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A Capitol View: September 2019

Gabriella Armonda, Aarzu Maknojia, and Richa Patel, Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Client Spotlight: Navatek Secures $8 Million US Navy Contract

by: Gabriella Armonda

Navatek, a hydrodynamic engineering firm, secured a competitive $8 million contract from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research to design safer hulls and a new propulsion system for the Navy’s small, high speed boats. The technological advancements from this research will aid the Navy’s small craft programs.

The contract will allow Navatek’s research team to create a new hull that will address the high number of neck and back injuries suffered by those operating small boats in harsh waters. Navatek plans to use artificial intelligence technologies to prevent these dangerous boat collisions. The contract will allow the company to add 28 employees to its Portland staff and continue through 2022.

Navatek is continuing its 15 yearlong working relationship with the University of Maine to print boat molds and starting a new partnership with Front Street Shipyard, a boat builder in Belfast, to create and test prototypes. At an event in August, Senator Susan Collins met with Navatek’s leadership and employees and said, “Navatek’s engineering and research strength combined with Front Street’s composites experience will benefit all of the Navy’s small-craft programs.” Navatek is also creating innovations in high speed planning crafts, amphibious vehicle technology, inflatable structure technology, wave energy conversion, and utility-scale energy storage.

Navatek has successfully worked to develop sophisticated control systems and has been a well-established company since its founding in 1979. They specialize in designing, building, and testing at sea electro mechanical systems. The company is headquartered in Honolulu Hawaii, with offices in Portland, Maine; Orono, Maine; South Kingston, Rhode Island; and Washington, DC.

 

Updates from Washington

Budget Deal Will Sustain Higher Spending Levels Until Sequestration Expiration

by: Aarzu Maknojia

At the end of July, President Trump signed a two-year, $2.7 trillion budget agreement that wards off the $126 billion in automatic spending cuts and suspends the debt ceiling through July 2021. This translates to sustained higher spending across all discretionary and defense budgets through the FY 2021 budget.

In May, President Trump agreed to meet with four top party leaders: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Both parties agreed that avoiding the impending cuts to domestic spending and defense spending is critical but disagreed on the specifics.

In 2011, the Budget Control Act (BCA) was passed after debates between Democrats who wanted to increase the debt ceiling and Republicans who wanted to cut spending. The BCA increased the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion. This was in exchange for establishing binding limits on annual discretionary spending bills and establishing a Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (the Supercommittee), which would reduce deficits by another $1.2 trillion through 2021. If the Supercommittee failed to reach an agreement, there would be automatic, across-the-board reductions in the annual caps on discretionary appropriations as well as some entitlement programs.

Every year since 2013, Congress has passed some kind of budget deal or sequestration relief in order to avoid these massive and potentially debilitating cuts. This two-year budget deal will increase budget caps through the expiration of the BCA.

While this is a good first step in avoiding a government shutdown, much of the Appropriations process is still left to complete. The Senate Appropriations Committee has 12 spending bills to mark up and bring to full Senate. After which, a Conference of the House and Senate will need to resolve discrepancies and put it on the President’s desk. A number of controversial issues are still up for discussion, potentially delaying the process. 

 

Senate in the Midst of Appropriations as End of Fiscal Year Looms

by: Aarzu Maknojia

On September 9, Senators returned from oversees trips and state visits to a busy calendar on Capitol Hill reviewing each of the twelve appropriations bills.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate spending levels in a party line vote. Notably, the Senate set the spending limit at $693 billion for defense, $187.7 billion for Labor, HHS, Education, and $48.9 billion for Energy and Water. The Democrats expressed concerns that funding for Labor, HHS, and Education has only increased by 1% over the FY19 amount.

While during the Senate recess, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AK) had assured the public that the Senate would get to work reviewing the appropriations bills quickly, a few snags have already delayed the process.

During the budget deal, there was a handshake agreement to avoid “poison pills,” provisions in bills that would almost guarantee their failure. However, now there is a disagreement about what constitutes a poison pill. The government runs out of money on September 30 and there is still a lot of work to be done. After the entire Appropriations Committee reviews and approves each spending bill, the entire Senate must review, have the opportunity to amend, and pass each bill. Then, the House and Senate Committee members will need to sort out the differences in each of their respective versions of the bill. Finally, the President must sign the bills into law.

As it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Congress will be able to complete the process in the next thirteen days, the likelihood of a Continuing Resolution (CR) or “stopgap” is growing. The House has prepared what it believes to be a clean bill. It contains some potentially controversial language which would bar Trump from delaying military assistance to Ukraine and would freeze the President’s trade relief payments to farmers.

It is likely that there will be a CR but the Republican-controlled Senate will certainly want to make some changes to the House’s version of the bill before they pass it and then both Chambers will need to agree.

 

Avoiding a Government Shutdown

by: Richa Patel

Trump signing the two-year budget agreement in August was a promising sign towards avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The budget deal does not fund federal agencies, though, and the House and Senate must still pass appropriations bills for FY 2020. The Senate Appropriations Committee is currently in the middle of an intense markup process.

The budget deal was the first step, but there may still be a possibility of a government shutdown later this year. For one, compromises will be needed on spending measures to pass both chambers.

The longest government shutdown in history occurred last December after President Trump demanded the funds to build a border wall; Trump has a budget request for $8.6 billion for a border wall for FY 2020, which may lead to another shutdown over the same campaign promise.

