeros out ShakeAlert. The Oregon congressional delegation has been a vocal supporter of ShakeAlert and is working to secure future funding. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, in tandem with fellow Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Rep. Susan DelBene of Washington, is leading the effort, urging House colleagues to sign a letter in support of 2019 earthquake early warning appropriations. A similar effort is underway on the Senate side. This year, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Oregon Democrats, and fellow senators from California and Washington asked colleagues to support the omnibus allocation. State leaders, including Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and the city of Portland also continue to advocate for earthquake early warning efforts. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries provided a total of $375,000 in 2017 and 2018. In addition, state legislators are serving on a statewide stakeholders committee, coordinated by UO researchers, that focuses on earthquake early warning education and outreach. State officials have said they will continue to advocate for increased state funding to install more seismic sensors. Earthquake early warning, in which sensors detect and send alerts from the fast-moving P waves that spread outward from an earthquake in advance of slower-moving and more damaging S waves, could prove critical in a big quake. Through a mobile app, people will get between seconds and several minutes of warning to seek safety. In that time, industries may be able to power down critical operations to protect both human lives and equipment. Transportation agencies may eventually be able to close down bridges, which could save lives. Earthquake early warning systems are already in use in other countries, including Japan and Mexico.

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  • Summary of FY18 Omnibus Bill Funding

    First published in Around the O. In mid-March, Congress passed the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill – H.R. 1625, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 – to fund the federal government until the end of the current fiscal year, ending September 30, 2018. On March 23, President Donald Trump signed the package into law. Congressional action followed a decision by Congress to lift the budget caps for FY18 and FY19, clearing obstacles to funding programs at near current levels and, in some cases, well above current levels. On balance, national higher education associations, including the Association of American Universities (AAU) and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) applauded the action particularly as it related to record investment in the National Institutes of Health. Read the AAU statement here and the APLU statement here. Since passage of the Omnibus, the Trump Administration has threatened, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has confirmed, the office will formally proposes a package of rescissions to the Omnibus to Congress. The Budget Act of 1974 allows the president to submit a rescission resolution to Congress - within 45 days after a spending law has passed - identifying appropriations the president does not want to spend. Multiple appropriations rescissions can be provided to Congress in a single request and Congress may approve all, some, or none of the President's request. It is unusual for a president submit such a package of spending cuts after passage of a budget with his own party in control of Congress. Which funds may be proposed for rescissions and prospects for congressional approval are both unclear. FY18 agency round-up: Financial Aid Congress continues to prioritize student aid. The omnibus funds the Pell Grant program at $22.475 billion and in combination with mandatory funding the maximum award is raised to $6,095 (+$175) for the 2018-19 school year. • Federal Work Study (FWS) is funded at $1.13 billion, a $140 million, or 14.1 percent increase above FY17. • Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is funded at $840 million, a $107 million, or 14.6 percent increase over FY17. • Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) is funded at $23 million, reflecting a $5 million or 18 percent cut below FY17. FY18 funding for federal agencies and programs of interest to the UO and other research universities includes the following. National Institutes of Health (NIH): The omnibus provides funding for NIH at $37.084 billion, an increase of $3 billion, or 8.8 percent, above the FY17 level. This figure includes $496 million from the 21st Century Cures Act. The agreement also directs NIH to delay enforcement of the clinical trials expansion, maintains the salary cap at Executive Level II, and does not contain any riders limiting access to scientific materials. Report language also states that NIH cannot depart from its current method of negotiating facilities and administrative payment rates. Department of Education (ED): Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is funded at $613.5 million, an $8 million, or 1.4 percent increase above FY17.  International Education and Foreign Language Studies (Title VI) is funded at $72 million, the same level as FY17. National Science Foundation (NSF): The omnibus provides $7.8 billion for NSF, an increase of $295 million, or 4 percent, above the FY17 funding level. The Research and Related Activities Directorate receives an appropriation of $6.33 billion, which is an increase of $301 million over FY17. The Education and Human Resources Directorate receives $902 million, an increase of $22 million over FY17. The omnibus also includes $182.8 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, which is a $26 million decrease from FY17. Department of Energy (DoEn): The omnibus provides $6.26 billion for the DOE Office of Science, an increase of $868 million, or 16 percent, above FY17. The measure also funds the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) at $353 million, a $47 million, or 15.5 percent, increase above FY17. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): The omnibus provides $152.8 million for NEH, a $3 million, or 2 percent, increase above the FY17 funding level. Department of Defense (DOD): The measure includes $2.34 billion for 6.1 basic research, a $64 million, or 3 percent, increase above FY17. Army and Air Force 6.1 basic research accounts are cut 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively. The bill provides funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at $3.1 billion, an increase of 8 percent over FY17. The omnibus also includes a $50 million rescission listed as DARPA undistributed reduction. Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI): The omnibus provides $400 million for the initiative, a $25 million, or 6.7 percent, increase above the FY17 funding level. Other Provisions of Interest: Dickey Amendment and Gun Violence Research: While appropriations language prohibits the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other Health agencies from using appropriated funding to advocate or promote gun control, the omnibus clarifies that “the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.”

