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What's New @ IEEE-USA - Eye On Washington

Vol. 2008, No. 7 (13 June 2008)


  • House Subcommittee Examines the Application of Hybrid Tech to Medium & Heavy Duty Trucks
  • House Committee Passes Bill to Reauthorize NASA Programs
  • Senators Collins and Clinton Introduce Bill to Create National Innovation Council


  • DOE Announces $30 Million for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Projects: Adds Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle to Department's Fleet
  • U.S. Department of Energy’s New Supercomputer is Fastest in the World


  • Government Accountability Office Reports
  • Linking Science and State Economies: STEM and R&D Data




  • Calling All Inventors (and Educators)!



  • Former IEEE-USA Government Fellows Available to Speak to Sections
  • IEEE Member & Silicon Valley Engineer Testifies before Congress on Need to Retain
    Talented High-Tech Students and Professionals
  • IEEE-USA's Recent Policy Communications
  • IEEE-USA Public Policy Priority Issues - 110th Congress, 2d Session (2008)
  • Track IEEE-USA's Progress
  • IEEE-USA In The News



  • House Subcommittee Examines the Application of Hybrid Tech to Medium & Heavy Duty Trucks

10 JUN: The House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to discuss the application of hybrid technology to medium and heavy duty trucks. Trucks use more fuel than cars and rising fuel costs for trucks are passed directly to consumers. Nonetheless, current research and government support have focused predominantly on passenger cars. The hearing focused on draft legislation proposed by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), (not yet available) intended to help correct the imbalance and accelerate the process of bringing these technologies to the market.

Mr. Sensenbrenner said his bill "will create competitive grants for companies to manufacture plug-in hybrid utility and delivery trucks. Utility trucks typically drive short distances to and from a work site, but sit idle for hours while on site. A plug-in hybrid truck would use less fuel getting to and from the site, and could operate without any fuel while on site. Ultimately a plug-in hybrid engine in a utility truck could use up to 60 percent less fuel. Delivery trucks constantly stop and go. Hybrid engines excel at this type of driving. These examples are therefore well-suited for demonstration and advancement of this important technology."

The following witnesses testified at the hearing: Mr. Terry Penney, Technology Manager, Advanced Vehicle and Fuel Technologies, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Mr. Eric M. Smith, Chief Engineer, Hybrid Medium Duty Truck, Eaton Corporation; Mr. Joseph Dalum, Vice President, Dueco Inc.; Ms. Jill Egbert, Manager, Clean Air Transportation, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E); and Mr. Richard Parish, Senior Program Manager, Calstart Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF).

  • House Committee Passes Bill to Reauthorize NASA Programs

The House Science and Technology Committee unanimously passed H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, authorizing programs at NASA for fiscal year 2009.

"H.R. 6063 is a one year bill that demonstrates Congress' commitment to maintain a strong and vital space program and will serve as a signal to a new Administration that NASA has deep support within Congress,” said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX). "Once the Shuttle is retired at the end of this decade, our country will have to buy seats from the Russians – for as long as five years – to assure a U.S. presence on the International Space Station. Our payments for rides on their Soyuz spacecraft have not yet been negotiated, but it will be expensive, and sadly, we'll be making these purchases at a time when NASA will be laying off thousands of
engineers and technicians from the Shuttle program.

"Hall continued, "In an effort to minimize our reliance on the Russians, this bill authorizes an additional $1 billion to speed up development of the new Constellation system. This additional investment is more than justified."

While Members on both sides of the aisle strongly supported the underlying bipartisan bill, Republicans at the markup stressed that contrary to section 526 (Procurement and acquisition of alternative fuels, see box) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (White House Fact Sheet), NASA should be allowed to purchase alternative fuels to power its fleet. Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, offered two amendments that the Chairman ruled as non-germane.


No Federal agency shall enter into a contract for procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any mobility-related use, other than for research or testing, unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and combustion of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.

One amendment aimed to give the NASA Administrator the flexibility and discretion to purchase alternative fuels, derived from unconventional sources, such as coal-to-liquids, oil shale, and biofuels. The amendment also sought to exempt NASA from section 526.