Despite House language in their bills that goes against the President’s agenda, including overturning a block on federal funding for abortion, ‘poison pills’ should hopefully be avoided as the bipartisan budget deal came with a handshake agreement to avoid such additions. However, the definition of what constitutes a ‘poison pill’ is still up for debate between the parties.

With less than two weeks before the new fiscal year begins, Congress is working under a tight time frame. The passage of all 12 bills within this time frame is unrealistic, and, in such a case, Congress may need to extend current funding levels for some departments through Continuing Resolutions. If all goes well, compromise will reign and the new fiscal year will not begin with yet another shutdown. 

 

Updates from SMI Staff

Dr. David Visi Joins SMI

by: Richa Patel

Dr. David Visi joined SMI’s life sciences practice this April. Dr. Visi has held policy and technical positions at the Department of Defense, Congress and the NGO community.

Dr. Visi says, “I am excited to be joining SMI’s Life Science team. My focus is to help clients navigate the executive and legislative branch in order to do what they do best – develop new medicines and life-saving technologies to improve patient health.”

Dr. Visi comes from the Department of Defense Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Threat Reduction and Arms Control (TRAC) where he served as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. While there, Dr. Visi provided oversight and program governance on the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP), which focused on enhancing partner states’ biosecurity, biosafety and biosurveillance capacity.

Prior to the DoD, Dr. Visi worked on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Antibiotic Resistance Project on research and policies to advance antibacterial discovery and development. He has also served as a policy adviser on health and agriculture for Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter.

Dr. Visi has a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry from the University of North Texas.

 

Steve Chalk Joins SMI

by: Aarzu Maknojia

SMI is excited to welcome Steve Chalk as he joins the firm as a Vice President.

In his 29 years at the Department of Energy (DOE), he held numerous senior executive posts directing energy and policy including roles as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Renewable Power, DAS for Energy Efficient, DAS for Sustainable Transportation, DAS for Renewable Energy, and DAS for Operations.

As Chief Operating Officer in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, he directed the largest one-time clean energy investment in history under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As Acting Assistant Secretary, he led the Presidential transitions from President Bush to Obama and Obama to Trump for the DOE’s $2 billion annual investment in efficiency and renewable technologies. Earlier in his DOE career, Mr. Chalk directed R&D programs in solar energy, hydrogen and fuel cells, building energy efficiency, and tritium production research.

For his executive leadership, Mr. Chalk received three Presidential Rank Awards. For his work in renewable energy, he was awarded the Science and Environment medal by the Partnership for Public Service.

Prior to working at the DOE, Mr. Chalk designed, manufactured and tested new rocket motors, propellants, and explosives for the Navy. Mr. Chalk holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the George Washington University.

 

SMI in Attendance at Space and Missile Defense Symposium

by: Aarzu Maknojia

In August, Ken Wetzel, Senior Vice President and Jeremy Steslicki, Vice President attended the Space and Missile Defense Symposium (SMDS) in order to expand their knowledge base, better understand potential growth in the field of Space and Missile Technology, and to meet with key decision makers.

The SMDS is the leading educational, professional development, and networking event in the space and missile defense community. It is widely attended by leaders and professionals from the United States and allies around the world.

As much of the SMDS was Classified, publicly available information is limited.

A number of top-level officials made strong statements regarding the needs of the military as they relate to space and missile defense.

Lieutenant General James Dicking spoke generally about the progress that the Army has made in its space capabilities. He highlighted the Air and Missile Defense vision for 2028 which is to prevent and defeat adversary air and missile attacks through a combination of deterrence, active and passive defense, and support for attack operations.

General Terence J.O’Shaughnessy spoke about the importance of homeland defense being the United States’ primary priority. He highlighted the 2018 National Defense Strategy which was that “we cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s weapons or equipment.”

Major General Robert Harter highlighted the priorities of the Army and identified key problem sets including support area readiness and security, supply chain vulnerability, and cyber protection.

Lieutenant General Neil Thurgood emphasized the increase in near peer adversaries’ military spending and highlighted the work that the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office is doing in order to rapidly and efficiently produce critical enabling technologies.

SMI’s staff will continue engaging with the leading thinkers in this field in order to better support our clients with the most current and cutting-edge information. 

 

SMI Associates Visit Military Health Symposium

by: Richa Patel

In August, SMI Associates David Visi and Travis Taylor went to the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS) in Kissimmee, Florida. The MHSRS is a Department of Defense meeting that focuses on the unique medical needs of the warfighter.

The MHSRS provides a setting for the collaboration and information exchange between military providers with deployment experience, research and academic scientists, international partners and industry on research health care initiatives. Topic areas include Combat Casualty Care, Military Operational Medicine, Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine, Medical Stimulation and Information Sciences, Military Infectious Diseases, and Radiation Health Effects.

Scientists presented their work at two plenary sessions, more than 50 breakout sessions, and through over 130 posters on research topics that included influenza vaccine effectiveness and cognitive rehabilitation of the warfighter.

“This year, the real focus is on research for readiness” said Real Admiral Darin Via, deputy chief of medical operations at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery to Regena Kowitz of Navy Medicine West, “That’s looking at how we support the warfighter, from mental health conditions and infectious disease, to blood support, advanced surgical techniques and increasing survivability on the battlefield.”

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