Nuclear Notebook: Russian Nuclear Weapons, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans M. Kristensen, Senior Research Associate and Project Manager Matt Korda, and Research Associate Eliana Reynolds.

This issue’s column examines Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which includes a stockpile of approximately 4,489 warheads. Of these, some 1,674 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and at heavy bomber bases, while an approximate additional 999 strategic warheads, along with 1,816 nonstrategic warheads, are held in reserve. The Russian arsenal continues its broad modernization intended to replace most Soviet-era weapons by the late-2020s.

Read the full “Russian Nuclear Weapons, 2023” Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, or download a PDF using the button on the left side of this page. The complete archive of FAS Nuclear Notebooks can be found here.

Wildland Fire Policy Recommendations

Fire is a natural and normal ecological process, but today’s fires have grown in intensity and cost, causing more destruction to people and property. A changing climate and our outdated policy responses are amplifying these negative effects.

The federal government has many responsibilities for wildland fire management in the United States. Federal entities manage public lands where prescribed burns and wildfires occur, support wildfire response, and conduct research into fire’s impacts. Recognizing that this work will only grow, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorized the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission to develop and deliver a comprehensive set of new policy recommendations to Congress focused on how to “better prevent, manage, suppress, and recover from wildfires.”

About the Wildland Fire Policy Accelerator

In response to the Commission’s call for input, the Federation of American Scientists launched a Wildland Fire Policy Accelerator to source and develop actionable policy ideas aimed at improving how we live with fire. This effort is in partnership with COMPASS, the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), and Conservation X Labs, who bring deep expertise in the accelerator topics and connections to interested communities.

Participants come from academia, the private sector, nonprofits, and national labs, and bring expertise across fire ecology, forestry, modeling, climate change, fire intelligence, cultural burning, and more. The Accelerator followed the approach of the FAS Day One Project to provide structured training, support, and policy expert feedback over several months to help participants refine their policy ideas. In the Accelerator’s second phase, a subset of these contributors will publish full memos on FAS’s website with more information about their policy recommendations.

Table of Contents

Landscapes and Communities

Create Federal Indemnity Fund to cover accidental damages from cultural and prescribed fire

Chris Adlam, PhD, Oregon State University

For millennia, the forests of the West were fundamentally shaped by Tribal use of fire, with different Tribes employing unique cultural fire traditions. Unfortunately, Indigenous Cultural Fire Practitioners are now dissuaded from treating both private and public forests with cultural burns because they fear being held liable for the cost of damages in the rare cases in which cultural fires accidentally escape their planned bounds. To allow Cultural Fire Practitioners to work to restore our forests, the federal government must protect them from being held personally liable for the risks of the public service that they are performing. Similar programs are being proposed for prescribed fire; cultural burning should be equally protected and benefited by any Fund that is created.

Congress should establish and fund a Federal Cultural and Prescribed Burning Indemnity Fund to encourage wildfire prevention initiatives and to protect both fire practitioners and landowners from losses incurred from responsibly conducted cultural or prescribed burns that spread beyond their intended range.

Prescribed and cultural burning, in tandem with other treatments, are needed to reduce fuel loads and restore the health of forests that are relied upon for recreation, industry, and drinking water. Fuel treatment is also essential to reducing the cost of catastrophic wildfires, which cost the United States an estimated $14.5 billion dollars in damages and emergency response efforts from 2021 to 2022.

Across the country, prescribed burns have empirically been overwhelmingly safe. According to Chief Randy Moore of the US Forest Service, over 99.84% of prescribed fires on USFS land occur as planned. In a separate review of prescribed burns in the Southern Great Plains, researchers found similar findings that less than 1% of prescribed burns escape. Similar studies have not been conducted to analyze the empirical safety cultural burns, but surveys of relevant research did not uncover an example of an escaped cultural burn. However, the fact that risk cannot be completely eliminated weighs on practitioners and decision-makers, restricting their use of controlled burning. In the event that damages result from a burn, the Fund would seek to minimize the disruption caused by these damages by ensuring that all affected parties would be quickly and fully compensated. By creating this funding structure, landowners would no longer be dependent on individual acts of Congress to receive compensation, as victims of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire did.

In the past year, states have begun to create similar funds after observing the need to support fire practitioners. California recently created the Prescribed Fire Claims Fund and funded it with $20 million. However, a federal fund is needed to provide coverage on a larger scale, with a scope and financial scale that is not possible for individual states.


To ensure that Cultural Fire Practitioners across the nation are covered, Congress should consider the following actions: 

We recommend that Congress consider FEMA as the primary administrator of the Fund because it administers Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants, which are part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program, and because of its post-fire disaster assistance mission. The USDA Forest Service or the Department of the Interior are other potential administrators of the Fund. To encourage state investment, the Fund could require matching funds from states after a certain amount. 

The Fund could be paired with the development of regionally specific definitions of ‘Cultural Fire Practitioner.’ These definitions of Cultural Fire Practitioners should be developed in processes led by Tribal Nations and organizations. Care should also be taken to ensure that Cultural Fire Practitioners can access the Fund without being subject to undue requirements while burning – requirements that detract from their cultural traditions or add an unmanageable regulatory burden to their work.

To further protect Cultural Fire Practitioners as they carry out vital public services, Congress could also provide Cultural Fire Practitioners with coverage under the Federal Torts Claims Act, similarly to how Tribal contractors, employees, and volunteers are classified as federal employees for the purpose of FTCA coverage. In the past, Tribal medical or law enforcement personnel have received coverage after taking over programs previously administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As policy reforms allow Tribal Cultural Fire Practitioners to practice cultural burns with less interference from the BIA, FTCA coverage would become increasingly beneficial and necessary.

By creating this Fund, Congress would support fire practitioners working on the frontlines of the crisis and the communities most threatened by fire.

Directly fund Tribes to create and implement land stewardship initiatives

Nina Fontana, PhD, University of California, Davis

Across the United States, Tribal nations and organizations have the knowledge and will to lead cultural and prescribed burns. Unfortunately, they are consistently limited by (a) insufficient funds, and (b) burdensome regulatory requirements that often prove overly burdensome to comply with. These two issues are connected. Tribal practitioners are often unable to obtain federal grants for land stewardship purposes because they do not have the capacity to find and apply for them, to compete with state agencies and organizations in the application process, and to comply with the grant requirements, which can conflict with Cultural Fire traditions in fundamental ways.

Congress should appropriate discretionary funds directly to Tribal nations and Tribally-led organizations for fire hazard reduction in order to decrease the administrative capacity needed for Tribes to compete for grants. The funds will be dispersed by regional Tribal liaisons, who will gather and utilize input from local actors to direct grants.

Tribal governments and organizations require direct grant funding to exercise their sovereignty in a rightfully unencumbered manner. When Tribal governments and organizations are provided with adequate funding and are able to direct its usage, Cultural Fire Practitioners (CFPs) are able to design cultural fire projects that fit their unique traditions and local plant communities contained within their lands. In addition, by giving Tribes greater discretion over funds, the federal government would a) decrease the regulatory burden on Tribes, and b) provide greater recognition of cultural burning as a uniquely valuable form of land restoration and place-based knowledge, instead of categorizing the practice as an often-overlooked subset of prescribed burning.

Most importantly, direct funding would allow Tribal governments and organizations to shift crucial capacity away from time-intensive administrative tasks and towards stewarding their ancestral lands. Tribes could expand their fire practitioner workforce, treat larger areas of land, and better conserve important natural and cultural resources.


We recommend that Congress: 

By drawing upon the expertise of communities and Cultural Fire Practitioners, the Tribal liaisons would be able to target funds to groups and landscapes that have the greatest need, ensuring that federal resources are utilized in an effective manner each year.

It is time for the federal government to recognize the deep expertise of Tribes in fire management. By giving Tribes greater influence in determining the use of funds for preventative and mitigative activities, Congress would bring funding structures in line with the rightful sovereignty of Tribes, and it would protect communities and natural resources across the country by clearing the path for more beneficial fire.

Create a categorical exclusion in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for Cultural Burning

Nina Fontana, PhD, University of California, Davis; Chris Adlam, PhD, Oregon State University

One of the original stated purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 is “to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man.” Cultural and prescribed burning directly contribute to this goal. Unfortunately, current interpretations of NEPA require Cultural Fire Practitioners (CFPs) to undertake onerous Environmental Impact Statements before burns on federal or Tribal trust lands, which often prevent Tribes from even attempting to burn in these locations. Because Tribal lands are held in trust by the federal government, CFPs must also comply with NEPA regulations that were designed to govern federal actions. This arrangement limits Tribal sovereignty and imposes an undue burden.

To bring the implementation of NEPA in line with its purpose, NEPA should recognize cultural burning as part of the background condition of our natural environment here in the United States. Tribes have utilized these cultural burning practices for centuries, even millenia, to manage the fire-prone landscapes within the United States, including taking measures to protect ancient wildland urban interfaces in the Southwest. Through this long history, cultural burning has fundamentally influenced what we consider to be our human environment today. For that reason, cultural burning should be classified as a categorical exclusion.

Current guidelines on implementing NEPA include a categorical exclusion for “Prescribed burning to reduce natural fuel build-up and improve plant vigor,” as long as the project does not require the use of herbicides or over 1 mile of low standard road construction (DOE NEPA Guidelines). Additionally, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act categorically excluded “establishing and maintaining linear fuel breaks” for the purpose of wildfire risk mitigation under specific circumstances. 

The following recommendations represent several pathways for Congress to encourage cultural burning. By implementing one or all of these measures, Congress would begin the process of recognizing burning as a sovereign right for Tribes (similar to hunting and plant gathering) and therefore exempt from permitting. 


To these ends, Congress should consider: 

By carrying out these recommendations, Congress would bring the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act in line with its original purpose and create positive impacts on the ground for communities across the nation.

Legally define “Cultural Fire Practitioner” and “Cultural Fire” to encourage Cultural Burning

Raymond Gutteriez, Member of Wuksachi Band of Mono Indians

Cultural Fire Practitioners (CFP) have the knowledge, experience, and willingness to help lead the restoration of more sustainable fire regimes to their ancestral homelands. However, they are currently dissuaded from carrying out cultural burns for a variety of reasons including fear of liability, burdensome regulations, burn bans, and resource constraints. In addition, Cultural Fire Practitioners receive limited support from the federal government for their important work.

As an important first step in encouraging cultural fire, Congress should direct the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) to develop regionally-specific definitions of ‘cultural fire’ and ‘Cultural Fire Practitioner’ through a process led by Tribal governments.

Currently, the federal government does not adequately recognize cultural fire, despite its deep-rooted traditional significance for Tribal Nations and its potential benefits for forest and wildfire management across the country. Because of this lack of recognition and other barriers, many CFPs have not been able to carry out their cultural fire traditions. Those that have continued to implement cultural fire have had to operate with minimal federal support and with higher personal risk. In addition, they have been forced to significantly alter their traditions and practices to fit existing legal processes and definitions that were designed for prescribed burns. These factors have combined to make cultural burning prohibitively difficult to implement on federal, tribal, and state lands. 


In order to provide the proper legal framework needed to enable and support cultural burning, Congress should:

These definitions will create a legal foundation that can be used to expand the role of cultural burners and ease restrictions, in a manner similar to that of California’s own legislation defining cultural burning (CA SB 332; CA SB 926; CA AB 642). In tandem with adopting a formal definition, California implemented a gross negligence standard that limited the financial liability of CFP who take appropriate precautions before a fire. 

Federal agencies can explore opportunities to use the definitions to support cultural burning. For example, federally recognized CFPs could be provided with exemptions from having to obtain formal National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) qualifications and/or from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental assessment process. The federal government could also support creation of an easily accessible federal indemnity fund that provides support to cultural burners.

By codifying these definitions, the federal government would take a key step in elevating the visibility and status of Cultural Fire Practitioners as key partners in land stewardship and wildfire risk reduction and management.

Expand the scope and funding of the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004

Raymond Gutteriez, Member of Wuksachi Band of Mono Indians

Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 and the Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA) of 2004, Tribes are able to propose and execute projects (called 638 projects) on USFS-managed and BIA-managed land which (i) borders or is adjacent to Indian trust land, and (ii) poses a fire, disease, or other threat to Tribal forest or rangeland or that otherwise requires land restoration activities. Unfortunately, 638 projects are rarely proposed or implemented due in large part to lack of funding and its limited scope of only including tribes that possess land adjacent to federally managed lands.

Congress should appropriate dedicated funding for ‘638’ projects and expand the range of the TFPA to include the ancestral homelands of Tribal Nations.

The aforementioned 638 law was enacted to promote “maximum Indian participation in the Government,” but it fails at this goal in its current form. The initiative has been hampered by the fact that “no specific funding was appropriated or authorized for 638” projects (USFS). Instead, funding is expected to be obtained from other sources of funds for activities on federal lands, which often require prohibitive amounts of administrative burdens for Tribes to compete for and obtain. Additionally, many Tribes are ineligible to participate in 638 projects because they do not possess lands that are adjacent to national forests, even though those national forest lands are part of their ancestral homelands. 


We recommend that Congress consider: 

In addition, these changes can be paired with other efforts to expand Tribal authority and ability to plan, implement, and review prescribed and cultural burns on federal lands.

Reduce federal subsidies for development that might exacerbate fire risk

Max Moritz, Adjunct Professor, UC Santa Barbara

Federal spending on wildfire suppression has ballooned in the past four decades. Despite these efforts, property damage due to wildfire continues to escalate, devastating communities and robbing tens of thousands of people of treasured homes, businesses, and gathering places. 

This is in part because more and more Americans are living and working adjacent to wildlands, where they are more vulnerable to wildfire impacts. In 2020, 4.5 million homes were located in areas of “high or extreme wildfire risk.” To make matters worse, fires on state, local, and private land have doubled in size (on average) since 1991. While decisions about land use and urban planning are made locally, there are important opportunities for crucial guidance at the federal level to help mitigate harm to communities. 

Congress should direct agencies to determine to what extent and through what mechanisms federal dollars are subsidizing development in a manner that perpetuates fire risk.

Where and how we build our communities can influence fire probabilities in the broader region surrounding a particular development, crossing administrative boundaries and even state lines. 

Money from federal agencies supports development of homes and related infrastructure. Failing to identify and address when and how federal funds may be subsidizing development in wildfire hazard risk areas will continue to exacerbate social and economic losses.

The federal government should investigate to what extent and through which programs it is subsidizing development in a manner that exacerbates fire risk. Using this information, Congress and agencies can take action through existing mechanisms to support local and regional planning that is both fire-resilient and equitable. 


Congress should: 

Using this information, Congress can consider whether it would be appropriate to take one or more of the following actions: 

Should the federal government choose to take action on any of the recommendations above, there are important considerations Congress and agencies must keep in mind.

Public Health and Infrastructure

Make smoke management a core goal of wildland fire management 

Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Public & Ecosystem Health, Cornell University 

Toxic smoke from wildland fire spreads far beyond fire-prone areas, killing many times more people than the flames themselves and disrupting the lives of tens of millions of people. Despite this, wildfire smoke is often reported and managed separately from other wildfire impacts. 

Congress should establish smoke management as a core goal of wildland fire management and create institutional capacity to achieve that goal. 

The 2014 National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy describes a vision for the century: “To safely and effectively extinguish fire, when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and as a Nation, live with wildland fire.” Significant research conducted since the publication of the Strategy indicates that wildfire smoke impacts people across the United States, causing 10,000 deaths and billions of dollars of economic losses annually. Smoke impacts exceed their corresponding flame impacts; yet, wildfire strategy and funding largely focus on flames and their impacts. 

In order to ensure that all impacts of wildland fire, including smoke, are addressed efficiently and comprehensively, Congress should take actions that establish wildfire smoke management as a core goal of wildfire management. 

To ensure that wildland fire smoke is considered as a core wildland fire hazard, Congress should consider amending relevant legislation to specifically account for smoke. 

