The National Resource Centers lost 47% of its funding when Congress agreed to trim the budget to avoid a government shutdown in April. The move would have seemed inconceivable 10 years ago in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. Department of Education tasked the centers to provide colleges across the country with the means to teach languages such as Farsi or Pashto, which are important to national security. The centers operate on 50 campuses, and some schools already have moved to end certain language courses.
The pressure is on the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass some kind of energy legislation in the three weeks lawmakers are in session before recessing for the fall election season. Gaining traction from the failed bills, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain has goaded the Democrats about refusing to allow more domestic drilling, saying this is their last chance to offer Americans relief at the gas pump before November.
Congress appears poised to debate offshore drilling next week after Republicans agreed to drop their filibuster on a defense bill. A bipartisan coalition of 22 senators is pushing a proposal that would allow oil drilling off the coast of five Southern states and earmark $20 billion for efforts to achieve energy independence. Some Republicans plan to hold out for broader drilling, while at least one Democrat has lambasted the entire proposal as "misguided."
Despite efforts to ramp up security after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States is still "dangerously vulnerable" to chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, according to a study from an independent panel that includes members of the group that investigated government mistakes prior to the 9/11 attacks. The report says thousands of the nation's chemical plants remain unprotected and efforts to reduce access to nuclear technology and bomb-making materials have slowed.