GAO: Opportunity Zone program lacks oversight, accountability

Criticism of the federal Opportunity Zone program has been directed at individual examples of questionable tracts for inclusion, the process for selecting tracts in each state, and the merits of some of the development projects underway. For example, some question inclusion of lowlands subject to flooding as sea levels rise with climate change and subsidence, while others raise eyebrows at inclusion of greenfield freeway interchanges or tracts already undergoing gentrification in fast growing cities. Complaints have been raised about projects where the end use (e.g.

GAO issues recommendations on efforts to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination

A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailed findings of a review of federal efforts to prevent sexual harassment at universities that receive grants for STEM research. The GAO reviewed five agencies (the Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NASA, Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Science Foundation) that provide approximately 80 percent of federal STEM research grants and found that four of the five received few complaints under Title IX from individuals at universities.

Innovation on hold for 1-out-of-4 SBIR winners

Federal agencies fail, on average, 24 percent of the time to notify applicant small businesses of award decisions within required deadlines. A small business has a zero percent chance of being able to plan to start an innovation project within six months if they apply to ARPA-E (the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency) or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, both of which never met the deadline. 

More collaboration needed in quantum computing

With at least six federal agencies supporting quantum computing research and at least 10 agencies supporting synthetic biology research, more collaboration is needed to effectively marshal the agencies’ efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO says R&D investment key to future competitiveness of country

The Government Accountability Office identified eight trends having strong effects on both the federal government and society as a whole, and those included in the science and tech section of the report are suggested to be critical to the country’s competitiveness. The trends are part of the larger 2018-2023 strategic plan for the office, whose mission is to ensure that Congress is aware and informed, and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government. The trends analysis outlines the current situation, key uncertainties and implications of each trend. In the area of science and technology, the GAO identified five emerging technologies that may transform society: genome editing; artificial intelligence and automation; quantum information science; brain/augmented reality; and cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Does Defense have $250M IOU to small businesses?

The SBIR program has been a legislated requirement of the Department of Defense, an agency responsible for roughly 40 percent of all federal extramural R&D spending, for more than three decades. One might expect that over that amount of time, the Department of Defense would have developed a system to become compliant with SBIR’s fundamental provision that a minimum threshold of innovation research spending be directed toward small businesses. Yet, a new report from the Government Accountability Office concludes DOD couldn’t say if it was meeting the threshold because, DoD did not submit the required obligations data. The report states “DOD officials told [the GAO] that obtaining obligations data would require requesting information from more than 10 individual program offices that, in turn, would have to request the information from various DOD comptrollers, which would be a major effort.”

SBIR Funding to Reach $1.1 Billion

Funds available for the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program are estimated to top $1.1 billion in FY97 if the President’s budget request is enacted. With FY96 budget appropriations still pending for some agencies, SBIR managers are hesitant to project FY97 set asides for their programs, but in interviews with SSTI staff, the managers provided projections for FY97 based on the President’s budget request.

GAO Report on STTR Program Released

The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report on the implementation of the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Pilot Program. STTR is closely modeled after the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program with one notable exception: in the STTR Program, a small business must collaborate with a nonprofit research institution, such as a university. This collaboration is permitted but not required under SBIR.

The program began in FY1994 as a 3-year pilot and the authorizing legislation required that GAO report on the implementation of the program.

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