For example, Congress could: 

Current interagency wildfire leadership groups occasionally consider smoke in the context of wildland fire impacts and management. To ensure wildfire strategy discussions always include modern smoke-management considerations, these groups should include agencies with expertise on smoke data and impacts (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 

Congress should therefore:

  1. Amend the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Sec. 70203(b) and the FLAME Act Sec. 3 to include smoke-expert agencies in development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
  2. Pass new policy adding smoke-expert agencies to wildfire-policy collaborations, including the National Interagency Fire Center, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, and the Wildland Fire Leadership Council. 

To succeed, Congress should also allocate funding for smoke management programs described in companion suggestions (here and here). 

Foster smoke-ready communities to save lives and money 

Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Public & Ecosystem Health, Cornell University 

In the US, more and more people are being exposed to wildfire smoke—27 times more people experienced extreme smoke days than a decade ago. Wildfire smoke poses higher risks to outdoor workers, unhoused individuals, children, older adults, and people with diabetes or heart disease. 

The federal government can equitably save lives and money by helping communities prepare for, identify, and respond to smoke events. 


Congress should designate some of the annual $6+ billion in wildfire management to create funding for households and public spaces to improve indoor air-quality during heavy smoke.

To help communities prepare for smoke events

To ensure communities are able to identify potentially deadly smoke events, Congress should:

To provide communities with support needed to act during smoke events, Congress should:

Build data infrastructure to support decision making based on smoke hazards

Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice, Cornell University; Teresa Feo, Senior Science Officer, California Council on Science and Technology

National spending on fire suppression exceeds $4 billion in the fiscal year 2023 funding bill, while less than $10 million is allocated for smoke management. This 600:1 funding ratio for fire compared to smoke is misaligned to the 1:1 ratio of economic impacts and 1:100 ratio of fire to smoke deaths.

Data infrastructure critical for minimizing these smoke-related hazards is largely absent from our firefighting arsenal. 

Congress should take action to better leverage existing smoke data in the context of wildland fire management and fill crucial data infrastructure gaps to enable smoke management as a core part of wildland fire management.

Some smoke data is already collected, including smoke forecasts for active fires from the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program and retrospective smoke emissions totals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the National Emissions Inventory (NEI). However, these smoke impacts are considered separately from flame impacts (e.g., structures burned), and are left out of broader wildfire strategy. New authoritative realtime smoke-data tools need to be created and integrated into wildfire management strategy.


To better track health impacts of wildfire smoke, Congress should: 

To better integrate smoke data with other fire data, Congress should:

To enable the consideration of smoke-related health impacts in wildland fire management, Congress should:

The suggested additions would improve national technical ability to increase smoke-related safety, thereby saving lives and reducing smoke-related public health costs. 

Support strategic deployment of community resilience hubs to mitigate smoke impacts and other hazards 

Lee Ann Hill, Director of Energy and Health, PSE Healthy Energy

Exposure to wildfire smoke can have severe impacts on human health, including higher risk of respiratory problems, heart attack, stroke, and premature death. One tool communities can use to build resilience to smoke and other hazards that threaten human health are resilience hubs.  Resilience hubs are indoor community spaces designed to address overall community vulnerability and to foster public safety, security, and wellbeing. Resilience hubs can also support communities amid emergencies, including smoke emergencies, by providing access to clean indoor air. 

The federal government can foster holistic community resilience to wildfire smoke impacts and other hazards by supporting the development of community resilience hubs.

Public health guidance and climate adaptation policies should account for the reality that many communities will be exposed to multiple hazards, sometimes concurrently. Rather than address specific exposures (e.g., wildfire smoke or extreme heat) in isolation, policymakers should consider mitigation approaches that will build capacity to prepare for and withstand multiple hazards, including those associated with 1) mitigation strategies (e.g., prescribed fire smoke), 2) extreme weather events (e.g., smoke, extreme heat) and natural disasters, and 3) power outages. Policymakers can prioritize policy interventions that reduce harmful smoke exposures while also expanding broader community resilience to maximize the human health benefit of every dollar spent. 

Community resilience hubs equipped with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and powered by distributed clean energy resources can reduce harmful smoke exposures while expanding broader community resilience amid extreme weather events, natural disasters, and grid outages. Local governments across the United States and Canada have established resilience hubs focused on disaster and emergency response; pilot efforts to build resilience more holistically are underway in Baltimore, Maryland and Northern California

The proposed Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act of 2021 focuses on wildfire smoke more singularly, including provision of “resources for establishing smoke shelters, air purifiers, and additional air monitoring sites” upon each declaration of a smoke emergency. Federal efforts to reduce the human health cost of wildfire smoke should consider how investment can effectively mitigate multiple hazard exposures, reducing inefficiencies stemming from focusing singularly on wildfire smoke alone and redeploying resources during each emergency smoke declaration. While evidence suggests that resilience hubs are most effective when they are community-led, the federal government can support the proliferation of these tools of community resilience in a multi-hazard environment. 

To support these efforts, Congress can take the following steps:

Resilience hubs can reduce hazard exposures and strengthen community-level resilience to provide support during extreme weather events, natural disasters, and grid outages. Resources to support interagency coordination, distributed energy resource deployment, and data collection efforts can bolster and inform future and ongoing resilience hub planning and implementation efforts. 

Consider modifying the Clean Air Act to incentivize increased use of beneficial fire

Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Public & Ecosystem Health, Cornell University; Susan Prichard, Research Scientist, University of Washington 

Recent wildfires have spewed so much toxic smoke across the country that decades of life-saving air-quality improvement under the Clean Air Act (CAA) have been reversed in many states. The CAA unintentionally aids this reverse by disincentivizing the use of beneficial fire at scales needed to mitigate catastrophic wildfires. Congress should modify the CAA to instead incentivize beneficial fire–prescribed burns, cultural burning, and managed wildfire—to support use at scales needed to mitigate unmanaged wildfires.

Though beneficial fire produces smoke, it is the most effective means to reduce overall smoke output because it mitigates unmanaged wildfires. Proactive application of beneficial fire is planned under specific weather and fuel conditions to minimize impacts to communities, while unmanaged wildfires are unplanned events that often burn under extreme conditions, frequently with significant smoke lasting for weeks. 

The CAA aims to save lives and money by reducing air pollution, including wildfire smoke, but it currently discourages the beneficial fire that minimizes overall smoke output. Days with smoke from unplanned wildfires often qualify as “exceptional events” that CAA excludes from a jurisdiction’s pollution limits. In contrast, beneficial fires rarely qualify, so their smoke can make a jurisdiction exceed its pollution limits. Jurisdictions therefore restrict beneficial fire to achieve pollution limits, unintentionally preventing fire use at the needed scale. Current CAA policy therefore shifts smoke emissions from beneficial fires to unplanned wildfires, which disproportionately contribute to hazardous smoke impacts. 

To incentivize more beneficial fire while leaving intact other life-saving provisions of the CAA, Congress should:

Policy encouraging beneficial fire supports choosing when and where smoke happens, reducing the frequency of even more dangerous unplanned fires and the overall smoke hazard. The CAA should incentivize beneficial fire; doing so will save lives and money by reducing air pollution—exactly its intended function.

Science, Data, and Technology

Save lives, properties, and ecosystems with real-time actionable fire intelligence

Tim Ball, Fireball Information Technologies; Carlton Pennypacker; University of California, Berkeley; Harry Statter, Frontline Wildfire Defense

The authors are part of a research group, FUEGO, that designed a satellite to bridge the intelligence gap described in this proposal.

Securing our lives, communities, and ecosystems in the face of more intense fires and a swelling Wildland-Urban Interface requires that governments and citizens work together using the most reliable sources of intelligence. Emergency management agencies, firefighters, public utilities, and the public need real-time understanding of when fires start, where fires are located, how their intensity is changing, and where they are spreading.

The National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has recognized this is a serious unmet intelligence need. Creating an uninterrupted, high cadence, and low latency capability to map fire activity will support response in real time at local and national scales. The intelligence need is even more urgent for fast-spreading fires or those that are difficult to observe, either because aircrafts are unavailable or cannot operate in the local conditions. This challenge can be met with new, cost-effective means of gathering data and disseminating intelligence.

The US Fire Administration and USGS should lead in establishing a public-private-university-nonprofit partnership to collect, combine, and disseminate actionable information on fire activity for the benefit of firefighters and the public. A key piece of the intelligence system is a new geostationary satellite launched and maintained by the appropriate federal agencies.


Lack of intelligence in the first 90 minutes of the 2018 Camp Fire thwarted the wildfire evacuation plan that had been practiced by the town of Paradise, California. Because of the time of the fire, the aircraft that would have normally been used to gather intelligence was unstaffed and no alternative sources of intelligence were available. Mandatory evacuation of the town began only after the fire was well established in the town. The speed of the Camp Fire, the intelligence challenges, and the problems with evacuation are not unique.

Current satellites used to monitor wildland fires collect infrequent and low-resolution images that are not useful for actionable intelligence. A new geostationary (GEO) satellite constantly watching North America could detect a brush fire the size of a semi-truck and pinpoint its location to within 50 yards. Aircraft and satellites in low-Earth orbit are still required to collect higher resolution data, particularly for smaller and slower-moving fires. Points of critical consequence found at GEO can be investigated further by a low-Earth satellite, then coordinates of interest can be passed to aircraft pilots. The technical details of existing satellites for wildland fire management are compared to a GEO satellite in the appendix.

The intelligence gathered by a new GEO satellite should be merged with other sources to form an integrated intelligence system. This requires coordination, likely through a public-private-university-nonprofit partnership to enable collection, fusion, and dissemination of actionable intelligence, but the keystone of this system must be the GEO satellite. Further, collecting new data across spatial resolutions and time scales would contribute significantly to fire science, fire modeling efforts, and evaluation of fire mitigation efforts.



The authors are part of a research group, FUEGO, that designed a satellite to bridge this intelligence gap described here. The following table compares the technical parameters of this system with satellites currently used for fire management.

Minimum Detectable Fire2 to 2 Megawatts35 Megawatts7 Megawatts
Persistence (Seconds between images of the same place on Earth)20 seconds60 seconds43000 seconds
Spatial Resolution Ground Sample Distance (Meters)2902200375
Ability to locate a point source within a pixel1/10th pixelnonenone
Data Latency90 seconds300 seconds12000 seconds

Advance the predictive science of fire ecology and forest resilience

Winslow Hansen, Forest Ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Forest area burned and fire severity are increasing in some forest types in the U.S. Fire suppression, which allows vegetation to accumulate and consequently fuel larger fires, and climate change are contributing to this growing problem. Unprecedented resources are becoming available to address the fire crisis, but the landscape of fire and forest management remains fragmented. Managers and policy makers are being asked to balance competing demands of human safety, fuels management, air quality, biodiversity conservation, and carbon sequestration in the face of tremendous scientific uncertainty about where, when, how, and why ecosystems and fire regimes will change. How can we manage a system when we do not understand how it functions? 

Congress should support an ambitious research collaborative to ensure the predictive science of fire ecology and forest resilience rapidly advances in time to support management and policy that addresses the fire crisis.

Recognizing the severity of the fire crisis, Congress allocated $5 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act for “forest management, planning, and restoration” activities, including hazardous fuels treatments. While unprecedented, the investment is sufficient to mechanically treat only a small portion of western forests. This means managers need to be strategic in implementation of fuels treatments and able to track their efficacy. No investor would commit funds to an endeavor where they could not quantitatively evaluate gains and losses. The same is true for investing in strategies to address the fire crisis. 

The consequences of today’s management decisions will accrue over decades, the temporal scale on which forests and fire regimes change. To track progress toward more resilient forests, less catastrophic fire, and safer human communities, we need tools to determine in near real time where, when, and how forests are changing. We also need ways to evaluate the efficacy of fuels treatments for fostering more resilient forests and less catastrophic fire. Real time forest and fire tracking must also seamlessly feed into long-term models that help us project how today’s decisions may influence outcomes for decades to come. Such an integrated monitoring and projection system does not exist, but is vitally necessary for decision making. A fire ecology and forest resilience science collaborative could develop such a tool.


We recommend that Congress:

We recommend that the USDA Forest Service and Department of Interior:

We anticipate that the collaborative would cost about 100 million dollars over ten years. This funding would support a network of 20 scientific teams across the country and a lead center of excellence that provides synthesis, coordination, amplification, and management. Leaders of this effort should consider ongoing research efforts in relevant disciplines, collaborating where appropriate to ensure efforts are not duplicated. 

NSF is the right agency to administer the collaborative because of their deep expertise in funding basic and applied research and because of their success in ambitious large-scale initiatives such as the Long-term Ecological Research Network and the National Ecological Observatory Network. NSF has also recently made investments in fire research. Our proposal builds off this momentum. Partnerships with USDA Forest Service, DOI, and Joint Fire Science Program would strengthen the connections between the science conducted and manager needs. If launched, the science collaborative would provide managers and policy makers with tools to plan strategies and track the efficacy of federal investment in proactive fire and forest management, based on state-of-the-art modeling and remote sensing, and underpinned by strong foundational science. 

Develop next-generation fire and vegetation models for a changing climate 

Matthew Hurteau, University of New Mexico 

Wildfires are burning in ways that surprise seasoned firefighters, and current models are failing to predict evolving fire behavior. Due in part to climate change, existing models cannot reproduce recent catastrophic wildfires. This means existing fire and vegetation models are likely to fail at predicting future wildfires or when it is safe to light prescribed fires, challenging our capacity to effectively suppress wildfires or mitigate their impacts. 

Congress should establish and fund centers of excellence to develop, maintain, and operate next-generation fire and vegetation models that support wildland fire planning and management.

Climate change is expanding what is flammable. For example, the 2020 Creek Fire in California burned through forests that had already been weakened by beetle infestations and drought, and burned with such intensity that current operational fire models could not reproduce the event. Ongoing climate change made this extreme fire behavior possible. 

The wildfire research community has demonstrated it can respond to problem-based research needs as evidenced by the successful Joint Fire Science Program and the National Science Foundation funding of Centers of Excellence (CoE). CoE’s have been created in a variety of topic areas and have demonstrated that supporting hubs of expertise to address specific research areas leads to positive outcomes. Developing five regional CoEs will a) facilitate research collaboration across disciplines, institutions, and regions, and b) provide regional service centers which will develop and run models focused on near and mid-term dynamics at local and event (e.g. treatment unit, wildfire) scales that support land management planning and decision-making. A cross-CoE leadership team will ensure that research and development activities are complementary.

We recommend that Congress:

One path forward for this approach could be a pilot initiated at a single institution with collaborators in each of the five regions, with the opportunity to expand to five regional centers as research questions evolve and collaboration mechanisms are refined. 

Establishing five CoEs to develop, maintain, and operate next-generation models will cost approximately $25 million per year, which is less than 1% of the 2021 federal wildfire suppression expenditure. The Centers could be established and funded using directed funding through the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP). NSF is well-positioned to lead this effort given prior investments in wildland fire prediction and management as well as research collaborations in the space.  

Managing fuels effectively to prevent future catastrophic events requires developing models that account for the new climatic conditions fire managers face, and will allow us to make wildfire management more predictable.

Expand capacity for effective collaboration between scientists and resource managers to inform forest management

Meg Krawchuk, Associate Professor, Oregon State University 

For years, the federal government has recognized the importance of scientists and decision-makers working together to solve complex wildland fire management problems. While many successful federal programs support such collaborations, institutional barriers still stand in the way of many fruitful science coproduction and communication efforts in wildland fire management.  

The federal government should expand financial and institutional support for co-production of wildland fire science and science communication to help natural resource managers make evidence-based decisions in the context of the wildfire crisis. 

According to USGS, coproduction of science projects “focus on scientists and resource managers working closely together to produce actionable products that are used to inform natural resource management decisions.” More broadly, science communication work at the project and program level can enhance the reach and relevance of coproduced science and distill literature for decision-making applications. These approaches have been championed in the field of wildland fire science and land management for years by land management agencies (including the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers and US Forest Service) and funding agencies (including the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and National Science Foundation). 

