ON CAPITOL “HILL”, IEEE-USA SUPPORTS ITS MEMBERS—JULY 27, 2017 MEETING MESSAGE
|August 4, 2017||Posted by COMauthor under COMSOC, General||
Post-meeting notes from our July 27, 2017 IEEE COMSOC CHAPTER OF IEEE FOOTHILL SECTION MEETING.
IEEE-USA PERSPECTIVE FROM WASHINGTON D.C.—–A DISCUSSION OF CURRENT FEDERAL POLICY AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS ON CAPITOL HILL
OUR SPEAKER—MS ALINE MCNAULL, LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATIVE, IEEE-USA
Yes, our IEEE COMSOC Chapter and IEEE Foothill Section members could have gone to the IEEE-USA website to find out about what IEEE-USA is doing in Washington DC.
But it is much better to invite one of our IEEE-USA Legislative Representatives to come visit our Section for face-to-face explanations and questioning. Ms Aline McNaull’s presentation and our enthusiastic Q&A session made it worthwhile for everyone who attended. It was much more enlightening that reading yet another html webpage. As we saw and learned this evening, this webpage is no substitute for a “live”presentation .
For background, recall that IEEE-USA is tasked to represent its members’ interest in promoting engineering. This means professional legislation and funding perceived as needed to promote the IEEE members professional careers as well as the nation’s welfare.
What is the process that the IEEE has set up for IEEE-USA? After Ms McNaull spent a major part of her talk reporting about specific funding initiatives on the HILL, it was time to summarize the “PROCESS”. Consider that these ordered steps in the process are set up to minimize the individual member’s time commitments while providing efficient lobbying for US Congressional change.
Then these as the basic stakeholders:
- IEEE-USA Members
- IEEE policy Committees
- IEEE-USA Congressional Representatives
- Meet with Administration ; US Senate ; House of Representatives staffers
- Congressional Authorization and Appropriation Committees
Then view the steps above, (1) through (5), as part of a continual process (control loop), with feedback between the various stakeholders.
The next question is, ”How can an IEEE-USA member influence the funding for a project that he /she considers important” ? The IEEE-USA member starts by bringing attention to a Federal rule /regulation or funding opportunity that should be acted upon at the Hill. Specifically, how can an IEEE member become involved as a stakeholder? These are some of the identified paths.
- Join an IEEE-USA Policy committee in that subject area.
- Visit the local offices of your US Senators and US Representatives. Bring a short (one to two page) summary of your issue, and state the requested action.
- Write letters and op-ed pieces for publication your local newspapers, Describe the issue you are promoting, and your prior contact to the US Senate and / or US House members local office, or an earlier email exchange you have had with their Congress-persons. Add the name of the Congressional member. (Why? All congressional offices on the Hill do a Google search every morning for the new entries posted on the WWW that are tied to the Congress-persons’s name. Presto. Attention.)
- Work on an Federal Advisory Committee in your particular technical area.
- Draft policy / letters. Present to your IEEE Section for review and critique. Forward the ”worked-over” policy paper to the IEEE-USA policy committee.
- Your Laboratory / University / facility can partner with IEEE-USA provided there is a commonality of issues overlap.
What role does an IEEE-USA Legislative representative play on the Hill? Ms Naull provided a wealth of specific insights based on her current experience. Yes, as Ms McNaull noted, there are constant staffer-to-staffer meetings. Lots of alliances between IEEE-USA and related professional societies / groups with overlapping interests. Lots of tracking budget increments. What projects will gain, what projects will lose, at least at this high budget level . Ms McNaull noted that her knowledge of the subjects was extensive; depth of knowledge was not required in her role. That was left to the IEEE members in the field. These IEEE members have to make something work as per specification and (hopefully) within budget.
First, find out what are the policy initiatives that are moving into and out of the continuous budgetary cycle. (Yes, the H&S budgetary cycle is continuous for all practical purposes. At this time, Ms McNall is tracking what is happening with the Fiscal Year 2017 budget; fielding requests and voicing support for selected items in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, and setting down preliminary concepts that should be shoe-horned into the FY 2019 budget. ) Note: specific funding levels for various government programs were discussed during this talk. Since these are subject to change, these numbers are omitted from this report.
