|Capital Rotunda, 2013 view|
Capitol Hill seems very far from New England sometimes, but Congressional actions can have a big effect on people’s lives. Interest groups of all kinds know this, and they arrange visits to Capitol Hill to make their case about many types of issues. The best time to make a case for your particular issue is—in the spring. In the spring, Congressional committees are setting up the planned appropriations in their area. (Spring flowers are also great in Washington.) Visiting Washington can be expensive, but it can also be worthwhile.
What would be my area of interest if I were to visit Washington D.C.? I went to graduate school in chemistry, and I am very well aware that graduate studies in the sciences are pretty much funded by the federal government. Basic and much applied research is also funded by the federal government. Appropriations for R and D and education are important to scientists and engineers in many fields. These appropriations are a truly minuscule part of the federal budget, but they are very important to the future of our country as a leader in scientific and technical fields. Our leadership also translates directly into new industries and new jobs in this country.
In other words, talking to Congressional committees is worthwhile, for the future of science education, research, nuclear energy and our country.
April 12 and 13
This year, as in other years, a coalition of about two dozen professional scientific and engineering societies and other groups will visit Washington. This initiative is the SET CVD--or Science, Engineering and Technology Congressional Visits Day. The visits this year are scheduled for April 12 and 13.
Most of the rest of this post has been written by a nuclear professional who knows more about Congressional Visits Day than I do, but who chooses to remain anonymous. (People who work for big companies can be like that, if they are not official spokespeople.)
Let’s say you want to be there, and you especially want to talk about nuclear power. Anyone who is interested and able to come to Washington can "be there.” There are a number of ways for nuclear professionals to participate, beyond just appearing. You can be briefed, attend social events, and more. Here’s how it works.
Engineering Society members:
If you are a member of one of the societies that participates in SET CVD, you can participate as a member of that society. Please see https://www.setcvd.org/ for a list of participating organizations, as well as for other information about the events, and to register to participate.
Participating through SET CVD has many advantages. They have a program of exhibits and some reception/social events. They also provide budget background briefings, tips on meeting with Congressional representatives and staff, assistance setting up meetings, etc.
While none of these other societies focus exclusively on nuclear issues, many of them share a strong interest in nuclear power, and participation by their members from the nuclear community will help assure that the nuclear message has a visible role. (Note: the American Nuclear Society is not one of these societies, because ANS schedules Congressional visits to be in sync with some of their Washington-based meetings.)
Non-Members: A special offer
In fact, I have just received a special offer from IEEE-USA, which has expressed a particular interest in enhancing their nuclear message! For people who are not members of any of the SET CVD societies, IEEE-USA would welcome having nuclear folks join their group. IEEE is asking for a modest contribution ($25 to partially cover the lunch and reception expenses). In addition to the lunch and so forth, those opting to join with IEEE can get technical assistance from IEEE-USA. If you join the IEEE-USA group, they will provide you with background materials, packets to use in their meetings, and preparation presentations about meeting with Congressional people and staffers.
Can IEEE-USA do this for everyone? It is not clear. It depends on how many people sign up: the slots may fill, but the slots are open now. Sign up fast!
This is a very generous offer, as the cost to IEEE-USA is much more than $25 per person. Anyone who wants to go this route should contact:
Russ Harrison, r.t.harrison at ieee.org
He will want your name, voting address, and contact information.
Going it alone:
You can on visit Congress on the same days as the SET CVD initiative, or, on other dates in the late winter-spring timeframe. People usually target the offices of their own Senators and Congressmen, but if time allows, you may wish to see if you can schedule appointments with other key offices as well. The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology, the ANS Public Information page, the NEI website and the ANS blog at the ANS Nuclear Cafe are all excellent sources of information.
Business trips, employers, and other conferences
Many members of the nuclear community have periodic needs to travel to Washington or to the Washington area, and some employers are even willing to help support such initiatives by their employees.
People may be able to schedule a business trip to coincide with the SET CVD dates. Or they may be able to add a day to another business trip or conference in Washington during the late winter-spring time period. For example, the Platts Nuclear Energy conference is on Feb. 16-18. By the way, if you go to such conferences and you know who is usually there, you may be able to partner with other like-minded people when you visit the legislators.
Also, this isn’t voting: you can visit Congress as often as you choose. Visit early and often! Participating in Congressional visits this spring does not preclude any other participation that may interest you--such as participation in ANS-sponsored visits at other times of the year, or with other groups, or on your own at other times of the year. In fact, the more the nuclear community is able to interact with our elected officials, the better.
The April 12-13 initiative simply makes sure that the nuclear community has a voice on the Hill during the crucial spring budget season.
If you do plan to come to DC for the April 12-13 SET CVD event, please let Meredith know so we can gauge the interest, and possibly facilitate a get-together. She will contact me.
Mjangwin at gmail.com
Hope to see you in Washington this year!