However, both researchers and natural resource managers report that funding, capacity, and institutional barriers inhibit coproduced science efforts in wildland fire. For example, financial support and incentive structures (e.g., performance evaluation criteria, awards, and professional recognition) are often insufficient to support scientists in conducting longer-term collaborative, relationship-building work that can extend the reach and impact of co-produced science. Furthermore, program staff in agencies (where they exist) may lack bandwidth necessary to effectively distill large quantities of journal articles into the core “so what” conclusions needed by land management practitioners to integrate the most recent science with existing management strategies. 

Addressing these gaps in coproduction and broader science communication support is crucial to maximizing the potential of scientific research to inform pressing forest management problems and capitalizing on successful investments in coproduction projects. More robust support for coproduction and communication in the wildland fire space will equip agencies to ensure that decision-makers have access to the “best available science” and can fulfill goals outlined in federal initiatives including the USFS 10-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy, the Inflation Reduction Act, the Administration’s “Year of Evidence for Action,” and the “Year of Open Science.”  

Specifically, Congress should: 

Specifically, the Department of Interior US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS) should:

These investments would total less than the current price tag of existing coproduction work but extend the reach and impact of initial investments. 

Launch an Open Disaster Data Initiative to bolster whole-of-nation resilience from wildfires and related hazards

Shefali Juneja Lakhina, Wonder Labs

Federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies collect and maintain a range of disaster vulnerability, damage, and loss data. However, this valuable data currently lives on different platforms and in various formats across agency silos, making it difficult to augment whole-of-nation preparedness, response, and recovery from a range of natural hazards, including wildfires, smoke, drought, extreme heat, flooding, and debris flow. 

The Biden-Harris Administration should launch an Open Disaster Data Initiative that mandates federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies to systematically collect, share, monitor, and report on disaster vulnerability, damage, and loss data, in formats that are consistent and interoperable. 

In the past decade, several bipartisan research, data, and policy reviews have reiterated the need to develop national standards for the consistent collection and reporting of damage and loss data. Recent disaster and wildfire research data platforms and standards provide precedence and show how investing in data standards and interoperability can enable inclusive, equitable, and just disaster preparedness, response, and recovery outcomes.

The Open Disaster Data Initiative will enable longitudinal monitoring of pre- and post- event data for multiple hazards resulting in a better understanding of cascading climate impacts. Guided by the Open Government Initiative (2016), the Fifth National Action Plan (2022), and in the context of the Year of Open Science (2023), the Open Disaster Data Initiative will lead to greater accountability in how federal, state, and local governments prioritize funding, especially to marginalized communities. 


We recommend the White House and Congress, where appropriate, take the following actions: 

  1. Appoint a White-House level staff position in the Office of Science Technology and Policy to establish the Open Disaster Data Initiative with the participation of all relevant federal agencies currently engaged in the management of hydro-meteorological and hydro-geological hazards including drought, extreme heat, wildfires, smoke, flooding, and landslides.   
  2. Issue an  Executive Order to  promote the development and adoption of national standards for disaster vulnerability, damage, and loss data collection, sharing, and reporting, by all relevant federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies, as well as by universities, non-profits, and the private sector.  
  3. Designate  FEMA as the national focal point agency to maintain a national disaster loss database––a federated, open, integrated, and interoperable disaster data system that can seamlessly roll-up local data, including research and non-profit data. FEMA’s National Incident Management System will be well positioned to cut across hazard mission silos and offer wide-ranging operational support and training for disaster loss accounting to federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies, as well as non-profit stakeholders. 

Building on recent experience with developing an all-of-government COVID-19 pandemic management data platform, it is recommended that all federal agencies engaged in wildland fire management activities collaborate in taking the following steps to launch the Open Disaster Data Initiative

  1. Undertake a Disaster Data Systems and Infrastructure Assessment to inform the development of national standards and identify barriers for accurate disaster data tracking, accounting, and sharing between federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies, as well as the philanthropic and private sector. 
  2. Adopt national standards for disaster loss data collection and reporting to address ongoing issues concerning data quality, completeness, integration, interoperability, and accessibility. 
  3. Ensure appropriate federal agency work plans reflect the national data standards, such as for digital and infrastructure planning, requests for proposals, and procurement processes to streamline all future data collection, sharing, and reporting. 
  4. Develop federal agency capacities to accurately collect and analyze disaster vulnerability, damage, and loss data, especially as it relates to population estimates of mortality and morbidity, including from wildfire smoke. 
  5. Provide guidance, training, and resources to states, non-profits, and the private sector to adopt national disaster data standards and facilitate seamless roll-up of disaster vulnerability, damage, and loss data to the federal level thereby enabling accurate monitoring and accounting of community resilience in inclusive and equitable ways. 

The Open Disaster Data Initiative will need a budget and capacity commitment to streamline disaster data collection and sharing to bolster whole-of-nation disaster resilience for at least three societal and environmental outcomes. First, the Initiative will enable enhanced data sharing and information coordination among federal, state, local, and Tribal agencies, as well as with universities, non-profits, philanthropies, and the private sector. Second, the Initiative will allow for longitudinal monitoring of cascading disaster impacts on community well-being and ecosystem health, including a better understanding of how disasters impact poverty rates, housing trends, local economic development, and displacement and migration trends, particularly among socially and historically marginalized communities.  Finally, the Initiative willinform the prioritization of policy and program investments for inclusive, equitable, and just disaster risk reduction outcomes, especially in socially and historically marginalized communities, including rural communities.

Develop a federal framework to measure and evaluate the socio-ecological impacts of wildfire

Leana Weissberg, Associate Specialist, UC Berkeley; Ken Alex, Director, Project Climate, UC Berkeley 

In the face of the wildfire crisis, federal agencies must work together to ensure that historic investments reach their full potential to protect people, property, ecosystems, and cultural resources. At present, federal agencies lack a comprehensive framework for evaluating wildfire’s socio-ecological impacts and efforts to mitigate them. While the importance of evaluating wildfire impacts is widely recognized and smaller scale efforts are underway, agencies don’t currently have a coordinated data sharing and reporting strategy for wildfire impacts. 

We propose that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) convene federal fire agencies to develop a consistent and regionally appropriate framework for assessing the socio-ecological impacts of wildfire using metrics, benchmarks, and evaluation criteria. 

Current federal agency efforts to gather, report, and evaluate the impacts of wildland fire are fragmented and siloed. In some cases, datasets conveying important information (e.g. fire severity and post-fire debris-flow assessments) exist but are not systematically reported. In others, data representing one aspect of wildfire impacts are reported in isolation, limiting their use in decision-making. For example, data on burned acres and wildfire emissions are rarely combined with Census data to estimate wildfire’s public health impacts.

As fire risk reduction investments reach historic levels, a systematic approach to evaluating and mitigating wildfire impacts is critical. By synthesizing and reporting data otherwise produced and evaluated in isolation, a more comprehensive framework will improve our collective understanding of the totality of wildfire impacts, where impacts are most severe, where they are ecologically beneficial, and how they evolve.

Federal departments and agencies involved in wildland fire management have acknowledged the importance of using the best available science and measuring performance. As two of the leading federal fire entities, the US Forest Service and Department of Interior recognize the need to employ the best available science for priority setting. Additionally, strategic planning documents from other federal fire entities identify the need for new performance measures and dashboards (DHS) for equitable disaster recovery and reformed climate threat information delivery (DOC) for improved outcomes in underserved communities. The proposed framework would create connected governmental initiatives and resources to reduce redundancy, build a more complete understanding of wildfire’s socio-ecological impacts, and ensure coordinated and comprehensive reporting on progress toward impact mitigation. All federal departments and agencies whose work touches wildland fire should be involved in this effort, including: DHS, DOC, DOE, DOI, DOT, DHS (including the CDC and NIH), USDA, EPA, and NSF. 

We recommend that Congress take the following steps to implement this framework: 

A successful framework will require funds for coordination (staffing, data collection efforts, scoping digital infrastructure requirements, and reporting) as well as implementation (expanding data collection and building digital infrastructure). Teams comprising one GS-13 and three GS-11 staff from each department involved in the effort would cost approximately $3 – $3.3 million per year. Alternatively, framework development could utilize term-length personnel, for example via the U.S. Digital Service.

Improving safety and efficiency of wildfire suppression with advanced UAS

Daniel Wholey, Rain Industries

Uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) have diverse uses in wildland fire management, including real-time fire mapping, delivering supplies to responders, conducting backburns and prescribed fires, and even providing artificial rainfall for fire suppression. Congress has directed the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand the use of UAS in wildland fire management operations through legislation such as the Dingell Jr. Act. Security concerns raised in 2020 temporarily halted existing UAS programs and hampered the development and integration of this technology.

Congress, DOI, and USDA should fully resume implementation of the UAS program outlined in the Dingell Jr. Act and include new funding opportunities to promote the development of domestic UAS technology for wildland fire suppression and other management needs.

Fire agencies in the United States effectively use small UAS for conducting prescribed fires and wildland fire mapping. While small UAS have provided significant value for fire agencies, we believe that large UAS, which are currently underutilized, can dramatically improve safety and efficiency of fire mapping and suppression efforts. Other groups have demonstrated the role that larger, more advanced UAS can play in wildfire management and response. In 2018 the California National Guard used an MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely-piloted large UAS, to map wildfires in real time and send live video to operational facilities, providing critical situational awareness. Lockheed Martin and KAMAN demonstrated cargo and water drops from the K-MAX helicopter. Rain Industries [author Daniel Wholey is employed by Rain Industries] is integrating with third party early detection networks and automating large UAS to respond rapidly to wildland fire ignitions.

The Dingell Jr Act directed the DOI and USDA to expand UAS programs and assess new technology, including large UAS, across a range of management operations to accelerate the deployment and integration of UAS in Department operations. Implementation of the Act was challenged in 2020 when the Trump administration grounded drones over fears that sensitive data was sent to the China-based manufacturers, where it could be accessed by the Chinese government. Progress has been made on several fronts since this setback. DOI effectively lifted the drone operations ban in December of 2022. Over $600 million from recent appropriations is reserved for preparedness and suppression, some of which can be used to advance UAS programs.

Given mandates from Congress and the continuing security concerns associated with foreign UAS technology, we believe that the solution is to expand domestic research, development, and production of large UAS for wildfire management operations.


DOI and USDA should resume implementation of the Dingell Jr. Act and include an initiative to promote domestic research, development, and production of large UAS, such as helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft, for wildfire management operations, particularly suppression. This initiative should include innovative funding mechanisms such as prize competitions, milestone-based payment programs, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).

Congress should ensure appropriate resources for the initiative, estimated at $30 million based on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) FY22-26 National Aviation Research Plan.


Establish a Tribal ranger program to fund permanent land stewardship opportunities for Tribal communities

Chris Adlam, PhD, Oregon State University

Due to historic disenfranchisement and current socioeconomic conditions, many members of Tribal Nations currently lack the resources and time needed to steward their ancestral lands in the same manner as generations before them have done for millenia. This lack of opportunity has contributed to negative outcomes for Tribal communities, including compromised forest health on ancestral lands, entrenched poverty on reservations, and the erosion of vital, intergenerational Traditional Ecological Knowledge. 

Congress should allocate funds to Tribal Nations and Tribally-led organizations to create and define programs, modeled on Australia’s Indigenous Ranger Program or Canada’s Indigenous Guardians Program, that provide stable funding for long-term employment opportunities, training, and equipment for Tribes to carry out land stewardship activities, including cultural burns, post-fire monitoring, and ecological restoration.

Canada and Australia’s programs create long-term and short term employment opportunities for members of Tribal nations and organizations, and they have helped develop a workforce dedicated to restoration and wildfire mitigation. These programs have empowered Indigenous groups to facilitate effective stewardship of the land, build long-lasting relationships, and better transfer intergenerational knowledge. For example, Indigenous Ranger groups in Australia also reported several broader benefits for the long disadvantaged areas communities they operate within, including “safer communities, strengthened language and culture, an ability to find meaningful employment, increased respect for women, and more role models for younger people.” Similar programs in Australia have seen returns on investment of upward of $3.50 per $1.00 invested

By following these successful models, the federal government can create economically beneficial opportunities for Tribal nations and organizations to steward forests on their ancestral lands. This program could focus on long-term opportunities to maximize the benefit of place-based, intergenerational knowledge and wisdom. The United States Tribal Ranger program has the potential to provide a high return on investment by protecting wildland urban interface communities and infrastructure, safeguarding watersheds and air quality, and providing needed economic benefits for Indigenous participants, their communities, and other communities in the landscapes within which they serve. 


We recommend that Congress consider: 

Tribes and Indigenous-oriented organizations could also decide to utilize the program and its funding to create apprenticeship programs (such as those recommended here) focused on conserving and implementing place-based knowledge to steward ancestral lands. If necessary, this program could be launched as a pilot project with additional funds allocated at a later date. 

Through this initiative, the federal government would rightfully recognize and elevate the role of Indigenous practitioners, who have long held deep expertise on fire but who have been continually marginalized. The program would therefore be an important step in correcting centuries of persecution and flawed forest management. 

Expand corps programs for wildfire mitigation and healthy forests

Irva Hertz-Piccioto, Professor and Director, Environmental Health Sciences Center University of California, Davis 

Dead and sick trees and thick vegetative debris in our forests are fueling megafires and magnifying their frequency, intensity, and destructiveness. Fire suppression alone has cost the U.S. between $1.5 billion and $4.5 billion annually since 2012. Suppression costs amount to only a small fraction of the full costs of wildfire, which include economic, infrastructure, ecosystem, health and other costs. Fixing this problem will require restoring forest health throughout the country through a massive increase in the wildland firefighting workforce, particularly those trained in mitigation and resilience.

To address the growing wildfire challenge and engage youth in wildland fire careers, Congress and federal fire agencies should expand on and better leverage the Corps program model across the United States.

Investments in a workforce prepared to address the nation’s wildland fire challenges are already underway. For example, the DOI Office of Wildland Fire and the US Department of Agriculture are using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support a “more permanent workforce capable of fire response and mitigation work on a year-round basis.” Professionalizing the wildland fire workforce to address longer fire seasons and preparing these workers to support mitigation efforts is critical to building a more resilient landscape. However, this alone is not sufficient to meet the magnitude of our forest health problem.

Corps programs can supplement and complement the development of this more permanent workforce and simultaneously accelerate the pace of hazardous fuels reduction on the ground. Across the country, they are already doing so; for example, the California Conservation Corps’ Forestry Corps (which partners with the US Forest Service) focuses on removing overgrown and dead vegetation as part of wildfire mitigation on state lands. Members receive relevant certifications to prepare them for careers in forestry. AmeriCorps has also supported wildland fire mitigation activities in several regions of the country, including through employing veterans, and provides environmental stewardship opportunities across the US.

Given the enormity of the need and the urgency of reducing hazardous fuels, federal agencies can and should expand support for these models across the nation. Partnerships with state agencies, nonprofit, and community organizations can be leveraged to make these programs more wide-ranging and cost-effective. Expanding these programs will accomplish three core goals: 1) reduce buildup of hazardous fuels 2) broaden the pool of qualified applicants for jobs in federal and state wildland fire management and mitigation and 3) enrich the lives of youth by providing them with hands-on service experiences making a difference for the environment and health.


We recommend that Congress:

We recommend that the USFS, AmeriCorps, and DOI work together to:

Expanded Corps program will dramatically reduce destructive megafires and associated evacuations, provide cleaner air to breathe, and restore forest health across the nation.

It also will endow a generation of youth with new skills preparing them for quality jobs, as well as a meaningful connection to nature, improved morale and mental health, and a brighter future.

Invest in worker-led industries for whole-of-community wildfire resilience 

Shefali Juneja Lakhina, Wonder Labs

Forestry and fire workforce discussions have so far focused on addressing the staffing and retention challenges of federal and state agencies. However, not enough attention is being paid to the enormous yet untapped potential of informal workforce capacities. Private industry, small businesses, and community-based organizations, hire and train thousands of diverse informal workers, including students, volunteers, migrant, incarcerated, and justice-impacted people. Spurring increased investment in this fast-growing informal workforce presents the shortest and most sustainable path to meeting national wildfire resilience and climate mitigation goals.  Growing a diverse worker-led forest and fire industry can also help launch previously uncharted industries that are adaptive and responsive to local needs in a changing climate. 

