October 14th, 2011 | View Archive
VA ESTABLISHES NATIONAL ACADEMIC AFFILIATIONS COUNCIL
On October 12, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in the Federal Register that it has established a National Academic Affiliations Council. The council will advise the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Under Secretary for Health on matters affecting partnerships between VA and its academic affiliates. Additionally, the council will provide a forum for discussion and is intended to benefit both the VA and the academic community.
According to the notice, council members will be appointed by the VA secretary and will be drawn from all sectors of the academic health professions community, including deans, distinguished faculty, health care administrators, and leaders of professional associations and organizations.
You may view the announcement here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-12/pdf/2011-26196.pdf
CMS RELEASES ACO FINAL RULE
Today, the Obama administration released the final rules on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The ACO program was established by the Affordable Care Act. The final rule cuts in half the number of quality targets, removes the electronic health records requirement and eliminates financial risks for some groups. CMS has also made $170 million available to physician-owned and rural providers to help launch ACOs.
Applications for ACOs will start being accepted January 1, 2012. The first round of awardees will begin on April 1, 2012 and the second will begin July 1, 2012.
The final rule can be found here - http://www.ofr.gov/%28X%281%29S%28u4y4kjydovtc20mfbrarnxpd%29%29/OFRUpload/OFRData/2011-27461_PI.pdf
In addition, CMS announced a new initiative, the ACO Advance Payment Model. The Advance Payment Model is open only to two types of organizations participating in the Shared Savings Program:
- ACOs that do not include any inpatient facilities AND have less than $50 million in total annual revenue.
- ACOs in which the only inpatient facilities are critical access hospitals and/or Medicare low-volume rural hospitals AND have less than $80 million in total annual revenue.
More information on the Advance Payment Model can be found on the CMMI website, in the solicitation, and the factsheet.
COALITION ASKS APPROPRIATORS TO SUSTAIN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
The Coalition for International Education, a group in which AAU participates, wrote to House and Senate appropriators on October 18 asking them to fund the Department of Education's Title VI international education programs at the Senate's higher spending level in a final FY12 spending bill.
The Senate bill would allocate $75.7 million for the programs, the same as the FY11 level. The House bill would level fund Title VI domestic programs but eliminate funding for the Fulbright-Hays overseas programs and Title VI-C, the Institute for Public Policy program.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS URGE DEFICIT PANEL TO PROTECT FEDERAL S&T AND EDUCATION INVESTMENTS
A group of 60 House Democrats, led by Reps. Rush Holt and David Price, sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on October 14 urging the panel to "protect, prioritize and strengthen federal investments in education, basic scientific research, and technological development…" as it develops its deficit-reduction plan.
NIH SOLICITS ADVICE ON HOW TO CUT SPENDING
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun reaching out to the biomedical research community for advice on how it should manage its research portfolio during an era of reduced budgets. Every type of cost-savings seems to be on the table, from limiting numbers of grants per investigator to capping salaries charged to grants.
NIH has developed a web-based tool to help users visualize cost savings from various budget-cutting strategies available here: http://report.nih.gov/UploadDocs/Ways%20to%20Manage%20Final.pdf
Additional information about the request is provided here: http://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2011/10/17/how-do-you-think-we-should-manage-science-in-fiscally-challenging-times/
HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS SEND RECOMMENDATIONS TO DEFICIT PANEL
Democratic and Republican members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee have submitted separate views on deficit reduction to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson sent a letter to the deficit panel on October 13 urging the committee generally to consider "the critically important role that federal investments in science, technology, and STEM education play in keeping the United States a global economic and technological leader, reducing our debt over the long term, creating new industries and jobs, and providing practical benefits to all of our citizens." She asked the Committee to take a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction and to include revenue enhancements as a means to protect R&D investments.
A group of 10 committee Republicans, including Committee Chair Ralph M. Hall, took a more detailed, agency-by-agency approach in the letter they sent the deficit panel on October 14. The group provided specific recommendations on research priorities at several science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Department of Energy (DOE).
Highlights of the Republicans recommendation:
Department of Energy (DOE)
DOE dedicates roughly one-third of its nearly $25 billion budget to activities currently overseen by the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The letter recommends that the DOE Office of Science "should be the top funding priority among DOE R&D programs and be protected from cuts by the Joint Committee," while also questioning spending trends in some Office of Science programs such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program. Further details:
- Decreases the EERE program by $600 million, reducing its funding to $1.2 billion
- Recommends that ARPA-E should not receive funding for any new awards until programmatic improvements are made to ensure only high-risk awards are being conferred
- Maintains funding Biological and Environmental Research at $547 million as recommended by the House-passed FY12 Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee bill
- Calls for further review of spending in the Fusion Energy Sciences program
- Upholds funding the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at $139.4 million as recommended by the House-passed FY12 Energy and Water Appropriations Committee
- Endorses restoring DOE's Fossil Energy Program to its prior focus on fundamental R&D to advance oil and gas exploration and production
- Supports maintaining level funding of $50 million for the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Research Program
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA's authorization for FY12 is $19.450 billion. The FY12 House CJS Subcommittee mark provides $16.810 billion. The letter offers recommendations about specific portions of the space agency's portfolio, including a reduction of $177 million from specific Space Science programs and projects. Additionally, the group supports the House CJS subcommittee recommendation of $375 million for the Space Technology program.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF's current spending level is $6.86 billion. For FY12, the House Appropriations Committee provided an increase of $43 million over the FY11 amount. The group recommends that funding should not fall below its current level, and expresses its strong support of the role of NSF in STEM education. Further details:
- Expresses concern that the Administration's increased research funding request for FY12 is specifically focused on applied R&D goals rather than further supporting basic R&D
- Opposes and supports reductions for the Administrations requested increase of $63 million for the Climate Change Technology Program and $106 million for the U.S. Global Change Research Program over the current spending levels.
- Recommends elimination of the $10 million Climate Change Education program
- Encourages sustaining current levels of spending for the Noyce Scholarship and Math and Science Partnership Program.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The letter highlights the importance of NOAA but believes that opportunities for reductions exist, particularly with respect to climate-focused efforts unrelated to weather forecasting and emergency preparedness. Additionally, the group does not support funding NOAA's proposed Climate Service and will continue their stance until further investigation into this program is complete.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The Office of Research and Development (ORD) represents approximately 70% of the Science and Technology account within EPA. The group feels that EPA should not continue to be funded at its existing levels until reforms on regulations are undertaken. They recommend reducing the $20.8 million from ORD that funds EPA's global change research.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
The House Appropriations Committee recommended a FY12 funding level of $701 million for NIST, which is 6.6 percent less than the FY11 enacted funding. The letter recommends that NIST funding cuts should be concentrated on external Industrial Technology Services (ITS) programs and new construction before NIST's Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS). Priority funding should be continued for the MEP program over the TIP program, the Baldrige National Quality Program, or the AMTech program.
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