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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program



Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In 1982, the Small Business Innovation Development Act (P.L. 97-219) established Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs within the major federal research and development (R&D) agencies designed to increase participation of small innovative companies in federally funded R&D. Government agencies with R&D budgets of $100 million or more are required to set aside a portion of these funds to finance the SBIR activity. Through FY2009, over 112,500 awards have been made totaling more than $26.9 billion.

Reauthorized several times over the years, the SBIR program was scheduled to terminate on September 30, 2008. A companion pilot activity, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, was scheduled to end the following year. A series of temporary extensions kept both programs in operation until the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 was enacted as Title LI of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, P.L. 112-81.

In general, the new legislation reauthorizes the SBIR and STTR programs through September 30, 2017; incrementally increases the set aside for the SBIR effort to 3.2% by FY2017 and beyond; incrementally expands the set aside for the STTR activity to 0.45% in FY2016 and beyond; increases the amount of Phase I and Phase II awards; allows the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation to award up to 25% of SBIR funds to small businesses that are majority-owned by venture capital companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms and other agencies to award up to 15% of SBIR funds to such firms; creates commercialization pilot programs; and expands oversight activities, among other things.



Date of Report: November 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: 96-402
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions



Eric A. Fischer
Senior Specialist in Science and Technology

For more than a decade, various experts have expressed increasing concerns about cybersecurity, in light of the growing frequency, impact, and sophistication of attacks on information systems in the United States and abroad. Consensus has also been building that the current legislative framework for cybersecurity might need to be revised.

The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves both securing federal systems and assisting in protecting nonfederal systems. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems, and many have sector-specific responsibilities for critical infrastructure.

More than 50 statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity either directly or indirectly, but there is no overarching framework legislation in place. While revisions to most of those laws have been proposed over the past few years, no major cybersecurity legislation has been enacted since 2002.

Recent legislative proposals, including many bills introduced in the 111th and 112th Congresses, have focused largely on issues in 10 broad areas (see “Selected Issues Addressed in Proposed Legislation” for an overview of how current legislative proposals would address issues in several of those areas):


  • national strategy and the role of government, 
  • reform of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), 
  • protection of critical infrastructure (including the electricity grid and the chemical industry), 
  • information sharing and cross-sector coordination, 
  • breaches resulting in theft or exposure of personal data such as financial information, 
  • cybercrime, 
  • privacy in the context of electronic commerce, 
  • international efforts, 
  • research and development, and 
  • the cybersecurity workforce. 

For most of those topics, at least some of the bills addressing them have proposed changes to current laws. Several of the bills specifically focused on cybersecurity have received committee or floor action, but none have become law. In the absence of enactment of cybersecurity legislation, the White House has reportedly considered issuing an executive order, but that has been opposed by some Members of Congress.

Comprehensive legislative proposals on cybersecurity that have received considerable attention in 2012 are The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA 2012, S. 2105, reintroduced in revised form as S. 3414), recommendations from a House Republican task force, and a proposal by the Obama Administration. They differ in approach, with S. 2105 proposing the most extensive regulatory 
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Date of Report: November 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 66
Order Number: R42114
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Remote Gambling: Industry Trends and Federal Policy



Michaela D. Platzer
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business

Gambling, once widely outlawed, is now a regulated, taxed activity that is legal in some form— bingo, card games, slot machines, state-run lotteries, casinos—in all but two states. State governments have the main responsibility for overseeing gambling, but Congress historically has played a significant role in shaping the industry. Since passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA; P.L. 109-347) in 2006, congressional focus has moved to remote gambling. As used in this report, remote gambling refers to gambling that does not occur in a casino, a bingo hall, or a store selling lottery tickets. Remote gambling includes gambling over the Internet as well as gambling using devices that may communicate by other means, such as by telephone or direct satellite links.

UIGEA, while preventing payments to illegal gambling-related businesses, does not outlaw any form of remote gambling. It allows states and Indian tribes to offer remote gaming within their territory if certain conditions are met. A majority of states already allow remote betting on horse racing, and a number use the web for lottery promotions. A number of Indian tribes and gaming companies have created entities to develop remote gaming and seem likely to expand them rapidly if the legal issues are clarified.