The Biden-Harris Administration should launch an ‘Investing in worker-led industries for whole-of-community wildfire resilience’ program that supports innovative, future-ready, and tech-forward solutions from private industry, small businesses, and community-based organizations working on the frontlines of wildfire impacts. Over the next five years, at least $250 million should be invested in creating a worker-led forestry and fire industry to address the entire lifecycle of workforce development from education, training, and certification, to building resilient community infrastructure that includes family-sustaining housing, and enabling public health and whole-of-community wellbeing.   

Several federal, state, and local efforts to train and certify more forestry and fire workers are already underway. While increased training and certification is one obvious solution to the current workforce shortage, recent studies reveal that addressing barriers related to pay parity, decent housing, mental health, and career-track pathways, will also be essential to build a robust and sustainable forest restoration workforce. Yet, addressing these entry points for federal and state agencies will not necessarily lead to place-based, worker-owned, and community-centered solutions that sustain care for informal sector workers who live and work in the wildland-urban interface and intermix communities across the western United States. Supporting the creation of thousands of small business opportunities presents a high-road to address both the demand and supply side of the current workforce problem in equitable and sustainable ways.  

Building on the Justice40 directive, there is a significant opportunity to invest in most-impacted communities, including Indigenous communities, rural communities, and low-income communities that house students, volunteers, migrant, and incarcerated workers. This investment will spur new worker-owned and worker-led industries––in wildfire risk assessment, home hardening, defensible space, fuels reduction, prescribed burns, woody mass industries, biofuels, timber, fire detection and response, insurance, smoke management, clean air structures, post-disaster reconstruction, and restoration. Instead of building these industries in siloes, this proposal would spur an interdependent network of place-based, worker-owned small businesses that can contribute to resilient local infrastructure and whole-of-community well-being. 

Investment in wildfire resilience must be considered a public good: an investment in the nation’s workers, community infrastructure, and local industry. Past initiatives such as the effort to build affordable housing for farmworker families, and ongoing initiatives, such as the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Forest Futures Program, the Sierra Forest Entrepreneurs Program, and California’s Climate Catalyst Revolving Loan Fund, provide precedents for public-private-people-philanthropic partnerships to bring novel solutions to a cascading crisis.  Capital for this program can be blended in ways that enable worker-owned cooperatives to solve the workforce gap equitably, and foster resilient community infrastructure, including family-sustaining housing. This, in turn, can generate new local industries—not only in wood products but also in related products and services that can spur a much larger wildfire resilience economy.


The Biden-Harris Administration should invest in the creation of a new worker-led forestry and fire industry that supports the creation of resilient local infrastructure and enables whole-of-community wildfire resilience. Specifically, Wonder Labs recommends the following actions: 

Build on the Good Jobs Challenge, the U.S. Department of Commerce should pilot entrepreneurship hubs that provide at least $150m in agile capital and mentorship to trained forestry and fire workers to start up small businesses, procure equipment, create resilient local infrastructure, and contribute to multi-scalar wildfire resilience goals. These hubs should be inclusive and non-discriminatory, including for people from incarcerated and justice-impacted backgrounds.

The Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture should together invest at least $60m in providing agile capital to diverse land and fire stewardship practitioners, including Indigenous fire practitioners, ranchers, and farmers, all who are already contributing to land and habitat restoration on Tribal and private lands, and need investments to scale capacities, equipment, and local infrastructure. 

The U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management should work with relevant state agencies and private industry across the western United States to create career-pathways, including small business opportunities, for formerly incarcerated and justice-impacted individuals. Investing at least $25m in piloting such an initiative could enable effective reintegration with communities on release and contribute to greater social, economic, and environmental outcomes. Specifically, learning from the California experience

Build on the Civilian Climate Corps, the Bureau of Land Management, with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, should invest at least $15m in co-facilitating youth-led forestry and fire programs, including sustained outreach to diverse young Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, people who identify as LGBTQQIA2S+, and justice-involved people in various stages of career training and eligibility. Specifically:

Invest in workforce development that empowers Indigenous experience and knowledge and supports marginalized communities

Ryan Reed, Member of the Karuk Tribe; Indigenous Fire Practitioner; FireGeneration Collaborative; and Kyle Trefny, FireGeneration Collaborative

As the White House acknowledged in recent guidance, Traditional Ecological Knowledge has been “historically marginalized in scientific communities and excluded from research and academic resources, funding, and other opportunities.” The field of wildland fire is no exception: Traditional Ecological Indigenous Knowledge Systems have been relegated to the periphery of fire mitigation and management leadership, preventing Cultural Fire Practitioners from having their years of experience in cultural fire recognized by the credentialing systems.

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group should develop curriculum and qualification standards to recognize Traditional Ecological Knowledge systems and take further action to address systemic barriers to participation in the wildland fire management workforce. 

Cultural Fire Practitioners face barriers to partnering with the federal fire management workforce and taking on leadership roles, despite decades of knowledge and practice. These barriers not only  exacerbate oppression, relegating Traditional Ecological Knowledge as lesser, but prevent otherwise qualified leaders from contributing to current mitigation and management structures. 

Women and elders often serve as leaders and teachers in Indigenous communities, stewarding and passing down Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Unfortunately, women face barriers to full inclusion and advancement in the male-dominated wildland fire workforce. For example, one Forest Service survey found that three in four women report having “felt out of place at work because of their gender” and that women in leadership roles “face challenges finding respect.” One third of surveyed Forest Service employees believed that personal characteristics hindered career advancement in wildland fire. 

These systemic barriers must be overcome to create pathways for more inclusive fire management leadership involving Indigenous women and elders, and supporting marginalized groups in the wildland fire space. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which establishes operations, positions, and qualification standards across agencies in wildland fire, should take further action to foster a wildland fire workforce and culture that reflects the full diversity of knowledge and experience that America has to offer. 


To ensure that existing workforce development programs incorporate Indigenous knowledge, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group should: 

To remove systemic barriers to inclusive fire management work culture and leadership, agencies should leverage their jurisdiction and that of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group to:  

Support the ecological fire management workforce of the future through investments in education for youth and communities

Ryan Reed, Member of the Karuk Tribe; Indigenous Fire Practitioner; FireGeneration Collaborative; and Kyle Trefny, FireGeneration Collaborative

Wildland fire doesn’t just affect wildland – it puts livelihoods, physical safety, and treasured cultural resources at risk. Despite the danger fire presents, local communities are often left out of discussions and development when it comes to fire management policy. In this gap is a critical opportunity: a younger generation eager to facilitate transformational shifts to protect their communities and local land.

Congress should invest in youth programs that in the short-term provide a trained workforce to supplement agency capacity, and in the long-term, provide a pathway for a life-long career in fire management. 


We recommend that Congress: 

Directly Fund Tribes to Create and Implement Land Stewardship Initiatives

Nina Fontana, PhD, University of California, Davis

Across the United States, Tribal nations and organizations have the knowledge and will to lead cultural and prescribed burns. Unfortunately, they are consistently limited by (a) insufficient funds, and (b) burdensome regulatory requirements that often prove overly burdensome to comply with. These two issues are connected. Tribal practitioners are often unable to obtain federal grants for land stewardship purposes because they do not have the capacity to find and apply for them, to compete with state agencies and organizations in the application process, and to comply with the grant requirements, which can conflict with Cultural Fire traditions in fundamental ways.

Congress should appropriate discretionary funds directly to Tribal nations and Tribally-led organizations for fire hazard reduction in order to decrease the administrative capacity needed for Tribes to compete for grants. The funds will be dispersed by regional Tribal liaisons, who will gather and utilize input from local actors to direct grants.

Tribal governments and organizations require direct grant funding to exercise their sovereignty in a rightfully unencumbered manner. When Tribal governments and organizations are provided with adequate funding and are able to direct its usage, Cultural Fire Practitioners are able to design cultural fire projects that fit their unique traditions and local plant communities contained within their lands. In addition, by giving Tribes greater discretion over funds, the federal government would a) decrease the regulatory burden on Tribes, and b) provide greater recognition of cultural burning as a uniquely valuable form of land restoration and place-based knowledge, instead of categorizing the practice as an often-overlooked subset of prescribed burning.

Most importantly, direct funding would allow Tribal governments and organizations to shift crucial capacity away from time-intensive administrative tasks and towards stewarding their ancestral lands. Tribes could expand their fire practitioner workforce, treat larger areas of land, and better conserve important natural and cultural resources.

We recommend that Congress: 

By drawing upon the expertise of communities and Cultural Fire Practitioners, the Tribal liaisons would be able to target funds to groups and landscapes that have the greatest need, ensuring that federal resources are utilized in an effective manner each year.

It is time for the federal government to recognize the deep expertise of Tribes in fire management. By giving Tribes greater influence in determining the use of funds for preventative and mitigative activities, Congress would bring funding structures in line with the rightful sovereignty of Tribes, and it would protect communities and natural resources across the country by clearing the path for more beneficial fire. 

About these recommendations

Recommendations below include ideas targeted to both Congressional and Executive Branch. The Commission may wish to consider whether Congress has a role in encouraging or supporting Executive Branch changes described here; additionally, we plan to share these recommendations with Executive Branch actors, including the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) and the White House Wildfire Resilience Interagency Working Group, for their consideration.

A Note on Recommendation Attribution

Note that each of the recommendations below stands alone and is attributed to a specific contributor or team of contributors. The recommendations below do not necessarily reflect the views of the full cohort. Additionally, the list of recommendations as a whole also does not necessarily reflect the views of the full cohort and does not constitute a consensus.


CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

DHS: Department of Homeland Security 

DOC: Department of Commerce

DOI: Department of the Interior 

EPA: Environmental Protection Agency 

FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency

HHS: Department of Health and Human Services 

NIH: National Institutes of Health 

NSF: National Science Foundation 

UAS: Uncrewed Aerial Systems

USDA: United States Department of Agriculture 

USFS: United States Forest Service 

USGS: United States Geological Survey 

118th Congress: National Security

The 21st century will be shaped by the US-China strategic competition. The United States and China are locked in a battle for global power, influence, and resources, and are fighting for control of the world’s most important geopolitical regions, including the Indo-Pacific and Africa. They are also vying for leadership in cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, quantum computing, and cybersecurity. This competition is not just about economic dominance; it is also about ideology and values. To ensure that we can lead in today’s world, the United States must innovate. If we don’t, we may fall behind.

Below, we provide concrete, actionable policy proposals to help the 118th Congress meet this moment. These proposals will protect our troops, cultivate an agile and effective military, and develop a national security industrial base that allows America to lead in critical emerging technologies.

Medical Readiness. To support our troops, Congress should take steps to maintain military medical readiness. Generally, at the start of a given war, the American battlefield mortality rate is higher than it was at the end of the previous war, suggesting that military medical capabilities erode between wars. This erosion is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops. To better protect our troops, Congress should direct the Department of Defense to expand military-civilian partnerships (MCPs) to pursue a national goal of eliminating preventable deaths, as detailed in the above memo.

Cultivating a 21st Century National Security Innovation Base. The National Security Commission on AI warned that a digital-talent deficit at the Department of Defense (DoD) represents the greatest impediment to the U.S. military’s effective embrace of emerging technologies. To address this challenge:

Combating Increasing Global Threats. Many threats to national security can only be effectively countered by working with allies. To effectively combat such challenges, we must strengthen U.S. Engagement in International Standards Bodies. The U.S. should also lead in the formulation and ratification of a global treaty on artificial intelligence in the vein of the Geneva Conventions, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to establish guardrails and protections for the civilian and military use of AI, as recommended by the Future of Defense Task Force.

Increasing Military Efficiency. Greater military efficiency can also be achieved by cutting down on unnecessary expenses. We can save billions on the U.S. nuclear deterrent by directing the Pentagon to wind down its current efforts to deploy an entirely new missile force, instead extending the life of our current arsenal of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).

Appropriations Recommendations

To protect American technological advantage and compete with China across all aspects of America’s national security strategy:

Return to introduction

118th Congress: Education & Workforce

Amid growing global competition in emerging technologies, increasing adoption of automation and artificial intelligence, and economic and national security trends upended by the pandemic, the United States is facing a generational challenge. In the labor market, major shifts that were once the product of future-casting are now squarely upon us, demanding a strategic approach to help the modern workforce adapt, and ensure the education system fosters the next generation of innovators.

Individuals in the STEM workforce have made substantial contributions to the nation’s innovation, growth and technological competitiveness, and will continue to be at the core of the economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM employment is projected to increase by 11 percent from 2020 to 2030. The Department of Defense and leading experts agree that the future of national security relies on advanced technologies such as artificial Intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, quantum computing and robotics, all of which require a strong STEM education pipeline. Unfortunately, STEM education trends in the United States have not kept up. According to the World Economic Forum, China had 4.7 million STEM graduates in 2016, India had 2.6 million STEM graduates, but the US had 568,000. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results reported that the average score for 9-year-old students fell 7 percentage points between 2020 and 2022, representing a 2 decade backslide in performance. And a 2021 National Academies review finds that only 22 percent of American high school graduates are proficient in science, with the average elementary classroom devoting less than 20 minutes per day to science, and 69% of elementary teachers say they are not well prepared to teach science.

The 118th Congress must act in this historic convergence of economic and educational demands. Much as the nation once rallied around its SPUTNIK moment and the Space Race, we now have an opportunity to reverse current education and workforce trends through a series of strategic investments.

Fostering a competitive job market and a strong economy. The United States built the 20th century in part through investments in education and training pathways to quality, economically-sound jobs. But today, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute survey of 750 executives, almost 30 percent of respondents perceived the skills gap to be the biggest challenge their companies are confronting.

To help American workers adapt and upskill, Congress and federal agencies should implement training and transition strategies for high-tech sector-specific workforces, such as in the fields of quantum computing, clean energy transition, or semiconductors, as was the intent of the CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Fund included in the CHIPS and Science Act. Congress should also leverage existing programs for work-based learning and retraining by reauthorizing and modernizing federally-registered apprenticeships. Similarly, effective government programs such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program should be revisited and reformed to promote worker upskilling and assistance. Congress should also ensure robust appropriations for the Workforce Innovation Fund authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Further, the modern labor market calls for still bolder reimagining of workforce training opportunities. Just as the nation recognizes the value to national security, energy, and health presented by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model, so too should we adapt this model to prioritize worker training at scale through an ARPA for Labor.

Amid a backdrop of historic and controversial layoffs from giants within the tech industry, Congress should take steps to ensure competitive labor markets for all Americans, through increased oversight of overly restrictive non-disclosure agreements and suffocating non-compete agreements that diminish labor mobility and competition.

Strengthen STEM Education & Training Pipelines to Compete Globally. The ability of employers and workers to compete on the global stage is inextricably linked to the education and training students receive today. But as mentioned above, the system is slipping. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that our education system is failing to produce enough graduates with critical STEM and technical skills, while results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) indicate that US students continue to lag behind their peers in East Asia and Europe in reading, math, and science. This stunts employers’ ability to hire and workers’ ability to secure higher-paying jobs. 

Fortunately, Congress put STEM education reform at the core of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which authorizes new and expanded investments in STEM education and training at all schooling levels. One of the major priorities of the new Congress should be to follow through with full funding for CHIPS and Science education programs at NSF and other science agencies at authorized levels. This includes $2.5 billion in FY 2024, and $13 billion total over five years, for the NSF STEM Education directorate (see more details below). These programs scale up research and innovations in preK-12 instruction, in addition to bolstering support for R&D to improve STEM education at undergraduate and community colleges, and other scholarship & fellowship programs.

