Government Relations Update December 2019
Government Funding Deal Reached
On December 20, the president signed two bills into law (H.R. 1158 and H.R. 1865) as part of a broad deal to fund the government for the remainder of FY 2020 after the conclusion of weeks of negotiations. While most agencies received funding increases under the agreement in keeping with the trend over the last two fiscal years, some received small cuts, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will receive $5.4 billion ($300 million below the FY 2019 Enacted Level). Those that received funding increases include: the National Science Foundation (NSF) which will receive $8.3 billion ($203 million above the FY 2019 Enacted Level); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which will receive $1.03 billion ($48.5 million above the FY 2019 Enacted Level); and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which will receive $40.4 million ($941,000 above the FY 2019 Enacted Level).
Another priority that received additional funding was the Department of Agriculture’s new Re-Connect Program, a broadband pilot program overseen by the Under Secretary for Rural Development. Under the agreement, an additional $550 million will be provided to enable a second round of funding opportunities for eligible applicants beginning January 31.
Acting NTIA Administrator Resigns
The Acting Administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Diane Rinaldo, resigned her post effective December 16. Rinaldo’s resignation came just seven months after the resignation of former NTIA head David Redl, who departed the administration after serving in the position since 2017. Both resignations were announced with little notice and limited comment from the Department of Commerce and the White House. For the time being, Associate Administrator of the Office of Telecommunications and Applications, Doug Kinkoph, will lead the agency; however, reports suggest that a Treasury Department official, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Edward Hearst, may ultimately be chosen as Rinaldo’s successor.
National Science Foundation Nominee Named
On December 18, the president announced his intention to nominate Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan to be the new Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Panchanathan has been a member of the National Science Board since 2014, where he has advised NSF and the president and assisted in establishing NSF policy. He currently serves as the Executive Vice President and the Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Panchanathan would succeed Dr. France Córdova as NSF Director upon the end of her six-year term in 2020.