This means daily interaction with the representatives of other technical / professional organization and the H&S staffers . It is these latter who are in direct daily contact with their Representatives and Senators ; their “direct reports”. Many of these “staffer –to-staffer” meetings involve ”pushing” legislation and related funding. This involves examining, critiquing, allocating, de-allocating, and replacing the language within the actual proposed legislation. Yes, some people on the Hill are supposed to know, and do know, what the wording in the legislation is “supposed” to mean. (Should the emphasis here be on the “some”?)
Second, the IEEE-USA Legislative Representative must maintain a knowledge base of the policy papers that have been prepared by the IEEE-USA Policy Committees. Again, the IEEE-USA site previously listed contains a link to these policy papers and a synopsis of the IEEE-USA preferred directions.
When one is in the Hill legislative loop, one is involved in seeing how the IEEE-USA policy initiatives are in agreement with or in conflict with other organization interests and Hill geographical preferences. Again, particular congresspersons have stated preferences for Federal labs and installations within their home states and home congressional districts. Make note of these preferences.
Third, set up the visit of professional IEEE engineers who come to Washington DC each April for an all day sessions with their respective Senators and state Representatives. This gives our IEEE-USA Washington staff instant updates of engineers’ professional issues from the field.
As examples of these generic activities, Ms McNaull cited a number of current developments in the policy areas that she is assigned by IEEE-USA staff to track; in particular, Energy; R&D, Transportation and Aerospace.
The new Trump Administration is still setting up its legislative contact schedule for policy. Deep Space is back on NASA’s Plan,( Think potential plan for trip to Mars)as opposed to more observations of earth from Low Earth Orbiting satellites. She has met with Vice-President Pence’s Director of Policy / Committee on Space Policy.
President Trump has reinstated the National Space Council, which will be the go-between NASA and the President.
NASA as well as NSF continues to fund quite generously STEM education for K-12 through their budgets. Being an astronaut is a positive and motivation idea for many young students. During the Q&A, we had an interesting but brief discussion on STEM effectiveness, with a year 2012 GAO report as a reference point.
There are continuous problems in getting approval in the NSF and NIST budget for the “pure science” type projects. Again, whenever engineers and scientists can convey the importance of what they are doing to the general audience, and to the busy staffers on the Hill, they will get funding. Just consider some outstanding projects that are currently being funded: EUROPA / NASA –JPL space probe (Water-ice depth beneath the crust points to life being possibly present); MARS visit (A new field of astro-biology is ready to open up); and a scientific project studying sponges beneath the Antarctic ice (Immunity shown to parasites and diseases within these sponges, but just how?). The message for our IEEE members is direct. Can your project be described to a general audience, and can it be connected to a USA national interest?
A common and ongoing problem encountered from Hill staffers considering budgets is for them to push for reduction of indirect (support). The impact can be seen at the NIST laboratories, which have a backlog of requests to upgrade facilities and instrumentation. One of our members pointed out how this causes problems for metrology tasks. (These metrology tasks essentially quantify with specified accuracy their labs instruments with respect to the basic standards set by NIST.) As one of our IEEE Foothill members noted, calibration of basic standards may be better done at foreign labs at present, with the foreign labs gaining in their expertise. Meanwhile NIST is tasked with lead roles in R&D, advanced manufacturing as well as cryptography.
Among the interests of our IEEE Foothill members is the “Green” Smart grid. Concerns on cybersecurity for the grid were discussed. How will this topic fit within the 2018 budget?
NSF has an interesting program for supporting research projects that are not ready for commercial development by a private company. DOD has a program on University Multidisciplinary Research. These and many other are on the budgetary “bubble”.
Employment practices were only noted in passing during the evening. There will changes in H1B visas, but outsourcing will continue. We will have to wait for the IEEE-USA policy staffers in Washington to get a better grasp on this issue. Tracking issues on the Hill is not a static exercise, as Ms McNaulls so ably illustrated.
One of the basic and ongoing arguments that Ms McNaull is using in her staffer-budget discussions is very direct and appropriate. President Trump wants to rebuild the infrastructure in the country. “Infrastructure” means updating laboratory equipment and technical expertise in scientific / EE skill sets as well as “roads and bridges”. Sounds like a strong argument, Ms McNaull.
There is always a conflict between policy (“what we in the IEEE-US would like to do”) and the actual budget (“What resources do we have to do this job”). This evening, Ms Aline McNaulls showed us how she approaches her job. We thank her for coming out to Pomona, CA to give us an informative presentation during a busy Thursday evening,