The Real Impacts of Sequestration & Who Might be in the Next Administration.

Members of Congress return on November 13, 2012 to continue their work.  Meanwhile, the Administration continues its work, as do the Courts.

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Timely Topics: Sequestration’s Real Impact?

Capitol News:

–Congress: Cybersecurity; Wastebook.

–Administration: Doctorates’ Residency; Educational Path; Commercial Crew.

–Presidential Campaigns: Nobel Letter; FL Letter; Future Administrations.

–A Future Romney Administration: Romney & Pell.

Noteworthy News: Education Goals; Supreme Court & Environment; Student Debt Repayment; Coal Ash; Higher Ed Deregulation; College Costs & States; Carbon Tax; Early Education.

In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events in DC.

Timely Topic: Sequestration’s Real Impact?

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, led by Ranking Member Norm Dicks, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, released a report outlining the impacts of sequestration. His report indicates cuts are even more severe than the ones outlined by OMB earlier this year.  The dire consequences of Congress and the President not reaching a deal on sequestration, according to Congressman Dicks, include:

  • Loss of 1.4 million jobs;
  • An additional 1.9% cut in defense funding, above the 9.4% proposed reduction.
  • 2,400 fewer NIH research project grants.
  • 1,600 fewer NSF research and education grants, supporting 19,300 fewer researchers, students, and technical support staff.
  • Delay FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization program.
  • 100,000 fewer children nationwide enrolled in Head Start.
  • Defense nuclear nonproliferation efforts would also be constrained.
  •  Cut nearly $196 million from the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water funds
  •  Cut $423 million from Science and ARPA-E at the DOE.
  • Funding cuts would cripple NASA’s efforts to establish U.S. commercial capability to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station.

CAPITOL NEWS: Congressional, Administrative, and Court Actions.

While most Members left DC to campaign back in their home districts, some are still holding events in DC.  Others continue to discuss, develop, defend, and deride federal policy from home.  Meanwhile, the Administration and Courts continue their work.


–Cybersecurity Bill in Senate: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would bring the cybersecurity bill to the Senate floor in November, according to National Journal.  Senator Reid made the announcement in response to Defense Secretary Panetta’s call for cybersecurity legislation as a national security issue. Some Republicans criticized the legislation for establishing new regulations.

–Coburn’s Wastebook.  Senator Coburn released another report outlining federal programs he finds financially objectionable.  Coburn’s list includes a film documenting music’s role in the demise of the Soviet Union, and various agricultural, health care, and energy programs, as well as programs funded by NSF and NASA.


–Tracking Doctorate Recipients. NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics released a report tracking post-doctorate destinations of individuals who received science, engineering or health doctorates in the US over the last four years.  Some statistics from the report include, that almost 40% of doctorate recipients were foreign nationals and nearly 20% of these graduates returned to their original countries.  Of those who decided to not go back to their county, most (88.9%) were living in the US. The vast majority (97%) of US nationals remained in the US.

–US Educational Path.  The U.S. Census Bureau posted its “Educational Path of Our Nation” document online.  The document contains basic information on educational trends, including spanning 40 years, from 1970-2010, including educational enrollment comparisons (nursery school through graduate school).  Data on college enrollment and graduate students by gender and compensation by education level are also available.

–Commercial Crews.  NASA has completed an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the commercial crew program.  According to the NASA press release, ULA demonstrated how it’s launch vehicle will be compatible with spacecraft of varying designs. ULA is one private partner in NASA’s development of commercial crew transportation.


–Climate and Florida Scientists.  While President Obama has renewed his pledge to address climate change, Governor Romney still believes more scientific study needs to be done (see blog Energy in the Spotlight – Surrogate debate highlights).  As a coastal state, Florida may see fuller impacts of climate change more quickly, The Naples News reports that over 120 Florida government officials and scientists to send a letter to the candidates encouraging a discussion of sea level rises and climate change in the last debate, which takes place in Florida.

–Nobels for Obama.  A group of 68 Nobel Laureates in science penned a letter endorsing President Obama.  Their support for Obama is primarily based on Obama’s support for science funding and Romney’s budget proposals, which may not support science funding.  The letter states that Romney “supports a budget, that if implemented, would devastate a long tradition of support for public research and investment in science at a time when this country’s future depends, as never before, on innovation.  He has also taken positions that privilege ideology over clear scientific evidence on climate change.”

–The Next Obama Administration?  National Journal has compiled its list of who may serve in the next Obama Administration.  Included are all the Cabinet positions, White House Staff, CIA Director, OMB Director, Supreme Court nominees and several other key positions.  While several current appointees and staff are expected to remain, some notable names appear as possible replacements, including former Senator Dorgan for DOE and Senator Kerry for State.

–The Romney Administration?  National Journal similarly compiled a list of potential nominees for a Romney Administration.  A Romney Administration would have a lot more shoes to fill.  Some potential nominees include, James Connaughton for DOE, Mark McClellan for HHS, and former Governor Jeb Bush for ED.

