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S. 2022 (113th): Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014

The text of the bill below is as of Dec 8, 2014 (Reported by Senate Committee).


II

Calendar No. 619

113th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 2022

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

February 12, 2014

(for himself and Mr. Blumenthal) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

December 8, 2014

Reported by , with an amendment

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert the part printed in italic

A BILL

To establish scientific standards and protocols across forensic disciplines, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title; table of contents

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014.

(b)

Table of contents

The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings.

Sec. 3. Definitions.

Sec. 4. National forensic science research program.

Sec. 5. Forensic science research grants program.

Sec. 6. Forensic science research challenges.

Sec. 7. Forensic science standards.

Sec. 8. Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

Sec. 9. Adoption, accreditation, and certification.

Sec. 10. National Institute of Standards and Technology functions.

2.

Findings

Congress finds that—

(1)

at the direction of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences led a comprehensive review of the state of forensic science and issued its findings in a 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward;

(2)

the report's findings indicate the need for independent scientific research to support the foundation of forensic disciplines;

(3)

the report stresses the need for standards in methods, data interpretation, and reporting, and the importance of preventing cognitive bias and mitigating human factors; and

(4)

according to the report, forensic science research is not financially well supported, and there is a need for a unified strategy for developing a forensic science research plan across Federal agencies.

3.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Advisory Committee

The term Advisory Committee means the Forensic Science Advisory Committee established under section 8.

(2)

Coordinating Office

The term Coordinating Office means the National Forensic Science Coordinating Office established under section 4.

(3)

Forensic science

(A)

In general

The term forensic science means the basic and applied scientific research applicable to the collection, evaluation, and analysis of physical evidence, including digital evidence, for use in investigations and legal proceedings, including all tests, methods, measurements, and procedures.

(B)

Applied scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term applied scientific research means a systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

(C)

Basic scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term basic scientific research means a systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products.

(4)

Standards development organization

The term standards development organization means a domestic or an international organization that plans, develops, establishes, or coordinates voluntary consensus standards using procedures that incorporate openness, a balance of interests, consensus, due process, and an appeals process.

4.

National forensic science research program

(a)

Establishment

There shall be a national forensic science research program to improve, expand, and coordinate Federal research in the forensic sciences.

(b)

National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Science

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall contract with the National Academy of Sciences to develop, not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, a report that—

(1)

identifies the most critical forensic science disciplines, which may include forensic pathology and digital forensics, that require further research to strengthen the scientific foundation in those disciplines; and

(2)

makes recommendations regarding research that will help strengthen the scientific foundation in the forensic science disciplines identified under paragraph (1).

(c)

National forensic science coordinating office

(1)

Establishment

There is established a National Forensic Science Coordinating Office, with a director and full-time staff, to be located at the National Science Foundation. The Director of the Coordinating Office shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this subsection.

(2)

Unified Federal research strategy

The Coordinating Office established under paragraph (1) shall coordinate among relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices—

(A)

the development of a unified Federal research strategy that—

(i)

specifies and prioritizes the research necessary to enhance the validity and reliability of the forensic science disciplines; and

(ii)

is consistent with the recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science under subsection (b);

(B)

the development of a 5-year roadmap, updated triennially thereafter, for the unified Federal research strategy under subparagraph (A) that includes a description of—

(i)

which department, agency, or office will carry out each specific element of the unified Federal research strategy;

(ii)

short-term and long-term priorities and objectives; and

(iii)

common metrics and other evaluation criteria that will be used to assess progress toward achieving the priorities and objectives under clause (ii); and

(C)

any necessary programs, policies, and budgets to support the implementation of the roadmap under subparagraph (B).

(3)

Additional duties

The Coordinating Office shall—

(A)

evaluate annually the national forensic science research program to determine whether it is achieving its objectives; and

(B)

report annually to Congress the findings under subparagraph (A).

(4)

Deadlines

The Coordinating Office shall submit to Congress—

(A)

not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the unified Federal research strategy under paragraph (2)(A);

(B)

not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the initial 5-year roadmap under paragraph (2)(B); and

(C)

not later than 1 month after the date it is updated, each updated 5-year roadmap under paragraph (2)(B).

5.

Forensic science research grants program

(a)

Establishment

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the National Science Foundation shall establish a forensic science research grants program to improve the foundation and practice of forensic science in the United States based on the recommendations in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4.

(b)

Merit review

Each grant under this section shall be awarded on a merit-reviewed, competitive basis.

(c)

Publication

The National Science Foundation shall support, as appropriate, the publication of research results under this section in scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

(d)

Forensic science research centers

(1)

In general

As part of the forensic science research grants program under subsection (a), the Director of the National Science Foundation shall establish 2 forensic science research centers—

(A)

to conduct research consistent with the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(B)

to build relationships between forensic science practitioners and members of the research community;

(C)

to encourage and promote the education and training of a diverse group of people to be leaders in the interdisciplinary field of forensic science; and

(D)

to broadly disseminate the results of the research under subparagraph (A).