While UIGEA did not outlaw remote gambling, it also did not clarify the scope of long-standing laws that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has used to prosecute Internet gambling, such as the Wire Act, 18 U.S.C. 1084. With wide-ranging implications, a recent DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act authorizes states to allow online gambling, except for sports betting. Currently, Delaware and Nevada are the only two states to permit some form of Internet gaming, but several others are debating legislation to legalize online poker or other games. The global market for Internet gaming is currently estimated at more than $30 billion a year. If the United States passes federal online gambling legislation and all states opt in, H2 Gambling Capital, a consulting firm, predicts a national online gaming market of some $20 billion five years after enactment.

Gambling companies hold divergent views on the desirability of allowing remote gambling. Some casino operators, particularly the larger ones, foresee new opportunities for profit. On the other hand, many operators of smaller casinos are concerned that remote gambling could draw customers away. Complicating matters, total gambling revenues are only now recovering from declines in 2009 and 2010, and many established casinos are struggling due to increased competition as more states legalize casino gambling.

Several lawmakers have introduced legislation to allow, regulate, and tax remote gaming, and House and Senate committees have held hearings and roundtable discussions on the issue. Those favoring expanded remote gaming cite potential federal revenue from taxes and registration fees, as well as the need for comprehensive national regulation. Opponents question whether it is possible to have stringent regulation of online gambling, which they say holds the potential for increased fraud and money laundering. Among other issues Congress faces are the proper balance of federal and state regulation and the possible social costs of expanded gaming, including problem gambling.



Date of Report: November 8, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R42820
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mayo v. Prometheus: Implications for Patents, Biotechnology, and Personalized Medicine



John R. Thomas
Visiting Scholar

The recent enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), P.L. 112-29, suggests congressional interest in patents on diagnostic methods. In particular, Section 27 of the AIA required the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to conduct a study on the patenting of genetic diagnostic tests. The 2012 decision of the Supreme Court in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. also addressed these sorts of patents. The Court’s decision arguably placed severe limitations on the ability of inventors to obtain diagnostic method patents.

Some observers have welcomed Mayo v. Prometheus, asserting that patents on diagnostic methods are harmful to healthcare and medical research. On the other hand, detractors of the opinion state that patents provide powerful incentives for innovation and public disclosure of new technologies. They believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will negatively impact medical research in the areas of biotechnology and personalized medicine.

The holding in Mayo v. Prometheus may impact another well-publicized litigation, Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. More commonly known as Myriad—after the name of the patent holder—this litigation may determine whether patents may appropriately issue on human genes.

Congressional policymakers may contend that current circumstances with respect to patentable subject matter are satisfactory and therefore may advocate that no further legislative action need be taken. Should Congress choose to take action, however, a number of options exist. One possibility is an amendment to the Patent Act stipulating that certain subject matter is or is not patentable. Another is to allow patents on particular inventions to issue, but to limit the remedies available to proprietors of such patents.



Date of Report: November 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R42815
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Emergency Management: A Compendium



This Compendium provides details on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for disaster response, recovery, and mitigation projects. It discusses the role of the United States Fire Administration. A section on nuclear power plants point to their vulnerabilities. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and the major regulatory programs that mandate reporting by industrial facilities of releases of potentially hazardous chemicals to the environment, as well as local planning to respond in the event of significant releases are summarized. The traditional funding for major disaster declarations, both through annual requested amounts and through supplemental appropriations to meet greater than anticipated costs. Also explained are the workings of the President’s Disaster Relief Fund, a “no-year” fund that finances spending under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288).

Project Bioshield (P.L. 108-276), which provides the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism agents, is outlined.

The agricultural sector is not exempt from disaster and this Compendium provides an overview of the current U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs -- federal crop insurance, noninsured crop disaster assistance, and emergency disaster loans.

Date of Report: October 26, 2012
Number of Pages: 162
Order Number: C-12013
Price: $59.95

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