"NASA has historically been on the cutting edge of innovation with numerous contributions to the technologies that we use on a daily basis in the United States," Gingrey said. "Currently, NASA is partnering with the Air Force and is already aggressively conducting research to convert domestic energy sources – coal, natural gas, biomass, and oil shale – into cleaner and more economical alternatives to traditional jet fuel.” He continued, "However, as gas prices continue to rise, and at a time when we could best utilize the research of emerging technologies for alternative fuels, with Section 526 the Democratic Majority has effectively stymied innovation at NASA that could potentially help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Committee members stressed how provision 526 strictly limits an agency, such as NASA, that purchases millions of dollars worth of jet fuel every year. Further, NASA is currently engaged in groundbreaking research on many of the fuels that this section prohibits any federal agency from purchasing.

Dr. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Ranking Member of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee, highlighted the fact that the type of fuel NASA chooses to use is a technical decision that should not be limited by a law that restricts the discretion of the agency. Ehlers noted that decisions on the type of fuel used in rockets is based on the energy density of the fuel and should not be restricted by emissions calculations. H.R. 6063:

--authorizes $20.21 billion in funding for NASA in FY 2009, including $1 billion in additional funding to accelerate development of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV). The Constellation system, which includes development of both the CEV and CLV, will provide the United States with a modern, more robust, and safer manned spaceflight capability that will enable U.S. astronauts to fly beyond Low Earth orbit, an ability NASA has not had since the retirement of Apollo over 30 years ago,
-- provides for a balanced set of programs in human spaceflight and exploration, aeronautics research and development, and space science research,
--directs NASA to include two so-called contingency missions to the International Space Station to be part of the baseline shuttle flight manifest,
--adds an additional flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station, and
-- includes provisions related to detecting asteroids and comets that threaten to collide with Earth, education, and commercial space initiatives.

  • Senators Collins and Clinton Introduce Bill to Create National Innovation Council

3 JUN: Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced S. 3078, the National Innovation and Job Creation Act of 2008. The bill creates the National Innovation Council within the Executive Office of the President and several new grant programs to support state-directed technology-based economic development initiatives. Both the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) have both called for a single organization to consolidate federal innovation investments. ITIF and Brookings proposed that the National Innovation Council consolidate federal programs involved with innovation into a single organizing office. As drafted, S. 3078 moves the following programs to the proposed council:

From the National Institute of Standards and Technology -

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)Program;
The Technology Innovation Program;
The Office of Technology Partnerships.

From the National Science Foundation -

Partnerships for Innovation;
Industry-University Cooperative Research Center Program;
Engineering Research Center Program.

From the Department of Labor:

Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development.

The Council would be tasked with creating and collecting data for improved measures of innovation and productivity, working in concert with the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and several other federal statistical agencies.

The Council would also administer five new grant programs. While specific authorization levels are not mentioned for most of the programs, the size of the awards mandated for each state suggests a considerable pool of new federal investment would be required after nearly a decade of reduced or level funding for most federal tech-based economic development spending. The grants are:

1) Competitive Leadership for the United States Through its Economic Regions (CLUSTERS) - S. 3078 authorizes $350 million for the CLUSTERS program which would make matching grants to states or entities designated by a state or group of states to support the planning and operation of cluster programs and cluster initiatives. Feasibility grants for planning could be as large as $250,000. Each state would receive at least one $1 million in start-up funds to initiate a cluster program and at least one annual operating grant of $1 million per year for five years. In addition, CLUSTERS would include a competitive matching grant program to provide awards up to $15 million to support specific cluster initiatives.

2) State Innovation-Based Economic Development Grants - Structured somewhat similarly to CLUSTERS but without an authorization level, the new council would provide each state with at least one one-time $250,000 feasibility study grant and a one-year $2 million start-up grant. States also would be eligible to receive at least one annual operating grant that could be renewed indefinitely. Federal grant funds, which could only represent one-third of a project's cost, could be used to establish technology commercialization centers, industry-university research centers, regional cluster development programs, regional skills alliances, entrepreneurial support programs, science parks, and related activities to spur innovation or productivity. States also would be required to prepare strategic plans to describe, among other things, how grant funds "would be used to support the creation of alliances for the dissemination of innovation among local governments, businesses, educational institutions and other institutions."

3) Technology Diffusion Grants - The MEP centers in each state would receive feasibility, start up and annual grants – again on the same $250,000 and $2 million levels as the state innovation grants – to support manufacturing extension services.