The Act also tasks the NSF to update the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) by increasing the number of science and engineering graduate fellows supported annually, by increasing the cost education allowance, and by recruiting a more diverse pool of applicants. As was recommended by the Trump Administration’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), expanding the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a logical and easy way to expand and retain the critical American innovation pipeline. 

To ensure today’s students catch up to their international peers (and that we are already looking ahead to the challenges of the next decade) the US must prioritize R&D in education in a manner similar to fields like medicine and commerce. This requires a strategic investment in the research capacity at the Department of Education, as well as in the basic data infrastructure that will allow parents and districts to understand how their students are faring in comparison to their domestic and global peers.

Appropriations Recommendations

Full Funding for CHIPS and Science STEM Education. As mentioned above, Congress has the critical opportunity to invest in STEM education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act. These programs support vital teacher training and collaboration with the scientific workforce, improved STEM education in afterschool programs, and a dedicated focus to diversify STEM fields through higher education programs. The full authorization for NSF Stem Education is $2.5 billion in FY 2024, which includes the following top-level programmatic investments: 

Other Strategic Investments in Economic Security. In addition to the initiatives laid out in CHIPS and Science, there are several other high-leverage investments Congress can make. Note: the top four recommendations are from the Alliance for Learning Innovation, a coalition advocating for research-based innovations in education, of which FAS is a member.

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118th Congress: Ensuring Energy Security

Recent crises, such as the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, have led to volatile fossil fuel prices and raised national concerns about energy security. The growing frequency of blackouts across the country due to extreme weather points to an increasingly vulnerable and aging electric grid. Grid capacity right now is incapable of supporting the rapid deployment of renewable energy projects that can generate clean, reliable, domestic energy. Further, as global competition rises, the United States finds itself overly reliant on foreign manufacturing and supply chains for these very technologies we want to deploy.

In order to improve energy security, affordability, and reliability for everyday Americans, the 118th Congress should act decisively to strengthen our energy infrastructure while leveraging emerging energy technology for the energy system of the future. Below are some recommendations for action.

Transmission Lines. The current U.S. electrical grid is an aging piece of infrastructure with sluggish growth and increasing vulnerability to threats from extreme weather and foreign attacks. The 118th Congress should implement policies to revitalize domestic manufacturing and construction, strengthen national energy security and reliability, and generate new jobs and economic growth. The $83 billion worth of planned transmission projects that the ISO/RTO Board has approved or recommended is projected to add $42 billion to U.S. GDP, create more than 400,000 well-paying jobs, and boost direct local spending by nearly $40 billion. However, the rate of construction for new transmission lines must substantially increase to fully harness the new energy economy and achieve ambitious emissions reductions.

High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines are particularly important for connecting renewable energy producing regions with low demand, such as the Southwest and Midwest, to high demand regions. At these distances greater than 300 miles, HVDC transmission lines transmit power with fewer losses than AC lines. HVDC lines can also avoid some of the challenges to AC transmission line development because they can be buried underground, eliminating resident concerns of visual pollution and avoiding vulnerability to extreme weather. Further, if HVDC lines are built along existing rail corridors, their construction only requires negotiation with the seven major American rail companies rather than a myriad of private landowners and federal land management agencies. Congress took an important first step to advancing HVDC technology by directing DOE to develop an HVDC moonshot initiative on cost reduction, as part of the FY 2023 omnibus bill. Now, the 118th Congress can further support this goal by working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to eliminate regulatory obstacles preventing the private sector from building more of these lines along existing corridors. Congress should also create federal tax credits to stimulate domestic manufacturing and construction of HVDC transmission, as well as transmission line construction in general

Manufacturing. To spur domestic manufacturing capabilities and regain competitive advantages in clean energy technologies, the 118th Congress should fund a new manufacturing-focused branch of DOE’s highly effective State Energy Program (SEP). Congress can double down on this action by scaling investments in domestic capacity to manufacture key industrial products, such as low-carbon cement and steel.

Workforce. Our nation needs a workforce equipped with the skills to build a robust energy economy. To that end, Congress could provide the Department of Energy (DOE) with $30 million annually to establish an Energy Extension System (EES). Modeled after the USDA’s Cooperative Extension System (CES), and in partnership with the DOE’s National Labs, the EES would provide technical assistance to help institutions and individuals across the country take full advantage of emerging opportunities in the energy economy, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), installation and maintenance of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, geothermal power, and more. 

Permitting Reform. In order to improve government efficiency, reduce costs, and enable the construction of new infrastructure for the clean energy transition, the 118th Congress should pass legislation on permitting reform to improve National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance timelines. These reforms should include:

Zero-Emission Fueling Stations. Zero-emission vehicles powered by electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are the future of American auto manufacturing. The 118th Congress should pass key legislation to provide the federal government and states with the authorities and resources necessary to build a nationwide network of zero-emission fueling stations, so these new vehicles can refuel anywhere in the country. This includes:

Electricity Markets. Power grids are being transformed from simple, fixed energy sources and points of demand to complex webs that feature distributed energy storage, demand response, and power quality factors. “Qualifying facilities” are a special class of small power production facilities and cogeneration facilities created by the Power Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) of 1978 with the right to sell energy or capacity to a utility and purchase services from utilities while being relieved of certain regulatory burdens. The definition of “qualifying facilities” should be expanded beyond power generation facilities to include households and businesses that provide grid services (e.g., feeding power back to the grid during times of peak energy demand). This would ensure that utilities properly compensate customers if they supply these services, thus allowing individual Americans to participate in electricity markets and spurring the adoption of novel clean-energy technologies.

Geothermal Energy. The Earth’s crust holds more than enough untapped geothermal energy to meet needs. Yet, only 0.4% of U.S. electricity is generated by geothermal energy. There’s a major opportunity to leverage this emerging domestic source for U.S. consumers. Congress should support the Geothermal Earthshot and drive innovation by: 

A policy memo on Empowering the Geothermal Earthshot is forthcoming from FAS.

Appropriations Recommendations

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Science and Innovation in the 118th Congress

The United States faces a broad array of challenges, from intense competition in science and technology abroad, to the need for safe and resilient critical systems at home.

To be sure, narrowly split control of Congress adds to the complexity of addressing these challenges. But even in this situation, the 118th Congress can still create opportunities for bipartisan action to bolster American economic security, national security, and health. There are many national goals on which the parties agree. These include:

Even if there are some areas in which policy differences persist, there are many where action is possible.

To help seed the ground for bipartisan progress, we have assembled a wide-ranging menu of policy ideas on a range of critical topics.

Where do these ideas come from?

This menu of policy ideas, organized by theme, was primarily generated over the past three years through crowdsourced outreach by the Day One Project, and refined with the help of the Day One Project team to transform promising ideas into actionable policy proposals. 

We have added a few additional ideas of our own, but the majority are derived from Day One Policy Memos authored by experts, scholars, and policy entrepreneurs from an array of backgrounds. Click on the links found throughout this report to access the source memos, which include rationales and plans of action for policy implementation.

Emerging Tech & Competitiveness
Energy Security
National Security
Bioeconomy & Health Security
Education & Workforce
Resilient Agriculture & Environment

118th Congress: Bioeconomy & Health Security

For the United States, the economic, societal, and national security benefits of the life sciences are vast. The U.S. bioeconomy – the part of the economy driven by the life sciences and biotech, and enabled by engineering, computing, and information science – is valued at over $950 billion. Life sciences research leads to cleaner crops through pollution-free fertilizers, and access to life-saving vaccines, like those mRNA vaccines that helped counter the devastating impacts of COVID-19. And industries built on the life sciences create good-paying jobs across the country.

The 118th Congress can adopt policy to help drive U.S. biotech and biomanufacturing to grow regional prosperity, deliver on conservation goals, and improve U.S. competitiveness and resilience. Here are some ideas.

Advancing the U.S. Bioeconomy to Create Jobs and Bolster Competitiveness. Many provisions in the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act are intended to enable the bioeconomy. Implementation should focus on three areas: cutting-edge R&D, fundamental and publicly available tools, and biomanufacturing. To further support fundamental research, Congress could direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to aim to maximize returns on its massive R&D budget by piloting novel funding mechanisms with evaluation through randomized control trials, funding more high-risk high-reward research, and dedicating more funding to early-career researchers. Congress could also establish a Plant Genome Research Institute (PGRI) that would drive plant genomics research and centralize federal government activities, helping to promote crop innovation and enable a diversified, localized, and resilient food system. And to ensure all Americans benefit fully, actions should be taken to address bias in medical technology at the development, testing and regulation, and market-deployment and evaluation phases.

To promote U.S. bioindustrial manufacturing scale-up and commercialization, Congress could authorize a Bio for America Program Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With appropriations, the office would house a suite of initiatives:

Importantly, Congress can help prepare and invite more Americans into skilled jobs that support the bioeconomy, building a better future for Americans in all 50 states – including people of color, people with disabilities, and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – by funding modernized biology education, establishing world-class entrepreneurial hubs for biotechnology in non-traditional regions of the country, and supporting equitable access to industry-recognized certificates and work-based training.

Biotech can also be leveraged to fast-track our nation’s capability to deliver on conservation goals, remediate contaminated habitats, and detect dangerous environmental toxins and pathogens. To that end, Congress could establish a national center to achieve several important goals:

Safeguarding Americans Against Biological Threats. The human and economic toll of COVID-19 has shown the need to be better prepared for future pandemics and epidemics. And yet, there is currently little to no economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies to engage in vaccine research for infectious diseases that have not, and yet could, cause a pandemic. To address this market failure, the U.S. should incentivize vaccine development for priority emerging infectious diseases through federal financing. Specifically, Congress should authorize and appropriate $10 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) over 10 years to create an investment fund that would:

Masks, especially high quality respirators, are disease-agnostic tools that can help reduce infections from respiratory diseases like the flu virus and RSV. In turn, this can reduce the burden on doctors and hospitals, and avoid additional healthcare. To that end, the mail delivery system used to distribute COVID-19 diagnostic tests should be augmented by the addition of a masks via mail program. The COVID-19 test mailing program should be restarted and expanded to include an option for ordering one box of 10 free N95 masks every quarter, for those Americans who wish to participate. Additionally, rotating face-mask inventory from the Strategic National Stockpile in a “first in, first out” method will prevent masks from being stored past their recommended shelf life, and promote continual replenishment of the U.S.’s stockpile. The recent National Strategy for a Resilient Public Health Supply Chain, as well as the bipartisan PPE in America Act (H.R.1436) and the bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act (S.3799), all advocate for a rotating stock system; however, steps must be taken to better operationalize its implementation and instate a timeline. Congress should authorize the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response to grant the HHS Coordination Operations and Response Element key management and distribution responsibilities for critical diagnostic and preventative measures like tests and masks.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was significantly worsened by the presence of diseases that persist at relatively stable case numbers within a particular region. Additional infections paired with COVID-19 infections can lead to lower survival rates and longer hospital stays, creating a drain on resources as well as higher morbidity and mortality effects. Congress should thus authorize an initiative within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that enhances the reporting and tracking of regional diseases and helps reduce the data gap that prevents actions and responses to countering circulating diseases. The initiative could be incorporated into S. 3814, the bipartisan Modernizing Biosurveillance Capabilities and Epidemic Forecasting Act.

Finally, the bipartisan Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (PAHPAIA) will expire in 2023. This law contains several integral provisions for national health security, public health preparedness, biosurveillance, and emergency medical countermeasures, as well as authorizations for BARDA and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Congress should re-authorize PAHPAIA, as it forms the bedrock of America’s pandemic preparedness architecture, and consider expanding its purview to address aspects of other U.S. challenges such as wildfires and antimicrobial resistance.

Appropriations Recommendations

Bioeconomy in CHIPS and Science. There are many provisions critical to the U.S. bioeconomy in the CHIPS and Science Law, which Congress should ensure receive robust appropriations. These include:

Congress should provide robust appropriations to all activities, as close to the CHIPS authorizations as possible, to ensure a dynamic and innovative bioeconomy sector.

Bioproduct Pilot Program. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Bioproduct Pilot Program (created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sec. 70501) is intended to increase economic activity in rural areas of the U.S. while also lowering commercialization risks associated with bringing biobased products to market. The program aims to study the benefits of using materials derived from covered agricultural commodities for manufacture of construction and consumer products. The program’s work also enables the development of a more circular economy, where finite resources are not just extracted and consumed but also regenerated in a sustainable manner. Adopting a more circular economy ensures that wealth and other economic benefits in the form of jobs and other opportunities are created, and stay in, rural communities, while learnings can be shared throughout the U.S. innovation ecosystem.

A total of up to $5 million is available for the program for each of FY 2022 and FY 2023. The availability of funds for the program should be extended through FY 2028, with yearly increases to a level above $5 million per year according to the requests of NIFA/the program team.

Scaling and Regionalizing Networked Bioindustrial Manufacturing. The 2023 NDAA (Division A, Section 215) directs the Secretary of Defense to establish and expand a network of manufacturing innovation institutes and intermediate scale facilities for R&D, piloting, and scaling of innovative bioindustrial manufacturing processes and products. Support for these activities is critical to ensure the industrial base can leverage bioindustrial manufacturing processes for the production of chemicals, materials, and other products necessary to support national security and secure fragile supply chains. Congress should provide $500 million in appropriations across national security bioeconomy activities including $300 million for biomanufacturing innovation institutes, in accord with the NDAA.

Countering Global Malnutrition to Enhance U.S. Security. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental impacts, and conflicts like the war in Ukraine, global rates of malnutrition are at eight percent and are forecast to become even worse. Providing life-saving treatment around the world serves a core American value of humanitarianism, and a priority for U.S. national security – the newly released National Security Strategy dedicates an entire section to food insecurity.

In 2021 legislation, Congress directed USAID to advance programs to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world and develop a Global Nutrition Coordination Plan. That legislation also directed USAID to create the Nutrition Leadership Council, which can help elevate nutrition programs across U.S. global health interventions and foster collaboration with other sectors, development agencies, partner governments, and local actors. These are important steps to create a centralized food security program with harmonized funding – a system to deploy a more effective response to end global malnutrition and improve U.S. national security.

Congress should work with the Administration to begin scaling up global malnutrition assistance in FY 2024, in accord with the 2021 legislation.

Supporting the U.S. Emergency Response Workforce. The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) is an integral part of the United States’ pandemic and hazards preparedness and response infrastructure. NDMS has a unique ability to coordinate and deliver emergency medical services to both federal and state, local, tribal, or territorial (SLTT) agencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NDMS deployed all across the country to provide training, medical care, coordinate medical supply delivery, and ensure effective communication. Additional appropriations would go toward hiring more personnel and bolstering in-person activities in the wake of COVID-19. Congress should ensure NDMS is funded up to FY 2024 request levels.

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118th Congress: Emerging Tech & Competitiveness

Global competition for advanced technology leadership is fierce. China continues to build scholarship capacity across science and engineering disciplines, has surpassed the United States in knowledge- and technology-intensive manufacturing, and is hot on American heels for the global lead in R&D investment. In the U.S., domestic manufacturing jobs have enjoyed a recent surge, but the U.S. trade deficit in high technology stood at nearly $200 billion in 2021, and appears set to far surpass that this year

The federal government has played an historic role in fostering basic science and the development of critical technologies like the Internet and GPS, and federal investments have helped drive manufacturing and high-tech cluster development for nearly a century. In light of that role, the 118th Congress should act decisively to sustain America’s competitive edge in industries of the future.

R&D Policy. The most important step the new Congress can take is to ensure robust appropriations for the array of science and innovation initiatives authorized in the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. New and ongoing activities in agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy Office of Science (SC), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Commerce will drive scientific excellence, STEM talent, and industrial competitiveness in key areas like advanced communications, materials, semiconductors, and others.

Congress should also continue to build out Manufacturing USA, a network of highly effective public-private innovation institutes serving defense, energy, life sciences, and other sectors. In addition to CHIPS-authorized funding boosts, the Manufacturing USA network could be enhanced by regional demonstration centers, talent programs to align American worker skills with industry needs, and other steps. 

