Chu and Suresh Announce Resignations
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Subra Suresh have both announced their departures from federal service.
Chu announced he planned to stay until at least the end of February, and would possibly continue to serve until a new Secretary is confirmed. Serving for four full years, Chu has held the position longer than any other Energy Secretary. In a letter to employees announcing his resignation, he stated that the department’s goals include serving “the country as a Department of Science, a Department of Innovation, and a Department of Nuclear Security.” In the same letter, he also noted some of the successes he has overseen at the Department, including the breaking down of walls between basic and applied research.
In a statement released following Chu’s announcement, President Obama wrote: “As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy.”
NSF Director Subra Suresh plans to step down at the end of March. He will become President of Carnegie Mellon University on July 1. In a letter distributed to NSF staff, Suresh wrote, “It has been my extraordinary honor to lead the National Science Foundation, which is blessed with a marvelous cohort of highly talented and devoted staff, as well as hundreds of thousands of innovative grantees and investigators from every field of science and engineering. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the country in this capacity.” Suresh served as the director for two years.
Commenting on Suresh’s accomplishments as NSF Director, John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said, “Subra has made critical contributions to a broad range of science and technology priorities, including expanding federal investments in fundamental research, accelerating the commercialization of university research, and strengthening our scientific collaborations with partners around the world. He also leaves a crucially important legacy of having expanded NSF’s family-friendly policies, which make it easier for young scientists to balance the challenges of furthering their careers while raising a family.”
President Obama echoed these sentiments in his own statement. President Obama had not named successors for either position as of late February.
BPS Continues to Advocate for Research Funding
The Biophysical Society, along with more than 3,200 other organizations from the health, education, law enforcement, science, housing, workforce, transportation, and faith communities, delivered a letter to Congress on February 11 urging leaders to avert sequestration by adopting a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to Nondefense Discretionary (NDD) programs.” Despite their diverse priorities, these organizations share a common purpose of protecting the core government functions that make up NDD spending. Sequestration, which is the automatic spending cuts that were scheduled to start on March 2, would cut these programs by as much as $26 billion this year and some $400 billion in total. The letter also pointed out that NDD spending is a very small amount of the federal budget. In 2011, NDD spending represented less than one-fifth of the federal budget and 4.3 percent of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
BPS also joined over 270 other biomedical research and health organizations in sending a letter to Congress focused specifically on how cuts to NIH would be detrimental to the US. The letter points out that the cuts would jeopardize ongoing research, US competitiveness and leadership in medical research, as well employment and local economies where research is conducted. While many think the NIH budget has grown tremendously due to the “doubling” of the budget in the early 2000s, the NIH budget has actually decreased by nearly 20 percent after inflation over the last ten years. Like the previous letter, this one calls for Congress and the Administration to work together to find a solution that preserves the nation’s investment in medical research and the health of the American people. Both letters can be read in their entirety at: http://www.biophysics.org/AboutUs/NewsReleases/tabid/2243/Default.aspx.
2014 Federal Budget Process Delayed
With the 2013 federal budget still unknown for the second half of the fiscal year, the President delayed delivering his blueprint for the 2014 budget to Congress. This budget is usually delivered the first week of February. It is expected that the budget will include the same priorities and similar funding levels as past budget proposals submitted to Congress by President Obama. In the past, President Obama has kept research funding flat or requested modest increases.
The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires on March 27. In addition, unless action was taken, on March 1, $1.2 trillion in automatic federal spending cuts were scheduled to take effect. Congress created the automatic cuts in August 2011 as part of an agreement to raise the US debt ceiling. In the legislation passed January 1, lawmakers delayed the spending cuts, half of them coming from defense, for two months.
March 2013 Table of Contents