a. Public Service Announcement. On April 22, 2021, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) launched a bipartisan public service announcement (PSA) encouraging veterans and their families to get vaccinated. Tester and Moran teamed up with committee members and Veterans Service Organizations — Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA), Military Veterans Advocacy, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), as well as Veterans and Military Families for Progress (VMFP) — to highlight the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in a bipartisan effort to increase vaccine confidence among veterans—especially those in rural areas—and help communities recover from the pandemic as quickly as possible. Click here to watch the Senators’ PSA.
b. Foreign Influence. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (SHELP) Committee met April 22 to discuss how to protect US biomedical research from “undue foreign influence.” Policymakers have long been concerned that other countries, particularly China, are stealing intellectual property resulting from biomedical research conducted in the United States. They point to the relatively large number of foreign graduate students involved in academic research programs. Over the past year, there have been charges of hacking attempts from North Korea to gain access to information concerning the COVID-19 vaccines.
c. Veterans’ toxic exposures. So far, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to expand coverage of veterans’ health conditions that appear to have been caused by toxic exposures. In a Congress with deep, deep political divides, this appears to be the single most bipartisan issue on both sides of the Hill.
d. Endless Frontier Act (EFA) Update: Another important development in the R&D arena is the reintroduction (with bipartisan support) of the Schumer/Young Endless Frontier Act. The legislation would add a Technology and Innovation Directorate to NSF and authorize $100 billion for the directorate over five years. The bill would also authorize $10 billion for regional technology hubs. The new bill reflects the recommendations of key science & technology leaders.