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  • Rep. DeFazio gets a taste of quantum science in UO visit

    First published in Around the O on February 2nd, 2018. The importance of photonics and quantum physics was on full display Friday during a visit to campus by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio. DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, received a primer on qubits — units of data that can exist simultaneously in two states. In explaining how scientists are trying to harness qubits by manipulating their paths, Jonathan Lavoie, a research associate in the Department of Physics, used a green laser with an intensity 70,000 times dimmer than that of a $30 laser pointer. The demonstration was done in the lab of Michael Raymer, a Philip H. Knight Professor and co-founder of the UO’s Center for Optical, Molecular and Quantum Science. Raymer hosted the DeFazio visit as part of a push by the National Photonics Initiative for a national quantum initiative. In a brief talk, Raymer noted that while the U.S. has pioneered the basic science behind photonics — the study of light and its interaction with small molecules — and quantum science, China, the United Kingdom and other nations across Europe have already committed large investments to develop quantum computing. That, he said, could challenge U.S. leadership. The U.S. needs a concerted effort by academia, government and industry, Raymer said. As part of a national investment, he said, the National Photonics Initiative recommends $500 million in new public funding over five years to be split among four top-level national labs, with each focusing on a primary objective. Each would then funnel research funds to satellite labs where scientists are pursuing related projects. Raymer, under the auspices of the National Photonics Initiative, co-authored a 2016 white paper calling for a quantum initiative that would facilitate economic growth and help the U.S. keep pace with accelerating international competition. “I appreciated this opportunity to be back on campus to hear from world-renowned physicists about the incredible potential that photonics and quantum technology have for improving the safety, longevity and security of American infrastructure,” DeFazio said. “The University of Oregon is leading the way in pushing for more quantum physics research that will produce the transformative technologies of tomorrow. I’m excited by this effort and the research being done here to advance this promising field.” Raymer described three pillars that underlie quantum science: computing capabilities that could lead to improved designer molecules, machine-learning and artificial intelligence; communications featuring enhanced data encryption for security; and sensing capacities that could benefit such things as biomedical imaging, GPS-free navigation and gravity measurements. A public investment, Raymer said, would allow U.S. scientists to advance the technology to a level where it would be adopted for development by industry, following a path similar to the internet. Continued investment in photonics, which is at the heart of quantum science, would lead to advancements for the infrastructure of the nation’s transportation system. After Raymer’s talk, 2012 Nobel laureate David Wineland, who recently joined the Department of Physics as a Philip H. Knight Distinguished Research Chair, and Brian Smith, newly recruited from the University of Oxford and part of the U.K.’s quantum initiative, helped answer DeFazio’s questions. Raymer’s leadership was recognized last October by Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-District 1, during a hearing by the House science committee. In mid-February, Raymer will join other scientists in the National Photonics Initiative for meetings with a U.S. House working group on science and technology to help initial efforts to craft a potential budget and implementation plan for a U.S. quantum initiative. The National Photonics Initiative is a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government. It is led by a coalition of scientific societies, including the American Physical Society, the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America, the Optical Society and the International Society for Optics and Photonics. “It was an honor to host alum and congressman Peter DeFazio to showcase the groundbreaking photonics and quantum physics research being done on campus that can serve to promote national security and U.S. economic and technological leadership,” Raymer said. “We are thankful for all Rep. DeFazio has done in support of academia, research and science in Congress, and we look forward to working with him to advance the next generation of science and technology infrastructure through efforts like a national quantum initiative.” —By Jim Barlow, University Communications

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