4) National Sector Research Grants - The council would award competitive matching grants of unspecified amounts to support industry-led consortia involving at least five companies that commit to developing three- to 10-year technology roadmaps for the consortia. The Department of Energy had a similar program in concept during the Clinton Administration entitled Industries of the Future.

5) Productivity Enhancement Research Grants - The council would be authorized to provide grants to academic institutions and university-industry joint ventures to support early-stage research into methods to increase productivity and innovation. No specific grant amounts are identified in the bill.

S. 3078 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for its consideration.


  • DOE Announces $30 Million for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Projects: Adds Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle to Department"s Fleet

12 JUN: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner announced up to $30 million in funding over three years for three cost-shared Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) demonstration and development projects. The selected projects will accelerate the development of PHEVs capable of traveling up to 40 miles without recharging, which includes most daily roundtrip commutes and satisfies 70 percent of the average daily travel in the U. S.  The projects will also address critical barriers to achieving DOE's goal of making PHEVs cost-competitive by 2014 and ready for commercialization by 2016.

"The projects announced today demonstrate a shared public-private sector commitment to advance clean vehicle technologies and will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil while also confronting the serious challenge of global climate change," said Karsner. "The Department remains committed to the research, development and deployment of cleaner, more efficient vehicle options for consumers from laboratory to the street."

Karsner made the announcements at the Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington? conference, sponsored by the Brookings Institution and  The projects selected will be developed between Fiscal Years 2008-11 and demonstrated in geographically diverse regions to identify performance, operation, and fuel economy in a real-world environment.  The goal is to develop PHEVs that can be mass produced, compete effectively in the marketplace, and substantially reduce petroleum consumption by offering fuel flexibility to American consumers.  DOE's funding for these projects, which is subject to Congressional appropriations, will be combined with an industry cost share of 50 percent.

In addition to the projects, DOE expanded its own fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles with the addition of a Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid Flex-Fuel Vehicle, capable of running on E85, 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline.  DOE employees will use the Escape to travel to official events and meetings in the Washington, D.C. area.

DOE selected the following three projects under this first round of funding opportunities (A second round of applications is due July 18, 2008.):

1) General Motors - selected for negotiation of an award for a project aimed at enhancement of Lithium-Ion battery packs, charging systems, powertrain development, vehicle integration, and vehicle validation. Following development, the PHEVs will be deployed over a three year period into a demonstration fleet in three regions of the U.S.  Other team members include Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

2) Ford Motor Company -selected for negotiation of an award for a project to identify a pathway that accelerates commercial mass-production of PHEVs.  The project will focus on development of battery systems and deployment of prototype PHEVs. The project will test and demonstrate the propulsion system design, controls, and communications necessary to develop a viable PHEV production program.  Team members include Southern California Edison, Electric Power Research Institute, and Johnson Controls-Saft, Inc.

3) General Electric - selected for negotiation of an award for a demonstration of PHEVs that relies upon an innovative dual-battery energy storage system capable of 40 miles accumulated electric driving range.  The project will focus on developing the dual-battery energy storage system in parallel with vehicle integration. GE is partnering with Chrysler for this project.

For more information on DOE's ongoing work to advance vehicle technologies, visit the Vehicle Technologies Program website

EEE-USA believes that plug-in electric drive vehicle technology is a critical element of an effective national energy policy and supports efforts to accelerate commercialization of these vehicles. Read a coalition letter on PHEVs at:

  • U.S. Department of Energy’s New Supercomputer is Fastest in the World

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today announced that the new Roadrunner supercomputer is the first to achieve a petaflop of sustained performance.  Roadrunner will be used by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to perform calculations that vastly improve the ability to certify that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is reliable without conducting underground nuclear tests. For more info, visit:


  • Government Accountability Office Reports

Department of Energy: Implementation and Use of Other Transactions Authority Provided in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, GAO-08-798R, June 6.

