Federal appropriations and budget update:
The federal government is still operating at FY21 funding levels under a continuing resolution until Feb. 18. It remains to be seen whether House and Senate appropriators will be able to finalize an omnibus spending package before then or if another continuing resolution will be necessary. The ongoing delay in the FY22 appropriations process may also delay the rollout of the FY23 agency budget requests, which would normally occur in early February.
In addition to these overlapping budget challenges, agencies that received significant new funding in the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, such as the Departments of Energy, Transportation, and Commerce, are also busy working to report back to Capitol Hill on how they propose to spend the initial funds provided to them for new or expanded infrastructure, clean energy, and domestic manufacturing programs.
Reconciliation package on hold:
The Build Back Better Act is back on hold after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) publicly stated shortly before Christmas that he would not vote for the bill in its current form. The White House and Senate Democrats are purportedly going back to the drawing board this month to try and rework the bill into a version that can pass the Senate.
U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act (USICA):
The House Science and Senate Commerce Committees have yet to conference their several disparate authorization bills, including USICA, that are focused on a range of science issues. These bills include funding to support domestic semiconductor R&D and production, adding a technology directorate to the National Science Foundation (NSF), new clean energy programs at the Department of Energy, and programs at other government agencies tasked with research and development in 21st-century fields of technology, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and cybersecurity.
Their progress has been stalled by significant differences among the bills as well as the delay in the Build Back Better package and FY22 appropriations process, both of which would be necessary to fund many of the new activities proposed in these authorization bills. January may feature several hearings in these committees focused on the future of NSF and related issues to try and jump start these discussions.
New NOAA nominee:
The White House nominated Michael Morgan for the role of assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction at NOAA. Morgan is currently a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he serves as the associate chair of the department’s undergraduate program. Morgan is also completing his second term on the UCAR Board of Trustees.
National Weather Service (NWS) acting director:
NWS Director Louis Uccellini officially retired on Jan. 1. Mary Erickson, who was Uccellini’s deputy, is now serving as acting NWS director.