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Vol. 2008, No. 18 (17 December 2008)


House Science Committee Chairman Recognizes Winner of the Lunar Challenge

Reid Unveils Senate Committee Chairs

Former Patent Officials Say Backlog Should Be a Top Priority for the 111th

House Appropriators Fund FY 2009 NSF Request


Obama Transition Web Document Describes Science, Technology, STEM Education Agenda

John Holdren Nominated as Obama's Science Adviser

Steven Chu to be Next Secretary of Energy

First in a Series of FTC Hearings on IP


U.S. Chamber of Commerce

PCAST Says University-Industry Ties Key to Promoting Innovation Ecosystem




IEEE-USA Now Accepting 2010 Government Fellowship Applications

IEEE Now Accepting 2009 WISE Applications


House Science Committee Recognizes Winner of the Lunar Challenge

House Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) today recognized Armadillo Aerospace for winning the first level of NASA's Lunar Lander Challenge.

"By winning the first level of the competition, Armadillo Aerospace has turned innovative thinking into a proven capability that could give rise to entirely new space industries in the future," Hall said. The Challenge is a $2 million partnership prize (NASA, the X-Prize Foundation and Northrop Grumman) which is intended to accelerate the development of commercial technologies leading to lunar landers that can ferry payloads or humans from lunar orbit to the lunar surface. The first level challenge entailed building a rocket that can ascend 50 meters, move horizontally to perform a soft landing on a pad, and then return to the original launch pad within two-and-a-half hours. Armadillo Aerospace, a company located in Hall's hometown of Rockwall, TX, successfully completed the trip on 25 October 2008.

Reid Unveils Senate Committee Chairs

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the lineup of Senate committee chairmen for the 111th Congress. The list will not be final until the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee approve it in January. The lineup is unrelated to committee memberships and Democrat-Republican ratios, both of which have not been finalized. Daniel Inouye (HI) is slated to take over the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Edward Kennedy (MA) will stay on as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Jay Rockefeller (WV) is taking over the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) is taking over the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Mary Landrieu (LA) is assuming leadership over the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Barbara Boxer (CA) remains in charge of the Environment and Public Works Committee; Jeff Bingaman (NM), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Kent Conrad (ND), Budget; Tom Harkin (Iowa), Agriculture; Chris Dodd (CT), Banking; Patrick Leahy (VT), Judiciary; and Daniel Akaka (HI), Veterans Affairs.

Former Patent Officials Say Backlog Should Be a Top Priority for the Obama Administration

11 DEC: Four former high-level PTO officials participating in a Capitol Hill roundtable sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association agreed that reducing the Patent and Trademark Office's growing backlog of applications should be one of the highest priorities for the agency in the Obama administration. Congress has floated an array of proposals for streamlining the office in recent sessions and by intellectual property stakeholders, but Gerald Mossinghoff, one of the panelists -- who ran the office under the late President Ronald Reagan -- believes none of them will be successful until the estimated 1.2 million applications are reduced.

The PTO has maintained there is a 700,000-application backlog, which does not include applications currently being examined. Mossinghoff, who serves as special counsel at Oblon Spivak, called the problem "horrendous" and criticized PTO Director Jon Dudas of setting annual "soft, stair-step goals" rather than projecting where the agency will stand in four and eight years.
"They achieve their goals but don't cut into backlog," he said.

Another panelist Nick Godici, who ran the PTO from 2001 until 2005, argued the backlog is stifling innovation because companies allocate more money and resources to move applications through the system. Innovations cannot be finalized as swiftly as they had before, he said, adding that the PTO is "becoming sand in the gears of this progress."

Third panelist Bruce Lehman, who had the PTO's top spot for much of the Clinton administration, said the PTO currently measures success by reducing how many patents win approval. The allowance rate, he said, is the lowest it has been in many years but that inherently drives up patent pendency and the amount of time examiners work on applications. While some believe that a higher allowance rate equates to letting bad patents pass, Lehman argued there has not been a difference in the rate of judicial patent approvals since a time when the allowance rate was higher. "That's the ultimate determinant of quality."

A spokeswoman for the PTO said the allowance rate is "a number we report, but there is no goal [or] target allowance rate nor do we use that rate as a measure or indication of quality." One of the PTO's key quality measurements is the percentage of reviewed applications that did not have any errors. That number improved from 94.7 percent in fiscal 2004 to 96.3 percent in fiscal 2008.