Digital Television Transition: Broadcasters' Transition Status, Low-Power Station Issues, and Information on Consumer Awareness of the DTV Transition, by Mark L. Goldstein, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-08-881T, June 10.
Highlights -

Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System, statement for the record by Richard M. Stana, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, House Committee on the Judiciary. GAO-08-895T, June 10.
Highlights -

Low-Level Radioactive Waste: Status of Disposal Availability in the United States and Other Countries GAO-08-813T  May 20, 2008 Summary (HTML) Highlights Page (PDF)
Full Report (PDF, 9 pages)   Accessible Text

Economic and Other Implications of Switching from Coal to Natural Gas at the Capitol Power Plant and at Electricity-Generating Units Nationwide GAO-08-601R  May 1, 2008 Summary (HTML)
Full Report (PDF, 24 pages)   Accessible Text

Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Needs to Establish a Cost and Schedule Baseline for Manufacturing a Critical Nuclear Weapon Component GAO-08-593  May 23, 2008 Summary (HTML) Highlights Page (PDF)
Full Report (PDF, 39 pages)   Accessible Text

Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration Has Strengthened Planning to Guide Investments in Key Aviation and Surface Transportation Security Programs, but More Work Remains GAO-08-487T  May 13, 2008 Summary (HTML)    Highlights Page (PDF)
Full Report (PDF, 41 pages)   Accessible Text

Physical Infrastructure: Challenges and Investment Options for the Nation's Infrastructure
GAO-08-763T  May 8, 2008 Summary (HTML) Highlights Page (PDF)
Full Report (PDF, 30 pages)   Accessible Text

  • Linking Science and State Economies: STEM and R&D Data

If you are curious about how your state is performing in terms of its R&D spending or promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, you'll be interested in a new resource from the Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America (ASTRA). ASTRA has developed state fact sheets for all fifty states (and the District of Columbia) that depict how each state is performing in each area. The fact sheets use data from an array of sources, including the Census Bureau, National Science Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Venture Capital Association, Department of Education and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Access the Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America's State R&D and State K-12 STEM Education report cards.


None at this time.


If you like to keep up with going on in state politics, provides a good overview of the activities in all 50 state legislatures.


  • AAAS Grant Site

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a service called GrantsNet Express.  Each week GrantsNet will provide a listing of science funding opportunities from private foundations and organizations, and new U.S. government grant announcements in the sciences. AAAS will send GrantsNet by e-mail to AAAS member subscribers. The weekly emails will include: — New science funding programs, divided into opportunities for postdocs/graduate students and undergraduates — Submission deadlines for funding opportunities scheduled in the upcoming week — New listings of funding for science-related research.

  • National Science Foundation

For information on NSF Engineering (ENG) Active Funding Opportunities, visit:

Opportunities include:

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program  (STEP) - The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) seeks to increase the number of students (U.S. citizens or permanent residents) receiving associate or baccalaureate degrees in established or emerging fields within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Type 1 proposals are solicited that provide for full implementation efforts at academic institutions. Type 2 proposals are solicited that support educational research projects on associate or baccalaureate degree attainment in STEM. Estimated Number of Awards: 15 to  20; Type 1 awards and 1-3 Type 2 awards per year; Anticipated Funding Amount: $26,000,000  per year in FY 2009, FY 2010 and FY 2011 for new and continuing awards subject to availability of funds. For more info:

  • Calling All Inventors (and Educators)!

If you have a good idea for a new product or technology, you might want to check out some interesting grant programs sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Funded by the Lemelson Foundation, NCIIA now operates three separate grant programs that provide up to $50,000 to support efforts that move innovative products or technologies from the idea stage to prototype. They can also provide grants for innovative education programs focused on the same goal of moving ideas to commercialization. This is a great opportunity for colleges, universities, research institutions, and their students. A new round of funds has just been announced with deadlines in the Fall and Winter of 2008. Learn more about the grants programs of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.


  • IEEE ENERGY 2030 - Towards A Sustainable Energy Infrastructure ( November 17 – 18, 2008, Atlanta, GA)

This new conference will provide a forum for the exchange of ideas amongst experts from a broad range of disciplines on the technology, policy and economic framework required for the creation of a global sustainable energy infrastructure by 2030. The IEEE, as a global technology leader in electrical and related technologies, with 43 societies and 370,000 members, is uniquely positioned to help define what the transformed infrastructure is likely to look like, and to initiate the discussion on the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve success. The Conference is initiated by the IEEE TA New Technology Directions Committee, and co-sponsorship by IEEE-USA; IEEE Standards Association; and the following
IEEE Societies: Industry Applications Society, Power Electronics Society, and the Power and Energy Society. For more info, visit:


  • Former IEEE-USA Government Fellows Available to Speak to Sections

On Wednesday, June 11th, IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow George Hanover spoke to an IEEE PACE group in the San Francisco Bay area. He discussed the innovation and competitiveness issues that he worked on during the year he served as an IEEE-USA government fellow, working as a staffer for the Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee of the House Science Committee. George also served on the personal staff of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a member of the House Science Committee.  George also discussed an engineer's perspective on the "government process" and the IEEE-USA's involvement in that process.

