Georgetown hopes to have its share of the federal pork barrel this year, but increased efforts to cut down on earmarks may leave the university empty-handed.

The university has requested earmark funding for three projects this year, including installing equipment to identify dangerous substances, conducting brain research and funding a scholarship program, according to Assistant to the President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming (SFS ’72).

Although the university has historically received significant numbers of earmarks, including a major earmark to fund the Intercultural Center, Fleming said there are fewer earmarks available this year because the federal government has decided to reduce the availability of earmarks nationwide. As a result, Georgetown has to pick its battles carefully.

“I think we have become already more selective in what we’re going to try and get people to fund,” he said. “We realize the overall number [of earmarks] is diminishing, and we would be foolhardy to assume that we are immune to that.”

One of the requested earmarks is for increased funding to build Fluorescence-Activated Sensing Technology, a Defense Department program founded at Georgetown.

“The systems that the U.S. government uses to protect you and me from a biological or chemical attack are frightening,” he said.

“This technology could analyze and identify a foreign substance, such as anthrax or tuberculosis, in eight hours, a process that takes current technology up to a week to perform.”

The university originally collaborated with Anteon Corporation on the project, but Fleming said progress has stalled since General Dynamics bought out the company in 2006.

Ultimately, he said, the project aims to create technology that can be implemented in hospitals and transportation hubs and subsequently boost homeland security.

The university is also requesting funding for a project centered on brain research.

“We are trying to get funding to use systems medicine, the study of different aspects of disease in humans, as a basis for research that will help traumatic brain injury,” Fleming said.

The project is a joint venture with the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology and focuses on identifying the causes of brain injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The venture is trying to attain $3.2 million in support for the project for fiscal year 2009.

Georgetown is also seeking funding for the Cooperative Association of States for Scholarships program, which was started and has been run by the university since 1989. It provides technical and professional training in fields ranging from education to agriculture for low-income and rural students from Central America.

According to Fleming, the program currently costs approximately $10 million a year. The earmark, he said, would be a “soft” one, meaning that the exact dollar amount is not specified, but that the project receives priority consideration when applying for federal funds.

Fleming said that Georgetown is at somewhat of a disadvantage in the earmark process because D.C. does not have voting Congressional representation. In the past, he said, congresspersons who graduated from Georgetown helped pass certain earmarks, but constituent obligations and a decrease in the number of available earmarks have made this help less of a dependable reality.

“They’re going to be looking at things coming from their constituents and people like us, and that will be putting a huge burden on them on who to help,” Fleming said.

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