Mossinghoff, who recently co-authored a report for the Obama transition team on how to overhaul the PTO, recommended making the office a government corporation like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The National Academy of Public Administration made a similar proposal in 2005, but lawmakers toyed with the idea of incorporating the agency years before that. In 1997, Congressman Howard Coble (R-N.C.) introduced legislation but the measure was included in a larger bill that was defeated. The House did not include that proposal in patent legislation that won House passage in September 2007, and stalled in the Senate this year. Download an MP3 of the roundtable here:

House Appropriators Fund FY 2009 NSF Request

The House Appropriations Committee released the committee report accompanying its version of the FY 2009 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. House Report 110-919 (accompanying H.R. 7322) provides the committee's recommendations for, among other programs, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed S. 3182 , its version of this legislation in June 2008. Both the House and Senate committees provided the full NSF request, but differ in their funding recommendations for Research and Related Activities, and Education and Human Resources. Congress will reconcile these bills, and make them a part of the omnibus bill that will be presented to President-Elect Obama after his inauguration.


Obama Transition Web Document Describes Science, Technology, STEM Education Agenda

Lately, we have been talking about the President-Elect's plans for his new administration. Of interest to all of us here at IEEE-USA is of course Obama's expected approach to science, technology, and STEM education programs. In case you missed it, a comprehensive outline of all of Obama's plans can be found at, the website of the Office of the President-Elect.

"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America."

--Barack Obama Presidential Announcement Speech in Springfield, IL, February 10 ,2007

The website lists 23 major agenda items, including technology, education, energy and the environment. The technology section begins with Obama's February 2007 presidential announcement speech, then provides an overview of the Obama-Biden Plan.

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America's competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation's most pressing problems -- including improving clean energy, healthcare costs, and public safety."

Under the item "technology," the Obama-Biden plan contains seven major objectives. The first three are: "Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets," "Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy," and "Deploy a Modern Communications Infrastructure."

Of particular significance to IEEE-USA is the fourth objective, "Improve America's Competitiveness," which has nine specific goals. See the website for complete text.

1. Promote American Businesses Abroad
2. Invest in the Sciences
3. Invest in University-Based Research
4. Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent
5. Ensure Competitive Markets
6. Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad
7. Protect American Intellectual Property at Home
8.Reform the Patent System
9. Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House

Also of note is the fifth objective entitled "Prepare All our Children for the 21st Century Economy." That objective contains an additional five goals, including, "Make Math and Science Education a National Priority," and "Pinpoint College Aid for Math and Science Students." In addition to the 23 major agenda items is a section entitled "Additional Issues." It includes the following under the heading "science" and "transportation."

John Holdren Nominated as Obama's Science Adviser

President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be his science adviser. As a top adviser to the Obama campaign and international expert on energy and climate, Holdren would bolster Obama's team in those areas. Both are crowded portfolios. Obama has already created a new position to coordinate energy issues in the White House staffed by Carole Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominated a Nobel-prize winning physicist, Steve Chu, to head the Department of Energy. That could complicate how the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Holdren will run, will manage energy and environmental policy.  "OSTP will have to be redefined in relation to these other centers of formulating policy," says current White House science adviser Jack Marburger.

Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006. He is the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is also Professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy in Harvard's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center.

Trained in engineering and plasma physics at MIT and Stanford, Dr. Holdren co-founded in 1973 and co-led for 23 years the interdisciplinary graduate program in energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley. His work has focused on causes and consequences of global environmental change, options and choices in energy technology and policy, ways to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons and materials, and the interaction of content and process in science and technology policy.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and Past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. From 1993 through 2004 he served as Chair of the NAS Committee on International Security and Arms Control, leading it over the course of multi-year studies on management of excess weapon plutonium, the future of US nuclear weapons policy, technical issues related to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and monitoring and verification of nuclear warheads and materials. He was a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) from 1994 to 2001 and, in this capacity, chaired PCAST studies on nuclear materials protection, federal energy R&D strategy for the challenges of the 21st century, and international cooperation on energy-technology innovation. In December 1995 he delivered the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which he served as Chair of the Executive Committee from 1987 to 1997. From 2002 until the present he has been Co-Chair of the foundation-funded, bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy. A copy of Dr. Holdren’s bio appears below. You might also be interested in reading about his AAAS presidential address from February 2007 at:

Steven Chu to be Next Secretary of Energy

President-Elect Barack Obama announced his nomination of Steven Chu, current director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next Secretary of Energy. Obama said, "Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has been
working at the cutting edge of our nation's effort to develop new and cleaner forms of energy. He blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Steven is uniquely suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission. The scientists at our national labs will have a distinguished peer at the helm. His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action."

First in a Series of FTC Hearings on IP

5 DEC: The Federal Trade Commission held the first in a series of public hearings that will explore the evolving market for intellectual property (IP). The hearings will examine changes in intellectual property law, patent-related business models, and new learning regarding the operation of the IP marketplace since the FTC issued its October 2003 report, To Promote Innovation: The Proper Balance of Competition and Patent Law and Policy. All of presentations from the first hearing can be found at: No audience questions were permitted during this panel.