As Congress invests, lawmakers should also seek out opportunities to fund alternative, novel models for research including, for example, focused research organizations (FROs) or institutes for independent scholarship. While the federal science enterprise remains an engine of discovery and progress, new ways of doing science can foster untapped creativity and let scientists and engineers tackle new problems or come up with unforeseen breakthroughs. For instance, the CEO-led FRO model is intended to facilitate mid-scale research projects to produce new public goods (like technologies, techniques, processes, or datasets) that in turn have a catalyzing effect on productivity in the broader science enterprise. Congress should work with agencies to create space and find opportunities to foster such novel approaches.

Congress could also consider legislative reforms to empower national labs to innovate and commercialize cutting-edge technology. For instance, legislation could extend Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) authority to allow for public-private research facilities on surplus federal lands, or create a federally chartered technology transfer organization inspired by similar models at effective universities. Such capabilities would further leverage the labs as engines for regional innovation.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The new Congress has the opportunity to invest in critical technologies through new funds and public-private partnerships that drive growth of frontier technology companies. Congress can also invest in the broader ecosystem to make innovation sustainable, expand the geography of innovation, and support equitable access to opportunities. Such investments would continue the momentum that Congress established in 2022.

A major element of this momentum is bipartisan support for the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs program authorized in Section 10621 of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. The new program, intended to catalyze and expand high-tech industry clusters in up-and-coming regions around the United States, was authorized at $10 billion over five years in CHIPS, and received a $500 million down payment in appropriations so far. Now, the 118th Congress should continue and expand upon that support, while more generally continuing to build out place-based and sustainable infrastructure that advances deep-tech and tough-tech industries like the bioeconomy, advanced manufacturing, and clean energy.

In addition, Congress should find ways to support early-stage companies at the technology frontier, through establishing and funding a Frontier Tech consortium or a Deep Tech capital fund to coordinate public investments across government agencies. This would ensure that government funding is used efficiently to spur private investment in early stage frontier tech companies within critical national industrial base areas. 

Artificial Intelligence. As AI technologies advance, the government needs to harness them safely and efficiently. Congress should include a National Framework for AI Procurement in the next NDAA to establish a standardized process for vetting AI applications proposed for public use, in line with a 2020 Executive Order on “Promoting the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in the Federal Government.” To protect the privacy and security of those using or affected by all AI products, this framework should include a strategy for investing in and deploying privacy-preserving machine learning (PPML).

Space Innovation. While some NASA language was included in CHIPS and Science, space sector innovation didn’t get nearly as much attention as it could have. The 118th should remedy this by placing special focus on investments and policy reform to enhance U.S. ability to innovate in the space sector. The potential opportunity is huge: space is likely to become a trillion-dollar sector before midcentury. 

Multiple areas are ripe for action. One is in the area of orbital debris. There are thousands of pieces of space junk now in low-earth orbit – often emerging from defunct satellites or collisions – and these pose a substantial hazard to commercial space operations as well as U.S. national security. To deal with this issue, Congress could work with relevant agencies including the Departments of Defense and Commerce to develop and fund an advanced market commitment for space debris to incentivize solutions via the possibility of investment returns. Congress could also take another run at SPACE Act ideas that were left out of the final Chips and Science text, to codify responsibility for civilian Space Situational Awareness (S.S.A.) with the Department of Commerce and to authorize the creation of one or more centers of excellence for S.S.A.

Congress should also work with the Administration to advance in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM), an emerging suite of capabilities that offer substantial upside for the future space economy. The White House has already released an ISAM strategy and implementation plan, but substantial action is still needed, and Congress can provide leadership and support in this area. For example, Congress can work with NASA to create an Advanced Space Architectures Program, which would operate under a public-private consortium model to pursue missions that develop new technological capabilities for the U.S. space sector. Congress can also encourage federal agencies and the White House to develop a public roadmap of needs, goals and desired capabilities in the emerging ISAM sector, and to work toward establishing ISAM-specific funding wedges in key agency budget requests to better track related investments for concerted appropriations decisions.

Appropriations Recommendations

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118th Congress: Resilient Agriculture, Society & Environment

Over the past several years, instability has been a national and global constant. The COVID-19 pandemic upended supply chains and production systems. Floods, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and fires have imposed catastrophic consequences and forced people to reconsider where they can safely live. Russia’s war with Ukraine and other geopolitical conflicts have forced countries around the world to scramble for reliable energy sources.

Congress must act decisively to fortify the United States against these and future destabilizing threats. Priorities include revitalizing U.S. agriculture to ensure a dependable, affordable, and diverse food supply; improving disaster preparation and response; and driving development and oversight of critical environmental technologies.

Revitalizing U.S. Agriculture. Every society needs a robust food supply to survive, thrive, and grow. But skyrocketing food prices and agricultural supply-chain disruptions indicate that our nation’s food supply may be on shaky ground. Congress can take measures to rebuild a world-leading U.S. agricultural sector that is sustainable amid evolving external pressures.

A first step is to invest in agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship. The 2018 Farm Bill created the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) as a driver of transformative progress in agriculture, but failed to equip the institution with a key tool: prize authority. Prizes have proven to be force multipliers for innovation dollars invested by many institutions, including other Advanced Research Projects Agencies (ARPAs). It would be simple for Congress to extend prize authority to AgARDA as well.

Prize authority at AgARDA would be especially powerful if coupled with additional support for agricultural entrepreneurship. Congress should fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA) with $25 million per year for five years to jointly develop a “Ground Up” program to help Americans start small businesses focused on sustainable agriculture.

We must also begin viewing our nation’s soil as a strategic resource. Farmers and ranchers cannot succeed without good places to plant crops and graze livestock. But our nation’s fertile soil is being lost ten times faster than it is being produced. At this rate, many parts of the country will run out of arable land in the next 50 years. Some places—such as the Piedmont region of the eastern United States—already have. States including New Mexico, Illinois, and Nebraska have already introduced or passed legislation to preserve and restore soil health; Congress should follow their example. A comprehensive soil-health bill could, for instance, create bridge-loan projects for farmers transitioning to soil-protective farm practices, expand the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) program to cover such practices, fund USDA Extension offices to provide related technical assistance, and support regenerative agriculture in general.

Finally, Congress should extend funding for two programs that are delivering clear benefits to U.S. food systems. With major food production concentrated in five states, often far from major population centers, the farm-to-table pathway is extraordinarily susceptible to disruptions. The American Rescue Plan Act created the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program to help small- and medium-sized enterprises strengthen this pathway, including through “aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling or distribution of food.” This program should be continued and resourced going forward. In addition, the Bioproduct Pilot Program studies how materials derived from agricultural commodities can be used for construction and consumer products. This program increases economic activity in rural areas while also lowering commercialization risks associated with bringing bio-based products to market. Congress should extend funding for this program (currently set to expire after FY 2023) for at least $5 million per year through the end of FY 2028.

Improving Disaster Preparation and Response. Every year, Americans lose billions of dollars to natural hazards including hurricanes, wildfires, floods, heat waves, and droughts. We know these disasters will happen…yet only 15% of federal disaster funding is invested to blunt their effects. In particular, current disaster policy and practice lacks incentives for local governments to proactively reduce risks.

Congress can address this failure by amending aspects of the Stafford Act of 1988. In particular, Congress should redefine the disaster threshold in ways that factor in local capacity and ability to recover. Congress should also consider (i) reducing the federal cost share for disaster response, (ii) implementing other incentive models that may induce better local hazard-reduction decisions and improve long-term resilience, and (iii) strengthening existing incentive programs. For example, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS) could be improved by requiring local governments to take stronger actions to qualify for reduced insurance rates and increasing transparency about how community ratings are calculated. 

Disaster management response is not the sole purview of FEMA. For example, the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program positions the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a primary disaster-response funder. To ensure efficiency and prevent duplication of effort, Congress must clarify the role of each federal agency involved in disasters.

Congress should also ensure adequate research funding to investigate evidence-based and cost-effective disaster mitigation and response strategies. A useful first step would be doubling the interagency Disaster Resilience Research Grant (DRRG) program, which already supports researchers in groundbreaking modeling, simulations, and solutions development to protect Americans from the most catastrophic consequences.

Driving Development and Oversight of Critical Environmental Technologies. Environmental technologies are critical to ensure energy and resource security. Congress can use market-shaping mechanisms to pull critical environmental technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), forward. Operation Warp Speed demonstrated breakthrough capacity of federally backed advance market commitments (AMCs) to incentivize rapid development and scaling of transformative technologies. Building on this example, Congress should authorize a $1 billion AMC for scalable carbon-removal approaches—providing the large demand signal needed to attract market entrants, and helping to advance a clean all-of-the-above energy portfolio. This approach could then be extended to other environmentally relevant applications, such as building infrastructure to enable next-generation transportation.

Congress must also ensure responsible deployment and reasonable oversight of new environmental technologies. For instance, DOE recently launched an ambitious “Carbon Negative Shot” to foster breakthroughs in carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology, and is also leading an interagency CDR task force pursuing the advancement of many CDR approaches. But we lack a national carbon-accounting standard and tool to ensure that CDR initiatives are being implemented consistently, honestly, and successfully. Congress should work with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to address this assessment gap.

Similarly, the IRA appropriates over $405 million across federal agencies for activities including “the development of environmental data or information systems.” This could prove a prescient investment to efficiently guide future federal spending on environmental initiatives—but only if steps are taken to ensure that these dollars are not spent on duplicative efforts (for instance, water data are currently collected by 25 federal entities across 57 data platforms and 462 data types). Congress should therefore authorize and direct the creation of a Digital Service for the Planet “with the expertise and mission to coordinate environmental data and technology across agencies”, thus promoting efficiencies in the data enterprise. This centralized service could be established either as a branch of the existing U.S. Digital Service or as a parallel but distinct body.

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118th Congress: Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is in disrepair and our transportation system has failed to keep pace with usage, technology and maintenance needs. As a result, 43% of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, roadway fatalities reached nearly 43,000 last year, and logistics and supply chain systems are ill-prepared for the increasing stresses caused by pandemics, international conflicts, and extreme weather events. In addition, our nation’s water supply system is plagued by aged infrastructure such as lead pipes that contribute to irreversible health effects, and vulnerable pipelines leading to water main breaks that lose up to 6 billion gallons of treated water daily. These conditions stem from declining public infrastructure investment, which has decreased as a share of GDP by more than 40% from its high in 1961.

The 118th Congress has an historic opportunity to develop and harness innovative technologies and methods to strengthen our economy, spur job growth, and bolster physical security with an eye toward equitable outcomes for all Americans. Our recommendations for policies that can help us achieve these outcomes are detailed below.

Reducing Transportation and Infrastructure GHGs. Commercial trucks and buses are one of the top contributors of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs). To help these vehicles transition to cleaner power sources, Congress should facilitate the build-out of a nationwide network of zero-emission fueling stations that would not only help reduce GHGs but also support America’s emerging alternative fuels and vehicles industry, and the job growth that would come with it.

Another significant contributor to GHGs is air travel, specifically small aircraft, the largest source of environmental lead pollution in the United States. Congress should help bolster a more sustainable aviation industry through funding, regulations, and taxes to spur the electrification of regional airports while putting the U.S. back on track to competing with European and Asian companies in the sustainable aviation technology market.

But reducing greenhouse gas emissions of different travel modes is not enough: we need to revolutionize the way we build, in light of the emissions intensity of materials such as steel and concrete. To support a “Steel Shot” at DOE, Congress should provide funding for a Clean Energy Manufacturing USA Institute focused on clean steel, as well as funding and authorities for federal investment in commercial-scale solutions.

Harnessing the Benefits of Smart-City Technologies While Mitigating Risks. Smart-city technologies – such as autonomous vehicles, smart grids, and internet-connected sensors – have the opportunity to deliver a better quality of life for communities by harnessing the power of data and digital infrastructure. However, they are not being used to their full potential. Congress should support more widespread adoption of smart-city technologies through funding for a new Smart Community Prize Competition, increased funding for community development programs such as HUD’s ConnectHome pilot program, planning grants, and resources for regional innovation ecosystems, amongst others.

But communities should not invest in or adopt smart-city technologies without consideration for individual protections and privacy. To that end, Congress should fund the development of technologies and processes that have civic protections embedded at their core. 

Putting AVs and CVs at the Forefront of Advancing Societal Benefits and Equity. The widespread adoption of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) and Connected Vehicles (CVs) can revolutionize the way we travel and accelerate progress on a number of outcomes, including safety, GHG emissions, and travel times and costs. There are several ways Congress can play a role in spurring the AV and CV markets toward realizing these outcomes.

On AVs, Congress can create an Evaluation Innovation Engine at the Department of Transportation (USDOT) funded at $72 million annually to identify priority AV metrics and spur innovative technologies and strategies that would achieve them. Congress can also support AV-5G connections, critical for AV integration with the built environment, by funding a program to establish transportation infrastructure pilot zones; funding a National Connected AV Research Consortium; funding a research initiative at NSF focused on safety; and funding a new U.S. Corps of Engineers and Computer Scientists for Technology. 

On CVs, Congress can help stakeholders at the federal, state, and local level realize their benefits and work towards a common strategy by creating a National Task Force on Connected Vehicles.

Supporting Communities of Opportunity. In support of a national equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) program that addresses widespread demand for affordable housing and walkable communities, Congress should pass legislation that extends the use of Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement Financing (RRIF) funds for TOD initiatives; increases RRIF’s loan authorization to $50B, creates new funding and tax incentives to support TOD initiatives; and expands USDOT’s federal credit assistance programs, among other measures.

Appropriations Recommendations

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Annual Report 2022

About FAS

When properly harnessed, science, technology, and innovation can greatly benefit society. The challenge, however, is that the U.S. governments often struggle to capitalize on these sources of ideas, evidence, and experience to drive effective policy and governance. FAS exists to change that dynamic.

Founded in 1945, FAS envisions a world where cutting-edge science, technology, ideas and talent are deployed to solve the biggest challenges of our time. We embed science, technology, innovation, and experience into government and public discourse in order to build a healthy, safe, prosperous and equitable society.

Message from the CEO

Friends & Colleagues,

Most of the ideas people write down in Washington fail to inspire action. Yet there is nothing immutable about the status quo. At the Federation of American Scientists, we are obsessed with outcomes, not just the myriad ways that science and technology can make the world a better place, but finding new and better ways to deliver on that vision.

And in 2022, deliver we did. Our team helped inspire a critical compromise that made the generational downpayment in American science of the CHIPS and Science Act happen. Our Talent Hub placed 52 expert fellows in the federal government to deliver on the promises of evidence-based, expert-backed policy. Our policy leaders have published 200+ implementation-ready policy memos, and continue to drive their successful implementation, like the newly funded Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H). Our renowned Nuclear Information Project broke readership records and kept the public informed on nuclear developments in Eastern Europe and elsewhere at home and abroad. I hope you’ll read more about all of our wins in this year’s FAS Impact Report.

This year was my first full year as CEO of the Federation of American Scientists. I spent much of that time building towards a vision that honors nearly 80 years of impact while growing in new domains and new ways. In this work, I am propelled by the sheer force of our team’s seemingly never-ending optimism. There is always someone at FAS obsessing about policy, process, and progress. From project directors, to research associates, to fellows, and to interns, everyone at FAS has a hunger to do good in the world.

Our team has doubled since last year, and that growth has significantly increased FAS’ caliber. Some organizations have extensive expertise on a topic or deep proficiency in an approach. In a growing range of policy topics, we have both. Our new teammates bring proficiency and experience that strengthen our policy portfolio, widen our capacity for change, and allows us to deliver on our theory of policy entrepreneurship. We are lucky that such deeply motivated and talented individuals seek out FAS to hone their eagerness into a disciplined edge to lead future policy leaders and policy efforts.

And as our team has grown, so have our efforts to build an inclusive and diverse workforce. With support from our newly established DEI Committee, we have instituted a set of equitable hiring processes for Team FAS and our Impact Fellowship placements. We are exceeding our commitments to gender equality for featured speakers on panels. And, we are formulating stronger commitments to promote racial equity through our internal hiring processes as well as our policy development and implementation strategy. However, we are at the early stages of this journey, and approach our DEI strategy with humility and an awareness of the critical work that still needs to be done.

