Congress temporarily shelved a NASA authorization bill, but it was a busy week between a visit from President Donald Trump, fighting over whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from Russia-related investigations, and confirming Rick Perry and Ben Carson to the Cabinet.
The House scheduled a vote on NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, S. 442, for Monday under suspension of rules, but dropped it off the schedule.
The bill would authorize $19.5 billion in funds for NASA in fiscal 2017, as well as require renewed commitments for Orion Crew Capsule and the Space Launch System. The agency would also need to develop strategic plans for the agency’s IT and cyber operations.
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The delay may have been caused by a few sections of the 146-page document: reducing NASA’s role in the International Space Station, indemnifying commercial launch and re-entry companies, and regarding various space investments, according to SpacePolicyOnline.
The bill is scheduled for a Tuesday vote.
Cherchez Les Femmes
Trump this week signed into law two separate bills aiming to help women in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields in government. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., encourages the National Science Foundation to recruit more women and to help them transition their work from the lab into the commercial world.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., introduced the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers Women Act, which requires NASA to encourage more women to study STEM fields and then pursue careers in aerospace and space exploration. It also directs NASA to create a plan for connecting its astronauts and scientists with female K-12 students.
After the signing, Trump linked the bills with efforts to protect American jobs.
"It's unacceptable that we have so many American women who have these degrees but yet are not being employed in these fields," he said. "Protecting women with STEM degrees, and all Americans with STEM degrees is very important, but it also means you have to crack down on offshoring because the offshoring is a tremendous problem that displaces many of our best American workers and brains.”
NIST Shifts to Auditor
The Republicans on the House Science Committee want the National Institute of Standards and Technology to step out of its customary role of adviser into agency auditor. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework, Assessment and Auditing Act passed the committee, 19-14, over the objection of most Democrats.
“There’s a temptation, I realize, with a lot of government agencies not to want additional responsibility,” Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said. “In this case, they are the most qualified, they have the expertise and, in the end, I think that they will want to help prevent cyberattacks.”
The Federal Cyber Commission
House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats introduced bills expanding the Federal Communications Commission’s cybersecurity duties. The Cybersecurity Responsibility Act tasks FCC with creating rules for protecting communications networks (think the Dyn attack). The Interagency Cybersecurity Cooperation Act would require the agency to review and report on cyber incidents. The Securing IoT Act asks FCC to work with NIST to create cybersecurity standards for the connected devices.
State and Local Cyber
State, local and tribal governments would get additional grant money to set up cyber resiliency plans under legislation introduced Thursday by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Cory Gardner, D-Colo. The State Cyber Resiliency Act would also help states invest in their cyber workforce, according to a press release. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Comstock.
The State and Local Cyber Protection Act of 2017, sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and David Perdue, R-Ga., would require the Homeland Security Department's main cyber operations agency to help state and local officials identify cyber vulnerabilities in their systems upon request.
Heather Kuldell, Mohana Ravindranath and Joseph Marks contributed to this report.