By Kushi Sellahennedige, 2017-2018 ECLIPSE Intern
This year I was selected as an Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE) intern after being a proud ASME member for eight years. The ECLIPSE program is for early career engineers to participate in the growth of ASME by participating in highly visible leadership and volunteer roles. During our orientation which was held in Washington DC, we met with our fellow interns (current and future) and prepared for our upcoming congressional visits (associated with the Symposium event mentioned below) to have a seat at the table with policy decision makers. This year, the congressional visits had a great deal of impact on me (as a fellow engineer and ECLIPSE intern) since President Trump had just recently proposed his ‘skinny’ budget. His proposal consisted of cutting research funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, all of which have a strong impact on the future of science and engineering.
Before going on my congressional visits, I participated in the 14th annual Multisociety Engineering Public Policy Symposium, which was a great eye opener for me. Attendees came from various backgrounds from 44 engineering societies, all with the shared goal of supporting and maintaining the future of engineering and science. The bipartisan speakers told us stories about the impact of science and engineering on their lives and how both areas are important for maintaining the growth of the country and future generation. Attendees expressed concerned about the budget cuts and the impact that they might have on U.S. competitiveness. I was motivated by their passionate speeches before I headed to my congressional visits that afternoon.
During my congressional visits, I was accompanied by fellow ASME members and met with the staff representatives for Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). During my meet and greet with Senator Warren, I spoke briefly with her about the value of engineering where she shared a story from her personal life that exemplified the reason engineering is such an important field for the future generation.
Our goal was to communicate the importance of federal research funding in engineering and manufacturing as a bipartisan issue, and to maintain our U.S. competitiveness globally. We specifically mentioned Manufacturing USA, which is the national network of manufacturing innovation Institutes. Manufacturing USA leverages the strengths of a particular region and coalesces companies, universities, community colleges, and the government to co-invest in developing world-leading manufacturing technologies. I spoke from my perspective as an early career engineer, while my colleagues gave an industry perspective related to corporations working with the community to train the local workforce.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for me. It never crossed my mind that one day I would have the opportunity to directly go to Capitol Hill and interact with Members and their staff and represent ASME and fellow engineers in the process. However, Congressional visits are just a first step in influencing the policy making process; it is important to stay engaged and develop an ongoing relationship with your Members of Congress by going to their town hall meetings, inviting them to your companies or academic institutions to learn about current events and tasks and being an advocate for engineering education through ongoing communications with their offices. I look forward to my continued interactions with ASME Government Relations and my Congressional representatives as I continue this journey as an ECLIPSE intern.
For more information about the Trump Administration’s skinny budget mentioned above, go to: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf
On May 23, the full FY18 budget request was released, and is now available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget
The federal science and engineering agencies also have links to their budgets on their respective web sites, i.e. https://nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2018/index.jsp
For the latest engineering public policy news, check the ASME Public Policy Education Center (ppec.asme.org) regularly, and subscribe to ASME Capitol Update, the weekly policy newsletter for ASME members, at: https://www.asme.org/about-asme/get-involved/advocacy-government-relations/policy-publications/capitol-update/standards-update-notifications
To identify your own Members of Congress, go to: http://capwiz.com/asme/dbq/officials/
Any questions related to ASME Government Relations can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org