Legislative Update


White House Introduces Initiatives to Attract STEM Workforce

On January 21, the White House announced new initiatives to attract science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals to the United States. These policies allow STEM experts to stay in the U.S. after university education, enter the U.S. as workers or researchers, or apply for permanent residence and citizenship. According to the press release, “Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort.”

  • The STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which lets students on F-1 visas earning bachelors, masters, and doctorates in certain STEM fields remain in the U.S. to work for up to 36 months after earning their degrees, will expand to include 22 new fields of study, including include Climate Science, Earth Systems Science, Environmental Geosciences, GeoBiology, Geography and Environmental Studies, and Data Science.
  • The new Early Career STEM Research Initiative will facilitate nonimmigrant exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training, or educational exchange visitor programs.
  • An extension for undergraduate and graduate STEM students on the J-1 visa will allow additional academic training for up to 36 months.
  • Reduction of barriers for visa seekers to ease hiring for universities and companies.


Hearing Held by the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee 

On January 12, 2022, the House Water Resources and Environment subcommittee met to discuss “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2022: Administration Priorities” 

Michael L. Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works delivered testimony which discussed the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act or WIFIA, as provided for in the 2021 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.

Per his testimony, "This proposed rule would implement a new federal credit program to support investment in non-federal dam safety projects through credit assistance to safety projects to maintain, upgrade, and repair non-federal dams. The FY2021 Appropriations Act included $12 million for a credit subsidy, and $2.2 million for program administration and a loan volume limit of $950 million. The appropriations limited WIFIA funds to safety projects to maintain, upgrade, and repair dams. This new federal credit program will provide another way for non-federal dam owners and managers to enhance the safety of their dams and to improve the durability of those dams while also addressing water supply, energy, and environmental needs in a changing climate," he stated.

In addition Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered testimony in which he discussed R&D initiatives. "I feel strongly that in order to achieve our vision, we will need to continue to invest in on our Research and Development (R&D) program. We are working to further inform our R&D initiatives and strengthen our partnerships with academic institutions to benefit from the enormous capacity of our Nation’s scientists, so we will know how best to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Investments in research and development help us find solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges like those posed by extreme rainfall events and the impacts due to severe floods and coastal storms," he said.

A recording of the hearing and testimonies is HERE.

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