Friday, 24 Dec 1993 Washington, DC
1. BOUCHER INTRODUCES A BILL TO "RENEW" NATIONAL SCIENCE POLICY.
Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy
in 1976. Rich Boucher (D-VA), House Science Subcommittee chair,
now wants to elevate the OSTP Director to the same level as the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Moreover, in
the last part of the budget process (the so-called "pass-backs"),
it would be the OSTP Director who would decide whether the final
R&D budget conforms to the President's priorities--and the budget
submission would have to identify those priorities along with the
societal goals they are meant to address. The goals and performance
assessment provisions are not unlike portions of the Senate
Report language on NSF that generated such heat this fall
Sep 93). But Boucher's bill has none of the pejorative tone of
the Senate Report, and is not likely to encounter such hostility.
Moreover, since it is legislation, it will be openly debated.
2. PROJECT MILLSTONE: AIR FORCE PREPARES TO ORBIT A TON OF SAND!
Milstar was supposed to be the Pentagon's main communications
link during a global nuclear war, but so far, the super-secret
system is dead weight. There is a teensy problem with the first
of the huge Milstar satellites. An electronics package weighing
about as much as a Volkswagen had to be replaced with ballast--a
ton of sand. Even sending ballast into space costs $35,000/lb.
No one will say what the package was supposed to do--maybe it's
sort of like your appendix. It has been suggested that NASA's
missing Mars Observer might have been hijacked by aliens checking
out our technology. Imagine the confusion if they snatch Milstar!
3. STUDENT AID OFFERS: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DROPS FREE-AGENCY RULE.
Well, bidding for promising students never reached the intensity
of major league baseball anyway. Before 1990, MIT and Ivy League
schools swapped data on financial aid, and the Justice Department
charged them with price fixing. The Ivy Leaguers caved in, but
MIT stood its ground. After a federal judge ruled last year that
the practice did indeed violate antitrust laws, MIT appealed. On
Wednesday, an agreement was reached with the Justice Department
that allows MIT to admit students solely on merit and award aid
solely on need--and do so in cooperation with other schools.
4. DOE REQUEST FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WILL BE DOWN IN FY 95!
But the drop is due mostly to termination of the SSC. The total
for other programs would be nearly flat. Termination costs for
the SSC are budgeted at $640M this year; the SSC shut down is a
mess, but costs are expected to drop to about $180M in FY 95.
The FY 95 request for other programs will be $2.28B, down $20M.
5. THE REVOLVING DOOR: AN ASTRONOMY CONSORTIUM HIRES DICK MALOW.
The powerful clerk of the HUD/VA/IA Appropriations Subcommittee
joins the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
in April. Malow has been in a strong position to help astronomy.