It is impossible for me to fit the entire year’s successes into a single letter, but I hope our annual report brings my update to life.

If you want to support this work, you can donate here, or review our website for exciting policy opportunitiesfellowships, or open positions.

Thank you for your continued support,

Daniel Correa,


Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

FAS is committed–both in principle and in practice–to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all individuals interested in addressing contemporary issues where science, technology, and innovation policy can deliver dramatic progress.

In 2022, FAS has expanded its DEI strategy beyond its initial pledge to:

Much like our work advancing policy change, FAS approaches the mission of infusing DEI principles into our organizational culture and the importance of broadening our team’s perspectives with urgency. We also recognize that as a science organization with national reach, we can model forward-thinking approaches to these issues that others can emulate. We acknowledge that we still have a long way to go before claiming success, but FAS is committed to this journey for the long run.

Impact Highlights

Social Innovation

The Social Innovation team grew its reach across every aspect of its work, yielding high-impact legislative wins in education R&D policy, solving some of the most critical science and technology policy issues with talent through quadrupling the size of its Impact Fellowship program, and generating novel STEM education policy ideas positioned for impact.

Bolstering the Federal Workforce and Catalyzing Action through the Talent Hub

Less than two years ago, we created the Talent Hub to help federal agencies recruit world-class experts and address high-priority science and technology initiatives. Using established hiring mechanisms, the Talent Hub places FAS Impact Fellows selected by federal agencies into critical roles identified and scoped by agency leaders. The Impact Fellowship has quickly become an indispensable pathway for accomplished experts to undertake a short-term tour of public service. 

The Talent Hub has grown explosively in an effort to meet surging agency demand. This year, FAS selected and placed 43 Impact Fellows in 16 different offices across 11 federal agencies. Fellows’ specializations have thus far included wildfire mitigation, cybersecurity in education, and environmental sustainability in federal supply chains. Thanks to the dozens of additional professional development sessions that FAS has provided, the breadth and depth of their work continues to grow. For example, we have recruited policymakers to teach the Fellows how to maximize their tours of service, and created Impact Fellow networking opportunities to establish a cohesive, cross-agency community of policymakers. As a result, these individuals are using their fellowships to implement landmark legislation and advance crucial societal priorities. Even still, the reach and impact of the fellowship far exceeds the work undertaken by its participants. 

A core premise of the Impact Fellowship is to serve as proof of concept for federal investment in technical talent. As a direct result of our Impact Fellows’ placements in 2022, they have either directly hired or inspired the hiring of over 50 additional technologists and scientific experts. One shining example is the Institute for Education Sciences’ decision to establish an entire Data Science Unit to scale the work catalyzed by an FAS Impact Fellow.

In 2023, FAS’ commitment to talent will grow and include even more technically diverse Impact Fellows, including the addition of 30 climate science-oriented experts to support implementation of programs funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Talent Technical Assistance at the Department of Energy

Our team is constantly searching for new ways to ensure federal agencies have the resources, tools, and expertise needed to implement ambitious science agendas. In 2022, we deepened our work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help it staff up to drive a clean energy future. DOE’s clean energy efforts – bolstered by allocations for new staff in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act – will require a massive influx of skilled scientists and technologists, many of whom have never considered public service and must be recruited.

Our team stepped in to assist with major hiring and recruiting efforts, working with the collaboration and support of partners such as Breakthrough Energy and Clean Energy for America. With these partners, FAS developed recruiting tools and hosted informational hiring webinars for potential applicants to the agency’s Clean Energy Corps. To date, this work has helped DOE increase short-term capacity to ramp up agency efforts on investments in clean energy technologies, and improved DOE’s long-term capacity to tackle core climate priorities.

In 2023, FAS plans to continue its federal talent partnership work with the Department of Energy, as well as expand that work to other agencies, to scope, recruit, and build pipelines to attract 21st-century talent to federal service. Building on existing assets like FAS’ Flexible Hiring Resources Guide, we will continue to develop technical assistance products for federal partners, engage ecosystem stakeholders like workforce development organizations, start-ups, and nonprofits, and communicate with agency leaders to best support their workforce operations.

Advancing Innovation in Education

Despite the critical importance of our K-12 education system, only a tiny percentage of the federal government’s research funding is dedicated to its improvement. Yet R&D can generate new insights, approaches, and tools to maximize educational outcomes across the board and address deep educational disparities. To pursue this vision, FAS has locked arms with organizations across the nonprofit, private and philanthropic sectors to launch the Alliance for Learning Innovation (ALI). As one example of its success this year, FAS worked through ALI to lead 25 key education stakeholders in a letter of support calling on Congress to increase spending on federal education R&D. The ensuing House Appropriations proposal included marked budget increases for several offices that our coalition recommended for increased funding, including the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in STEM, the Education Innovation and Research program, and the Institute of Education Sciences.

Additionally, increased federal, state, and local investments in STEM education are urgently needed. In pursuit of this agenda, FAS hosted a “policy accelerator”––an intensive, cohort-based training in policy entrepreneurship. This program––conducted in partnership with Beyond100K––brought together participants passionate about advancing equity and representation in STEM education and beyond. Over two months, these individuals developed actionable policy memos and learned how to promote their ideas. The wide-ranging recommendations advocated how to: incorporate cultural competency into STEM curriculums, include digital ethics principles in classrooms, facilitate inter-minority serving institution collaboration, and increase representation of marginalized individuals in STEM fields, to name a few.  

The STEM education policy accelerator’s focus on issues at the intersection of STEM, equity, and representation is part of FAS’ growing DEI mission, which it will continue pursuing in 2023. For example, our team will run a  Racial Equity in Tech Policy Accelerator in partnership with the Kapor Center. This accelerator will identify, develop, and publish a set of racial justice and technology policy ideas to be implemented by the legislative and executive branches. Participants will include policymakers, academics, and entrepreneurs with an interest in developing their ideas about racial equity in tech into a tailored, actionable set of policy recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration and 118th Congress.

Science Policy

The Science Policy team fosters connections between experts with ideas about how to use science to better serve the public good, and policymakers with the capacity to turn those ideas into reality. The team works across a range of priority domains, including environmental justice, wildfire prevention and mitigation, the science of science, evidence-based policy, and more.

This past year, the Science Policy team hosted two Day One Project policy accelerators and guided the development of more than two dozen Day One Project policy memos. Additionally, the team launched and piloted a new fellowship program––the Policy Entrepreneurship Fellowship (PEF)––which supported four early-career researchers in developing and executing implementation strategies for their policy ideas, an effort that yielded an outsized return on investment.

The Progress Studies Policy Accelerator

Across the science policy ecosystem, policymakers and innovators alike have been developing new paradigms to connect institutions to progress. Building on previous work done by Day One contributors to create Focus Research Organizations, FAS partnered with the Institute for Progress to host a Progress Studies Policy (PSP) Accelerator, exploring concrete ways in which successful institutions and policies help generate useful progress in the future. Over the course of seven weeks, accelerator participants developed and advanced ambitious policy ideas to reshape public institutions and drive global progress. 

Following the accelerator, we published 10 Day One Project policy memos calling for bold policymaking across economic competitiveness, healthcare, artificial intelligence, and more. We were excited to see multiple recommendations from this suite of memos reflected in the CHIPS and Science Act, including a memo to establish testbeds to support the development of trustworthy and safe AI and machine learning, and a memo to invest in traineeship for STEM graduate students.

Supporting Early-Career Researchers in Policy Entrepreneurship

Early-career researchers interested in using their research for impact and to improve lives suffer from a lack of opportunity to develop their policy muscles. To address this gap, and to foster the next generation of scientist-policy entrepreneurs, FAS launched a series of programs to lift up early-career researchers and help them gain exposure to tools and networks of policy entrepreneurship.

In partnership with the National Science Policy Network (NSPN), FAS hosted an Early Career Researcher (ECR) accelerator where participants published 11 policy memos on topics ranging from the underappreciated importance of the honey bee microbiome to the growing scourge of space junk. Following the accelerator, select participants joined Team FAS as the inaugural cohort of the Policy Entrepreneurship Fellowship (PEF), and received support in efforts to implement their policy memos. 

Though most ECR accelerator participants had no significant prior policy experience, many of the ideas contained in the 12 memos produced have begun to gain traction. As an example, Grace Wickerson’s memo, Combating Bias in Medical Innovation, led to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) launching a study to explore how racial bias in current pulse oximeter technology may exacerbate disparities in patient outcomes.

This is a really fantastic experience that you will not regret. The FAS/Day One team is incredibly attentive and dedicated to both their mission and their accelerator cohorts. That means you will get an abundance of support and really feel like the ideas you’ve had percolating in the back of your mind are made better through fantastic editing and feedback, and put into the hands of those who have the power to make them into real policy. For those of you who are serious about your science policy foray, this program is for you!

– Early Career Researcher Accelerator Participant

Evidence-Based Policy

By designating 2022 the White House Year of Evidence for Action, the Biden Administration helped make 2022 the biggest year yet for evidence-based policy at the federal level. FAS supported this effort by collaborating with the Pew Charitable Trusts Evidence Project to host an Evidence for Action Challenge, which crowdsourced creative, expert ideas for the future of data-driven policy. Ideas that emerged from the challenge included incorporating evidence on what the public values into policymakingusing unmet desire surveys to facilitate productive collaboration among federal agency staff and external experts, and launching an intergovernmental research and evaluation consortium focused on economic mobility.  

FAS also partnered with the White House Office of Management and Budget to host an Evidence Forum that attracted more than 100 participants from across the evidence community. A central theme of the Evidence Forum was the potential of “living” approaches to scientific synthesis to enhance federal initiatives and programs in multiple policy domains. FAS looks forward to pursuing follow-on opportunities from the Forum in FY23. In particular, we are excited to work with our new resident fellow, Dr. Julian Elliott of Monash University, to explore how living evidence can inform the development of CDC guidelines, characterize the nature and impacts of long COVID, and much more.

Environmental Justice

In his 2020 State of the Union address, President Biden reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to promoting environmental justice (EJ). The 2021 Justice40 Initiative is a whole-of-government effort to ensure that at least 40% of the investments and benefits of select federal programs flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. FAS has been supporting the administration’s EJ priorities through the placement of several EJ-focused Impact Fellows at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and through weekly strategic check-ins with CEQ’s EJ team, as well as the placement of FAS Impact Fellows. One of our Policy Entrepreneurship Fellows (PEFs), Alexa White, also focused her fellowship on the Justice40 Initiative and related EJ work. The science policy team worked with Alexa and CEQ to prepare an independent assessment of the implementation status of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC)’s Justice40 recommendations. Our analysis, which was completed after the conclusion of the fiscal year, found both progress and setbacks across implementation efforts. We look forward to working with CEQ and agencies in leveraging assessment insights to continue making historic progress on environmental justice issues nationwide in FY23, as well as looking at our own environmental and energy policy work through a justice lens.


By July 2023, the legislatively authorized Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission will deliver a comprehensive set of new wildfire-related policy recommendations to Congress. Ahead of this “make-or-break” year for federal wildland fire policy, FAS has conducted foundational work that will help the Commission achieve its goals, both through talent placement and targeted policy development. Building on the placement of FAS Impact Fellow Jenna Knobloch in USDA’s Office of the Undersecretary for National Resources and Environment, FAS also created a data visualization product to navigate wildfire policy’s complicated federal funding landscape and contextualize the impact of legislative momentum. 

In FY23, FAS will continue addressing America’s wildfire crisis. We will place at least two additional Impact Fellows at the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Interior Office of Wildland Fire; we are scoping a third placement at the Environmental Protection Agency which will research wildfire smoke impact. Additionally, FAS has launched a Wildland Fire Policy Accelerator focused on bringing diverse scientific and technical perspectives into the Commission, particularly on topics related to the wide-ranging impacts of climate change, traditional ecological knowledge, technology, and wildfire smoke.

The Bioeconomy

In FY22, FAS laid a foundation for deploying the full scope of our policy entrepreneurship toolkit to help policymakers enable a strong U.S. bioeconomy, which is valued at more than $950 billion and promises rapid growth for a new bio-workforce. In FY 2023, FAS is positioned to respond rapidly to the many bioeconomy-related provisions authorized in the Chips and Science Act and even appropriated for in the Inflation Reduction Act–both of which were signed into law in August 2022–and the Executive Order activating a whole-of-government approach to the bioeconomy released in September 2022. Moving forward, FAS will be crowdsourcing actionable policy ideas and convening biotech and biomanufacturing industry professionals and scholars and working with experts to design a policy agenda that would help support the U.S. bioeconomy.

Technology and Innovation

Over the past year, the Technology and Innovation team at FAS has grown into a hub for entrepreneurial approaches to federal R&D and budgets, regional innovation clusters, industrial strategy for critical and emerging sectors, high-skilled immigration, strategic global development and competition, and more.

CHIPS and Science

In August 2022, President Biden signed into law the biggest investment and reform package for American science in years. The policies, programs, funding targets, and appropriated funds established in the CHIPS and Science Act will better support young people pursuing STEM careers, foster the next generation of American entrepreneurs, and help rebuild the U.S. foundation of science, technology, and innovation. The CHIPS and Science Act represents years of hard work by the science and policy communities. It also represents an enormous success for so many members of the Day One community, as more than a dozen Day One memos became law with the stroke of the President’s pen. These victories underscore the power of democratizing policy entrepreneurship and allowing more citizens to be agents of policy change. The Day One community secured several legislative windfalls, including:

The FAS team also convened a coalition of leading science organizations urging the successful completion of negotiations, and provided the blueprint for a deal on expanding EPSCoR funding, a key sticking point in the final stages. FAS also continues to call for appropriations to back up the science vision established in CHIPS.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge

In September 2022, the Economic Development Administration announced a $1 billion grant competition to:

To support this investment in national development, FAS joined a technical assistance coalition to support the implementation of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC). Through this partnership, FAS supported the 60 Phase 1 finalist regions with their R&D innovation and cluster-building strategy, securing specific, actionable, and high-impact commitments from their coalition, and laying the groundwork for forthcoming substantive partnerships between EDA applicants and other federal R&D and regional innovation efforts.

Reaching Global Development Moonshots

To meet the ambitious benchmarks set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to provide an opportunity for visionaries across the world to develop and publish policy memos, FAS launched the Global Development Moonshot Accelerator in partnership with UnlockAid. Selected applicants, whose submissions covered a range of development solutions to improve human development and overcome threats to extinction, were invited to an in-person workshop in Mexico City. 

Following the in-person workshop, participants continued to refine their memos, which we published during the COP27 conference to emphasize the interconnectedness of issues across a changing climate, poverty, and other global issues. Through these memos and strategic global development recommendations, we aim to support the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other global development-focused agencies in becoming more evidence-based, science-based, innovative, and effective.

Day One Project Director Joshua Schoop workshopping in Mexico City

Advanced Research at the Department of Transportation

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November 2021, authorized the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Infrastructure (ARPA-I). The ARPA-I authorization presents a generational opportunity for the Department of Transportation to tackle monumental challenges across transportation and infrastructure–including in the domains of safety, digital infrastructure, resilient and climate-prepared infrastructure, and many more–that are ready for breakthrough innovation. To meet the moment, FAS is supporting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R) in scoping advanced research priorities across a range of infrastructure topics where targeted research can yield innovative new infrastructure technologies, materials, systems, capabilities, or processes. FAS’ approach relies on a proven methodology for research program design—drawn from practitioners at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) —that begins with defining a bold goal and a rigorous plan to achieve it.

The Day One Institute

Although many state and federal programs intend to provide Americans with vital support and resources, they often fall short of their goals. These initiatives neither treat beneficiaries as customers, nor place them at the center of the design of the program and experience. As a result, they frequently suffer from low take-up, poor retention, and inadequate outcomes. The President’s Management Agenda, as well as a December 2021 Executive Order on “Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government,” have created a mandate for government agencies to adopt more human-centered approaches to policy, products, and service design.