A Future Romney Administration:

–Pell Grants:  Over the last several months, Governor Romney’s position on Pell Grants continually evolves.  The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the path of Romney’s Pell Grant views in the article “Tracing the Evolution of Romney’s Position on Pell Grants.”  His latest view, as outlined in the last Presidential debate, to grow Pell Grants is a departure from his (depending on how you interpret it) tepid endorsement of the Ryan Budget to cut Pell benefits.


–Education Goals by Race and Ethnicity.  Achievement gaps in education by race and ethnicity continue to plague many school systems.  As a result, in the setting achievement standards for students, some states have different benchmarks for math and reading based on race and ethnicity.  As reported in The New York Times of “the 34 states with new accountability plans, only 8 set the same targets for all students.”  The State of Florida decided to continue with this practice setting different goals for 2018, with the ultimate objective of all students performing at grade level by 2023. According to the article, “the goals are calculated as part of a waiver granted by the federal government under its No Child Left Behind law.”

–Supreme Court & Environment.  The fate of federal policy depends on the Presidential election, as the next President will likely appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and many federal judges around the Nation.  Greenwire did a thoughtful evaluation of the impact of a new Supreme Court on environmental policy that explores possible appointees and outcomes.

–Student Debt Changes: Helping Low-Income Students? New America Foundation’s report “Safety Net or Windfall? Examining Changes to Income-based Repayment of Federal Student Loans” examines the impact of the changes to the income-based repayment (IBR) system enacted by Congress, and later adjusted by President Obama (final regulations are pending).  The new IBR will cap students’ loan payments to a lower percentage (10%, down from 15%) of their income and releases the loans after 20 years (from 25 years). Among other findings, the reports authors conclude that lower-income students will see less benefit, specifically stating that “contrary to benefitting low-income borrowers, the pending changes to IBR will actually provide generous benefits to borrowers with higher federal loan balances – those with graduate or professional degrees.”

–Coal Ash a Hazardous Material?  Looks like we will have to wait until after the election to see if the Environmental Protection Agency will declare coal ash a hazard waste, giving it the ability to regulate it directly (right now it is regulated by the states), according to an article in The Washington Post.  Coal ash contains multiple toxins, including lead, cadmium and mercury, polluting both the air and water, and EPA regulation would undoubtedly increase industry costs. With a tight election, and vigorous debate over the future of the coal industry, the Administration’s decision is on hold.

–University Deregulation: Costs without Benefits? Looking for decreased tuition, higher graduation rates, or more access to higher education for low-income students?  Don’t take the path of deregulation for answers, according to a study by Policy Matters Ohio.  The report shows that in many cases, states with higher education deregulation performed relatively worse on several of these factors. Specifically, the report concludes, “the most important factor in access, enrollment, completion, tuition cost and affordability for low and moderate-income students is not management structure. On the contrary, the way to increase enrollment and completion, particularly for those from modest backgrounds, is to provide high levels of funding to higher education and target it to need-based aid.”

–Higher Education Costs and States’ Contribution.  The costs of higher education remain a topic of discussion for federal policy makers.  In a move to avoid blame, some public universities seem to have taken the offense in this debate, agreeing to not increase tuition if state governments provide additional financial resources, according to an article in Inside Higher Education.  Other states are considering additional options, including pegging tuition to students’ graduation progress.  Although these efforts are aimed at the States, federal policy makers will watch closely how these proposals progress.

–Carbon Tax Unlikely. Harvard Professor Stavins walks through the arguments (including historical) on a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system for CO2 (comparing also to SO2) in his blog. After a lengthy, but informative, discussion, he concludes that the political climate significantly undermines the opportunity for a carbon tax (and cap-and-trade is off the table).  He states “as a possible new front in the climate policy wars, I remain very skeptical that an explicit carbon tax proposal will gain favor in Washington, no matter what the outcome of the election.”

–Early Education.  A recent commentary by a former Under Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, Linus Wright, argues that to improve the education system (and society and the economy generally) in America, we need to convert our education system to include mandatory formal education at for three or four year olds.  Reaching children when they are very young and developing is crucial for lifetime success. He further advocates, as a way of funding school for younger children, that high school end in 11th grade, when most students have effectively completed their basic education.  While addressing the States, federal policy makers could provide incentives to encourage such a change, if they embrace this approach.

IN THE KNOW: Upcoming Events & Previous Events.

Upcoming Events (listed by date):

–Bipartisan Policy Institute: Campaign 2012 Coverage: Breaking New Ground, Tuesday, October 23, 2012

–Center for American Progress: A Conversation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Allison Macfarlane, Thursday, October 25, 2012

–Wilson Center: The Future of Energy: Choices for Japan and the United States, Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Events Last Week:

–AEI: Education Reform in the Next White House: A Conversation with the Obama and Romney Campaigns, Tuesday, October 16, 2012

–Koshland Science Museum: Science Café: The Science of Biodiversity, Wednesday, October 17, 2012

–The Wilson Center: Book Discussion–Rising to the Challenge: U.S. Innovation Policy for the Global Economy, Wednesday, October 17, 2012

–CATO Institute: The Real Effects of Sequestration, Thursday, October 18, 2012

–ITIF:  Is the American Economy in Decline?, Thursday, October 18, 2012

–Brookings: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms, Friday, October 19, 2012


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