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Monday, January 30, 2012

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2012


John F. Sargent Jr., Coordinator
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

President Obama has requested $147.911 billion for research and development (R&D) in FY2012, a $772 million (0.5%) increase from the FY2010 actual R&D funding level of $147.139 billion. Congress will play a central role in defining the nation’s R&D priorities, especially with respect to two overarching issues: the extent to which the federal R&D investment can grow in the context of increased pressure on discretionary spending and how available funding will be prioritized and allocated. Low or negative growth in the overall R&D investment may require movement of resources across disciplines, programs, or agencies to address priorities.

Congress incorporated all the regular appropriations acts into two bills, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-55) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74). P.L. 112-55, incorporating three regular appropriations acts—the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Act; Commerce, Justice, State and Related Agencies Act; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Act—was passed by Congress on November 17, 2011 and signed into law two days later. P.L. 112-74, incorporating the nine remaining regular appropriations acts, was passed by Congress on December 17, 2011 and signed into law by President Obama on December 23, 2011.

Prior to enactment of these bills, Congress had continued government operations into FY2012 through a series of continuing appropriations acts. P.L. 112-33 provided agency funding initially through October 4, 2011. P.L. 112-36 extended funding for all agencies through November 18, 2011. P.L. 112-55 extended funding through December 16, 2011 for agencies not covered under its provisions. For more than a decade, federal R&D has been affected by mechanisms used to continue appropriations in the absence of enactment of regular appropriations acts and to complete the annual appropriations process. Completion of appropriations after the beginning of a fiscal year may cause agencies to delay or cancel some planned R&D and equipment acquisition.

At the time the President’s FY2012 budget was released, action had not been completed on FY2011 full-year funding. In the absence of FY2011 appropriations data, the President’s budget compared his FY2012 request to FY2010 appropriations. On April 15, 2011, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10) was signed into law. Division A of the act provided FY2011 appropriations for the Department of Defense; Division B provided full-year continuing funding for FY2011 for all other agencies at their FY2010 levels unless otherwise specified in the act. With respect to federal R&D funding overall and to several agencies in particular, it is not possible yet to assess the level of funding provided under the act. Therefore this report compares the President’s FY2012 funding request to FY2011 levels, where possible, and to FY2010 levels elsewhere. This report will be updated as additional information about FY2011 R&D funding becomes available. Comparison of the President’s request to enacted funding levels is complicated by several factors, including the omission of congressionally directed spending from the President’s FY2012 budget request.

President Obama’s request included increases in the R&D budgets of the three agencies targeted for doubling over 7 years by the America COMPETES Act, and over 10 years by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 and by President Bush under his American Competitiveness Initiative, as measured using FY2006 funding as the baseline. Although President Obama supported a 10-year doubling in his FY2010 budget, his FY2012 budget was intentionally silent on a timeframe.



Date of Report: January 1
8, 2012
Number of Pages:
63
Order Number: R41
706
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Text and Multimedia Messaging: Issues for Congress


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

Gina Stevens
Legislative Attorney


The first text messages were sent during 1992 and 1993, although commercially, text messaging was not widely offered or used until 2000. Even then, messages could only be sent between users subscribed to the same wireless carrier, e.g., Sprint customers could only exchange messages with other Sprint customers. In November 2001, however, wireless service providers began to connect their networks for text messaging, allowing subscribers on different networks to exchange text messages. Since then, the number of text messages in the United States has grown to over 48 billion messages every month. Additionally, text messages are no longer only sent as “point-topoint” communications between two mobile device users. More specifically, messages are also commonly sent from web-based applications within a web browser (e.g., from an Internet e-mail address) and from instant messaging clients like AIM or MSN.

For Congressional policymakers, two major categories of issues have arisen: (1) “same problem, different platform” and (2) issues stemming from the difficulty in applying existing technical definitions to a new service, such as whether a text message is sent “phone-to-phone” or using the phone’s associated email address. There are numerous examples of each. An example of the first category would be consumer fraud and children’s accessing inappropriate content, which have existed previously in the “wired world,” but have now found their way to the “wireless world.” An example of the second category would be that spam sent between two phones or from one phone to many phones does not fall under the definition of spam in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, P.L. 108-187); however, if that same message were to be sent from a phone or computer using the phone’s associated e-mail address, it would.

The increasing use of text and multimedia messaging has raised several policy issues: distracted driving, SMS spam, the inability of consumers to disable text messaging, text messaging price fixing, carrier blocking of common short code messages, deceptive and misleading common short code programs, protecting children from inappropriate content on wireless devices, “sexting,” mobile cyberbullying, privacy of text messages, and using SMS to support law enforcement and emergency response.



Date of Report: January 1
2, 2012
Number of Pages:
22
Order Number: R
L34632
Price: $29.95

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Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 112th Congress


Dana A. Shea
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes. The 112th Congress has extended this authority through October 4, 2012. The 112th Congress has debated the scope and details of reauthorization and continues to consider legislation establishing an authority with longer duration. Some Members of Congress support an extension, either short- or long-term, of the existing authority. Other Members call for revision and more extensive codification of chemical facility security regulatory provisions. Questions regarding the current law’s effectiveness in reducing chemical facility risk and the sufficiency of federal funding for chemical facility security exacerbate the tension between continuing current policies and changing the statutory authority.