Government Accountability Office

Auto Industry: A Framework for Considering Federal Financial Assistance GAO-09-247T, December 5, 2008
Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)

Confirmation of Political Appointees: Eliciting Nominees' Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and across Government GAO-09-194, November 17, 2008 Summary (HTML)

Health Information Technology: More Detailed Plans Needed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Redesigned BioSense Program GAO-09-100, November 20, 2008 Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Recommendations for Consideration by the Incoming Administration Regarding The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

PCAST Says University-Industry Ties Key to Promoting Innovation Ecosystem

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report that points to strengthening ties between universities and industry as the key to promoting an "innovation ecosystem" in the U.S. The report, University-Private Sector Research Partnerships in the Innovation Ecosystem, calls for continued Federal government support of basic research while long-term economic and regulatory changes are made to help tap into increasing research capacity in university labs. Among the recommendations called for: updating and enhancing the R&D tax credit; developing guidance on intellectual property and technology-transfer practices; evaluating the impact and scalability of open innovation models; and, developing tools and metrics to guide policies and incentive structures. The Council submitted its report to the current administration and noted that a document is being prepared for the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama.


If you like to keep up with what's 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 supports GrantsNet Express.  Each week, GrantsNet provides 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 President's 2002 Fiscal Year Management Agenda established as a governmental grants resource. is a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs, and provides access to approximately $400 billion in annual awards. Most agencies, such as the DOE's Office of Science, use only to list all funding opportunities. Other funding opportunities of interest include the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and NASA.

National Science Foundation

For information on NSF Engineering Active Funding Opportunities, visit:


IEEE-USA Now Accepting Government Fellowship Applications

Each year, IEEE-USA sponsors three qualified IEEE members to serve as government fellows: one Engineering & Diplomacy Fellow and two Congressional fellows.  The fellows spend a year in Washington, serving as advisers to the U.S. Congress or key U.S. Department of State decision-makers.  IEEE-USA's Government Fellowships link engineers with government, providing a mechanism for IEEE-USA members to learn firsthand about the public policy process through personal involvement.

The congressional fellowship consists of an appointment to the personal staff of a U.S. Senator or Congressman, or to the professional staff of a Congressional Committee. The Fellow along with the Congressional sponsor and IEEE-USA, negotiates a starting date, although IEEE-USA recommends that Fellowship terms run from January 1st to December 31st. For an application Kit for the 2010 Congressional Fellowship Program, visit:

The State Department fellowship begins in January of each year and offers an opportunity for an engineer to provide technical expertise to the State Department, and help raise awareness of the value of engineering input while learning about and contributing to the foreign policy process. For an application Kit for the 2010 Engineering & Diplomacy (State Department) Fellowship Program, visit:

Fellows must be U.S. citizens.The postmark application deadline for 2010 Fellowships is 13 March 2009. For more information, visit:

IEEE Now Accepting 2009 WISE Applications

Applications for the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program are sought from outstanding engineering students with a keen interest in public policy and evidence of leadership skills. The Summer 2009 WISE Program is scheduled from 8 June - 7 August 2009. To qualify for consideration, applicants must be juniors, seniors, or entering their final year of undergraduate studies in engineering (or computer science). WISE will also accept applications from engineering grads who are beginning Masters level study in a technology policy-related degree. Interns must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States of America.

WISE applicants should apply directly to their desired sponsor using the contact information provided. ANS, ASCE, ASME, IEEE and SAE will sponsor only individuals who are members of their societies at the time of application. Minority students are encouraged to apply. Applicants are required to fill out an application form, write two brief (one page) essays in response to questions, arrange for two faculty references, and forward an official transcript. Download the 2009 WISE program application at:

2008 WISE students at the Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill

Recent Policy Communications:

Public Policy Priority Issues - 110th Congress, 2d Session (2008):

Position Statements: - IEEE-USA position statements identify important technical and/or engineering career-related aspects of specific public policy issues deemed to be of concern or affecting IEEE's U.S. members.  They make specific public policy recommendations and provide recommended approaches for consideration by the U.S. Congress, Executive Branch officials, the Judiciary, representatives of State and Local Government, and other interested groups and individuals, including IEEE members. 

Check out the new positions statements approved in November 2008 [New!] . Many more are Under Review by committees.

IEEE-USA In The News:

Former IEEE-USA Government Fellows Available to Speak to Sections

Earlier this year, former 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 e. wissolik @ ieee. org. For more information on the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Program, please visit:

Next up? A January 20th IEEE Philadelphia Section dinner presentation by Former IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow Tom Fagan. Tom will discuss the IEEE-USA Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows Program, the program's history to date, and his personal reflections on the many activities in which he was involved during his tenure on Capitol Hill. During his fellowship, Tom served as a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittees on General Procurement, Arms Control, and Military Construction. In addition, Tom will describe a number of initiatives that were started during his term that have now been recently implemented under the rubric of Acquisition Reform and Procurement Reform. Tom will discuss these changes and why they are good for the Defense Department, Defense Contractors, the United States, and the U.S. Taxpayer.

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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: 12 September 2008

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