If your section is interested in having one of the former government fellows speak to your group about the program, how the legislative process works in Washington, and how IEEE-USA is influencing it, please contact Erica Wissolik at For more information on the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Program, please visit:

  • IEEE Member & Silicon Valley Engineer Testifies before Congress on Need to Retain
    Talented High-Tech Students and Professionals

12 JUN: Lee Colby of Sunnyvale, CA, a longtime IEEE member and a corresponding member of IEEE-USA's Career and Workforce Policy Committee, testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law in support of three permanent immigration reform bills. Colby, who has participated in past IEEE-USA Career Fly-ins on immigration reform issues, testified on behalf of IEEE-USA on the need for green cards for highly skilled workers. He stated that Congress should make it easier for foreign graduate students and engineers to remain in the United States.

Subcommittee chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced the bills ( H.R. 5882, 5921 and 6039) which enjoy bi-partisan support. The bills would:

1) Increase the annual number of visas granted to professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by exempting from the cap on employment-based (EB) permanent visas foreign students who earn graduate STEM degrees in the United States;

2) Eliminate restrictive per-country limits on EB admissions; and

3) Authorize the re-issuance of EB visas that went unused because of processing delays.

Exempting U.S.-educated STEM graduate students from permanent EB visa limits would help our nation retain talented individuals who are already here.

"Graduates from American schools are among the most sought-after employees in the world," Colby said in written testimony on behalf of IEEE-USA. "This is especially true of students who receive master's and Ph.D. degrees in STEM fields. America has already invested in these students' education. The students speak English, have lived here for several years and, to qualify for an employment-based visa, have a job. It is in America's interest and Americans' interest that we allow them to put their talents and education to work here.

"Remember, it is not a question of whether the talented graduates of our schools will get jobs, only of where these jobs will be located. If we force them to leave, the jobs they create will not be in this country, but rather in whatever nation had the foresight to accept them."

Lofgren's bills give U.S. companies greater access to talented workers from around the world.

"We need to educate more of our own students in these fields, but the United States does not have a monopoly on talent," Colby wrote. "There are hard working, innovative and smart people all over this planet, many of whom would apply their skills here, if given a chance. "Congress needs to give them that chance."

Colby, who lives in Sunnyvale, CA, worked for 36 years as an electrical engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 1997, he started Lee Colby and Associates, a company that consults on circuit designs for some of the world's leading technology companies. He served as chair of the IEEE's Santa Clara Valley Section in 2005.

"Balanced reforms in the nation's legal permanent and temporary admissions programs are particularly important if U.S. employers and U.S. workers are to compete and succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based, technology-driven global economy," Colby wrote. Colby's testimony is available at

  • IEEE-USA's Recent Policy Communications

Read a full listing of IEEE-USA lobbying activities at:

  • IEEE-USA Public Policy Priority Issues - 110th Congress, 2d Session (2008)

The public policy priorities list is available at:

  • Track IEEE-USA's Progress

View the 2007 Annual Report (542MB):

View the Strategic & Operational Plan:

Position statements are available online at:

  • IEEE-USA In The News

For IEEE-USA in the News items, see:

  • Its election Year!!

Make sure that you're a part of the solution. Register to vote:

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, NPR calls for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.


None at this time.

Top of Page | What's New@IEEE | IEEE-USA

What's New @ IEEE-USA's Eye on Washington highlights important federal legislative and regulatory developments that affect U.S. engineers and their careers. In addition to this biweekly newsletter, subscribers receive legislative bulletins and action alerts on IEEE-USA priority issues, including: retirement security, employment benefits, research & development funding, computers and information policy, immigration reform, intellectual property protection and privacy of health/medical information.

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Copyright © 2008, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  Permission granted to copy for personal use or for non-commercial republication with appropriate attribution.

Updated: 24 June 2008

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