The DHS is in the process of implementing the authorized regulations, called chemical facility anti-terrorism standards (CFATS). The DHS finalized CFATS regulations in 2007. No chemical facilities have completed the CFATS process, which starts with information submission by chemical facilities and finishes with inspection and approval of facility security measures by DHS. Several factors, including the amount of detailed information chemical facility owners and operators provide to DHS and the availability of CFATS inspectors, likely complicate the inspection process and lead to delays in inspection. Policymakers have questioned whether the compliance rate with CFATS is sufficient to address this homeland security issue.

Key policy issues debated in previous Congresses contribute to the current reauthorization debate. These issues include the adequacy of DHS resources and efforts; the appropriateness and scope of federal preemption of state chemical facility security activities; the availability of information for public comment, potential litigation, and congressional oversight; the universe of facilities that DHS identifies as chemical facilities; and the ability of inherently safer technologies to achieve security goals.

The 112th Congress might take various approaches to this issue. Congress might allow the statutory authority to expire but continue providing appropriations to administer the regulations. Congress might permanently or temporarily extend the statutory authority in order to observe the impact of the current regulations and, if necessary, address any perceived weaknesses at a later date. Congress might codify the existing regulations in statute and reduce the discretion available to the Secretary of Homeland Security to change the current regulatory framework. Alternatively, Congress might substantively change the current regulation’s implementation, scope, or impact by amending the existing statute or creating a new one. Finally, Congress might choose to terminate the program by allowing its authority to lapse and removing funding for the program. This last approach would leave chemical facility security regulation to the discretion of state and local governments.

Both authorization and appropriation legislation in the 112th Congress addresses chemical facility security. P.L. 112-74 extended the existing authority until October 4, 2012. Authorizing legislation includes H.R. 225; H.R. 901, reported as amended by the House Committee on Homeland Security and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; H.R. 908, reported as amended by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; H.R. 916; H.R. 2890; S. 473, reported as amended by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; S. 709; and S. 711.



Date of Report: January 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41642
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Background, Funding, and Activities


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

In the early 1990s, Congress recognized that several federal agencies had ongoing highperformance computing programs, but no central coordinating body existed to ensure long-term coordination and planning. To provide such a framework, Congress passed the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-194) to enhance the effectiveness of the various programs. In conjunction with the passage of the act, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released Grand Challenges: High- Performance Computing and Communications. That document outlined a research and development (R&D) strategy for high-performance computing and a framework for a multiagency program, the High-Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program. The HPCC Program has evolved over time and is now called the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, to better reflect its expanded mission.

Current concerns are the role of the federal government in supporting IT R&D and the level of funding to allot to it. Proponents of federal support of information technology (IT) R&D assert that it has produced positive outcomes for the country and played a crucial role in supporting long-term research into fundamental aspects of computing. Such fundamentals provide broad practical benefits, but generally take years to realize. Additionally, the unanticipated results of research are often as important as the anticipated results. Another aspect of government-funded IT research is that it often leads to open standards, something that many perceive as beneficial, encouraging deployment and further investment. Industry, on the other hand, is more inclined to invest in proprietary products and will diverge from a common standard when there is a potential competitive or financial advantage to do so. Proponents of government support believe that the outcomes achieved through the various funding programs create a synergistic environment in which both fundamental and application-driven research are conducted, benefitting government, industry, academia, and the public. Supporters also believe that such outcomes justify government’s role in funding IT R&D, as well as the growing budget for the NITRD Program. Critics assert that the government, through its funding mechanisms, may be picking “winners and losers” in technological development, a role more properly residing with the private sector. For example, the size of the NITRD Program may encourage industry to follow the government’s lead on research directions rather than selecting those directions itself.

The President’s FY2012 budget request for the NITRD Program is $3.866 billion. The estimated FY2011 spending level of $3.652 billion reflects the annualized amounts provided by the continuing resolution that extended through April 8, 2011. Actual NITRD spending in FY2010 totaled $3.793 billion.

Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 112th Congress that would have an effect on the NITRD member agencies. H.R. 2096, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011, was introduced by Representative Michael McCaul on June 2, 2011. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and it was marked up, amended, and ordered to be reported as amended by voice vote on July 21, 2011. Companion legislation, S. 1152, also called the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011, was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez on June 7, 2011. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and no further action has been taken. These bills are identical.

One hearing, “Protecting Information in the Digital Age: Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Efforts,” was held on May 25, 2011, on issues relating the NITRD Program.



Date of Report: January 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL33586
Price: $29.95

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The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.

Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through congressional action that would affect the agency’s operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC.

Most of the FCC’s budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as “Section (9) fees,” are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.

The FY2012 budget is included in P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2055), which was signed by President Obama on December 23, 2011. The budget provides $339,844,000 for agency salaries and expenses with no direct appropriation (all funding will be obtained through the collection of regulatory fees). This level is $16,790,000 less than the FY2011 budget.



Date of Report: January 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL32589
Price: $29.95

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