To meet this moment, FAS is expanding the Day One Institute in 2023. This initiative will scale successful human-centered design and innovation programming, which has been delivered by our team to over 450 civil servants since 2017. In the year ahead, the Day One Institute will pilot workshops in novel professional settings, train new instructors, and create a blended learning model to familiarize 500 public servants with human-centered design and innovation methods, tools, and practices. Over the next two years, our goal is to improve social service delivery across state and federal agencies and to enhance civil servants’ ability to foster and deliver social service programs that meet the needs of diverse customers.

National Security

Over the past year, the National Security team at FAS has worked at the forefront of addressing the emerging threats and risks of an ever-changing security environment, both domestically and internationally: 

Together, these projects contributed smart and innovative solutions to complex challenges facing our world today–––with the goal of making it a safer and more secure place.

Nuclear Information Project

After decades of declining nuclear arsenals and cooperative relations, the nuclear weapons landscape is evolving rapidly for the worse. Additionally, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and President Putin’s overt nuclear threats have brought the world closer to wartime nuclear use than at any time since the Cold War ended. This new era of nuclear tensions has underscored the critical importance of the Nuclear Information Project (NIP). FAS’ history and well-established reputation as the go-to source for factual information and analysis on nuclear weapons issues makes it uniquely positioned to inform and advise U.S. policymakers, the news media, other organizations, as well as the general public about the status and future of nuclear weapons. In this context, this year, the project had unprecedented reach into key constituencies involved in the policy debate:

The team is initiating several exciting new projects in 2023, including a pilot fellowship program to address the lack of diversity in the nuclear field and to support aspiring nuclear weapons experts committed to rethinking nuclear deterrence.

Next-Generation Defense Budgeting Project

The United States risks losing its military advantage over rapidly advancing adversaries, in no small part because the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security community are unable to make effective and timely investment decisions. At the heart of these challenges are industrial-age resource allocation processes, namely the Department’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) system, which allocates resources years in advance, establishes categories for the use of funds, sets the lens for congressional oversight, and has limited execution-year flexibility.

The Next-Generation Defense Budgeting Project at FAS worked to broker Congressional consensus to establish a commission focused on generating actionable, bipartisan recommendations that will result in the most comprehensive reform of the PPBE system since the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management and the resulting Goldwaters-Nichols Act of 1986. The benefit to the nation will be a modern military capable of fielding new combat capabilities at pace with the speed of commercial innovation and within the decision cycles of our most determined advisories. This independent commission was authorized as part of the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Fiscal Sponsorships

The FAS Fiscal Sponsorship Program seeks to support burgeoning entrepreneurs in science and technology policy. Through this program, FAS provides sponsorship and support for philanthropic endeavors in an effort to forge partnerships and expand our impact in the science community. This year, we sought to grow our fiscal sponsorships not only in number but in the structure and offerings we provide to partners.

The Organs Initiative

Led by Jennifer Erickson

In FY22, the Organs Initiative continued to deliver on its mission to drive data-driven solutions to the organ shortage that sees 33 Americans die every day for lack of an available organ transplant. Key to success was working with partners including Day One Project co-authors from Organize, the Global Liver Institute, the American Society of Nephrology, and bipartisan issue leads from the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as data/technology partners from MIT and alumni of the United States Digital Service (USDS). Over the last year, FAS collaborations delivered high-profile publications that drove Congressional oversight as well as media coverage about the need to accelerate reform of the federal government’s own organ contractors. Following bipartisan, bicameral Congressional calls for acceleration of organ donation reform as an “urgent health equity issue” in July 2021, the Biden administration issued two Requests for Information (RFI) related to accountability for organ contractors.

In response, a wide range of stakeholders echoed FAS calls for open data for evidence of effectiveness and equitable service by organ procurement organizations (OPOs) across the country. Supporters of organ donation open data include leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the ACLUpublic health physiciansleading data scientistsalumni of the previous four administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump)all five past Chief Technology Officers of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Kidney Foundation, the American Society of NephrologyOrganize, and the Global Liver Institute.

Following a high-profile bipartisan Senate Finance hearing into organ contractor failures in August 2022, and ongoing national media coverage (e.g., two front pages in the Washington Post – one on technology failures and a second on deadly patient safety lapses), the Organs Initiative will continue to work with partners to deliver on bipartisan recommendations for accountability.

Improving America’s Foster Care System

Led by Marina Nitze

One of our major projects is increasing the percentage of children in foster care who live with kin (adults they already know and trust) from 34% to 80% nationwide. Our approach is to understand more about how to find kin through our Resource Family Working Group (which has grown to 20 states representing 137,700 foster youth), where state child welfare leaders come together once a month to surface and scale promising practices and shared challenges. We have collected over 150 promising practices through the group, which are published in the Child Welfare Playbook so other states can easily copy successful strategies from one another. We published a Kin-Finding Progress Dashboard to highlight the progress each state is making toward our identified seven-point kin-finding plan.

Today, every state suffers a dearth of the foster homes their children need most—families who speak their language, live in their school districts, and share their community. Traditional recruitment tactics center around billboard ads and farmers’ market booths, and have no underlying data. In partnership with The Center for Radical Innovation for Social Change (RISC) at the University of Chicago, we are conducting gap analyses in seven states to create a real-time, data-driven recruitment “to-do” list. We have signed up Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Arkansas, Indiana, and Oregon. New Mexico is furthest along—we have completed the gap analysis there and are in the process of rolling out data-driven recruitment dashboards across the state, with the other six states following closely behind. We have partnership agreements with the 3 major IT vendors in the child welfare space to incorporate these dashboards into their IT systems, scaling to over 40 states.

Next year, we hope to start increasing the number of kinship placements nationally by scaling our plays and dashboards through multiple national partners. For example, we will help the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network (which runs the federal government’s technical assistance center on kin) run a learning collaborative where every state will adopt at least one practice from our dashboard. We will also help Washington State completely redesign its kin-finding office, as a reference implementation for the rest of the country. In January 2023, we will launch a statewide data-driven foster parent recruitment campaign with Arkansas to surface and scale successful methods for closing its identified gaps in foster family homes. We expect to roll out in Indiana in June 2023. These will be our first two of seven states to demonstrate the potential impact of a data-driven foster home recruitment methodology.

Fundraising and Development

The Federation of American Scientists achieved unprecedented fundraising success in FY22, bringing in $35 million to support a growing portfolio of cutting-edge work across its science, technology, innovation, and national security programs. This is a product of the critical strategic thinking implemented daily by the FAS team to solidify the organization’s presence as an indispensable voice for evidence-based, scientifically-driven policy analysis and research.


in revenue in FY22, an increase of more than 10x over FY21


sources of diversified financial support (a more than 2x increase over FY21), with no single source representing more than 30% of our revenue


raised from individual donors


average individual donation amount

The majority of the funding FAS receives (99.83%) is restricted for the use of specific projects and initiatives, while unrestricted funding (which only accounts for 0.17% of funding) bolsters the organization’s operational capacity.

The critical work being done at FAS would not be possible without the generous support of its philanthropic partners who continue to invest in the organization’s vision for the future.

The Biden Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review

On 27 October 2022, the Biden administration finally released an unclassified version of its long-delayed Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The classified NPR was released to Congress in March 2022, but its publication was substantially delayed––likely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is the Pentagon’s primary statement of nuclear policy, produced by the last four presidents during their first years in office.

The NPR outlines the perceived global security environment, offers an overview of US nuclear capabilities, and considers plans for tailored deterrence, assurance, and arms control with allies and adversaries. The NPR can also be used to make changes to US declaratory nuclear policy, to consider alterations to the US nuclear stockpile, or to announce the introduction or retirement of specific weapon systems.

For more analysis, see: The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review: Arms Control Subdued by Military Rivalry

All of the nuclear-armed states––including the United States––plan to retain significant nuclear arsenals for the indefinite future.

All nine countries are modernizing their nuclear forces, several are adding new types, and many are increasing the role that nuclear weapons serve in military strategy and public statements.

For an overview of global modernization programs, see our annual contribution to the SIPRI Yearbook and our Status of World Nuclear Forces webpage. Individual country profiles are available in various editions the FAS Nuclear Notebook, which is published by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and is freely available to the public.

A brief analysis of the 2022 NPR is available below; a more robust and detailed analysis is available on the FAS Strategic Security Blog.

Major Components of the NPR

Assumptions About U.S. Competitors

The NPR suggests that “[b]y the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries.” This echoes previous statements from high-ranking US military leaders, including the former and incoming Commanders of US Strategic Command. 


Given that the National Defense Strategy is largely focused on China, it is unsurprising that the NPR declares China to be “the overall pacing challenge for U.S. defense planning and a growing factor in evaluating our nuclear deterrent.” 

Echoing the findings of the previous year’s China Military Power Report, the NPR suggests that “[t]he PRC likely intends to possess at least 1,000 deliverable warheads by the end of the decade.” According to the NPR, China’s more diverse nuclear arsenal “could provide the PRC with new options before and during a crisis or conflict to leverage nuclear weapons for coercive purposes, including military provocations against U.S. Allies and partners in the region.”


The NPR presents harsh language about Russia, in particular surrounding its behavior around the invasion of Ukraine. In contrast to the Trump administration’s NPR, the assumptions surrounding a potential low-yield escalate-to-deescalate policy are no longer present; instead the NPR simply states that Russia is diversifying its arsenal and that it views its nuclear weapons as “a shield behind which to wage unjustified aggression against [its] neighbors.” The NPR also suggests that “Russia is pursuing several novel nuclear-capable systems designed to hold the U.S. homeland or Allies and partners at risk, some of which are also not accountable under New START.”

Nuclear Declaratory Policy

The NPR reaffirms long-standing policy about the role of U.S. nuclear weapons but with slightly modified language. This includes: 1) Deter strategic attacks, 2) Assure allies and partners, and 3) Achieve U.S. objectives if deterrence fails. 

The NPR reiterates the language from the 2010 NPR that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons “is to deter nuclear attacks” and only in “extreme circumstances.” The strategy seeks to “maintain a very high bar for nuclear employment” and, if employment of nuclear weapons is necessary, “seek to end conflict at the lowest level of damage possible on the best achievable terms for the United States and its Allies and partners.”

During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden spoke repeatedly in favor of a no-first-use and sole-purpose policy for U.S. nuclear weapons. But the NPR explicitly rejects both under current conditions.

Interestingly, the NPR states that “hedging against an uncertain future” is no longer a stated (formal) role of nuclear weapons. Hedging has been part of a strategy to be able to react to changes in the threat environment, for example by deploying more weapons or modifying capabilities. The change does not mean that the United States is no longer hedging, but that hedging is part of managing the arsenal, rather than acting as a role for nuclear weapons within U.S. military strategy writ large.

Nuclear Modernization

The NPR reaffirms a commitment to the modernization of its nuclear forces, nuclear command and control and communication systems (NC3), and production and support infrastructure. This is essentially the same nuclear modernization program that has been supported by the past three administrations.

But there are some differences. The NPR also identifies “current and planned nuclear capabilities that are no longer required to meet our deterrence needs.” This includes retiring the B83-1 megaton gravity bomb and cancelling the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N). These decisions were expected and survived opposition from defense hawks and nuclear lobbyists.

The review also notes that “[t]he United States will work with Allies concerned to ensure that the transition to modern DCA and the B61-12 bomb is executed efficiently and with minimal disruption to readiness.”

Nuclear-Conventional Integration

Although the integration of nuclear and conventional capabilities into strategic deterrence planning has been underway for years, the NPR seeks to deepen it further. It “underscores the linkage between the conventional and nuclear elements of collective deterrence and defense” and adopts “an integrated deterrence approach that works to leverage nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities to tailor deterrence under specific circumstances.”

This is not only intended to make deterrence more flexible and less nuclear focused when possible, but it also continues the strategy outlined in the 2010 NPR and 2013 Nuclear Employment Guidance to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons by relying more on new conventional capabilities.

Beyond force structure issues, this effort also appears to be a way to “raise the nuclear threshold” by reducing reliance on nuclear weapons but still endure in regional scenarios where an adversary escalates to limited nuclear use. In contrast, the 2018 NPR sought low-yield non-strategic “nuclear supplements” for such a scenario, and specifically named a Russian so-called “escalate-to-deescalate” scenario as a potentially possibility for nuclear use.

A significant challenge of deeper nuclear-conventional integration in strategic deterrence is to ensure that it doesn’t blur the line between nuclear and conventional war and inadvertently increase nuclear signaling during conventional operations.

Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

The Biden administration’s review contains significantly more positive language on arms control than can be found in the Trump administration’s NPR. The NPR concludes that “mutual, verifiable nuclear arms control offers the most  effective, durable and responsible path to achieving a key goal: reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy.”

In that vein, the review states a willingness to “expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START,” as well as an expansive recommitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). However, the authors take a negative view of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), stating that the United States does not “consider the TPNW to be an effective tool to resolve the underlying security conflicts that lead states to retain or seek nuclear weapons.”

Resources on Previous NPRs
Trump NPR (2018)

The Trump NPR perceived a rapidly deteriorating threat environment in which potential nuclear-armed adversaries are increasing their reliance on nuclear weapons and follows suit. The review reverses decades of bipartisan policy and orders what would be the first new nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, the document expands the use of circumstances in which the United States would consider employing nuclear weapons to include “non-nuclear strategic attacks.”

Obama NPR (2010)

The third Nuclear Posture Review set out from the start to produce a comprehensive public document. In this way, the review served several purposes: it provided an opportunity to interpret President Obama’s Prague commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, to explain the strategic benefits of the New START treaty and to establish the force structure to comply with it, and served as a prominent and public way of communicating with allies and adversaries. The central compact was that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective deterrent. In this way, the NPR could endorse modernization and sustainment investments while reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons. Though relatively modest in terms of force structure changes, the document’s main innovation was to declare that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states that are party to and remain in compliance with their obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Bush NPR (2002)

The second NPR was marked by inventive concepts and poor public relations. The intention was to produce a classified document that would be briefed publicly. In open testimony, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith described the NPR as an attempt rethink deterrence for a world where Russia was no longer an enemy. The nation’s strategic posture would no longer depend on Mutual Assured Destruction, but one Feith said would have “the flexibility to tailor military capabilities to a wide spectrum of contingencies.” Operational concepts would rely more on prompt conventional strike and defensive capabilities. To enhance flexibility, the NPR seemed to endorse development of new earth-penetrating warheads and also required a responsive infrastructure that could quickly produce and test new capabilities if a threat arose. Moving away from MAD allowed for a reduction of deployed warheads below 2,200, but the NPR mandated no further modifications to force structure. Three months after the initial briefing, selections of the classified report leaked to the media and were widely criticized by arms control groups and foreign officials. Fairly or unfairly, many read the leaked sections as blurring the line between nuclear and conventional weapons and refusing to accept mutual vulnerability. Administration officials scrambled to clarify but never fully dispelled concerns, leaving more questions than answers.

Clinton NPR (1994)

President Clinton ordered the first NPR to examine the role of nuclear weapons after the end of the Cold War. A five-person steering group led six working groups. The established process broke down in the summer of 1994 over tensions the steering group and the military stakeholders. In the end, the review failed to generate a unitary document; its results were briefed to the press and to Congress. The 1994 NPR established a force structure to comply with the START II Treaty and ordered cuts to each leg of the triad: conversion of four Ohio-class submarines and all B-1 bombers to conventional missions, reduction in B-52 and Minuteman III inventories, and elimination of Minuteman II and Peacekeeper ICBMs. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry summarized the NPR as an attempt to provide leadership for further reductions while hedging against the emergence of threats.

FAS Expert Analysis

Adam Mount, “The Biden Nuclear Posture Review: Obstacles to Reducing Reliance on Nuclear Weapons,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2022

Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “After Trump Secrecy, Biden Administration Restores US Nuclear Weapons Transparency,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 6 October 2021