(2)

Terms of designation

(A)

In general

The Director shall designate each forensic science research center for a 4-year term.

(B)

Revocation

The Director may revoke a designation under subparagraph (A) if the Director determines that the forensic science research center is not demonstrating adequate performance.

(C)

Amount of award

Subject to subsection (f), the Director shall award a grant up to $10,000,000 to each forensic science research center. A grant awarded under this subparagraph shall be for a period of 4 years.

(D)

Limitation on use of funds

No funds authorized under this section may be used to construct or renovate a building or structure.

(3)

Reports

Each forensic science research center shall submit an annual report to the Director, at such time and in such manner as the Director may require, that contains a description of the activities the center carried out with the funds received under this subsection, including a description of how those activities satisfy the requirement under paragraph (2)(D).

(e)

Evaluation

(1)

In general

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the forensic science research grants program every 4 years—

(A)

to determine whether the program is achieving the objectives of improving the foundation and practice of forensic science in the United States; and

(B)

to evaluate the extent to which the program is contributing toward the priorities and objectives described in the roadmap under section 4(c)(2)(B).

(2)

Report to Congress

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall report to Congress the results of each comprehensive evaluation under paragraph (1).

(f)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to the National Science Foundation to carry out this section—

(1)

$37,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;

(2)

$40,000,000 for fiscal year 2015;

(3)

$43,000,000 for fiscal year 2016;

(4)

$46,000,000 for fiscal year 2017; and

(5)

$49,000,000 for fiscal year 2018.

6.

Forensic science research challenges

(a)

Prizes and challenges

(1)

In general

A Federal department, agency, or office may assist in satisfying the research needs and priorities identified in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4 by using prizes and challenges under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (124 Stat. 3982) or under any other provision of law, as appropriate.

(2)

Purposes

The purpose of a prize or challenge under this section, among other possible purposes, may be—

(A)

to determine or develop the best data collection practices or analytical methods to evaluate a specific type of forensic data; or

(B)

to determine the accuracy of an analytical method.

(b)

Forensic evidence prizes and challenges

(1)

In general

A Federal department, agency, or office, or multiple Federal departments, agencies, or offices in cooperation, carrying out a prize or challenge under this section—

(A)

may establish a prize advisory board; and

(B)

shall select each member of the prize advisory board with input from relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices.

(2)

Prize advisory board

The prize advisory board shall—

(A)

identify 1 or more types of forensic evidence for purposes of a prize or challenge;

(B)

using the samples under paragraph (3), recommend how to structure a prize or challenge that requires a competitor to develop a forensic data collection practice, an analytical method, or a relevant approach or technology to be tested relative to a known outcome or other proposed judging methodology; and

(C)

through the Coordinating Office, advise relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices in designing prizes or challenges that satisfy the research needs and priorities identified in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4.

(3)

Samples

The National Institute of Standards and Technology or the Department of Justice shall provide or contract with a non-Federal party to prepare, for each type of forensic evidence under paragraph (2)(A), a sufficient set of samples, including associated digital data that could be shared without limitation and physical specimens that could be shared with qualified parties, for purposes of a prize or challenge.

(4)

Fingerprint data interoperability

At least 1 prize or challenge under this section shall be focused on achieving nationwide fingerprint data interoperability if the prize advisory board, the Coordinating Office, or a Federal department, agency, or office identifies an area where a prize or challenge will assist in satisfying a strategy related to this issue.

7.

Forensic science standards

(a)

Establishment

(1)

In general

The National Institute of Standards and Technology shall—

(A)

identify or coordinate the development of forensic science standards to enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities, including—

(i)

authoritative methods, standards, and technical guidance, including protocols and best practices, for forensic measurements, analysis, and interpretation;

(ii)

technical standards for products and services used by forensic science practitioners;

(iii)

standard content, terminology, and parameters to be used in reporting and testifying on the results and interpretation of forensic science measurements, tests, and procedures; and

(iv)

standards to provide for the interoperability of forensic science-related technology and databases;

(B)

test and validate existing forensics standards, as appropriate; and

(C)

provide independent validation of forensic science measurements and methods.

(2)

Consultation

(A)

In general

In carrying out its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consult with—

(i)

standards development organizations and other stakeholders, including relevant Federal departments, agencies, and offices; and

(ii)

testing laboratories and accreditation bodies to ensure that products and services meet necessary performance levels.

(3)

Prioritization

When prioritizing its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consider—

(A)

the unified Federal research strategy under section 4; and

(B)

the recommendations of any expert working group under subsection (b).

(4)

Report to Congress

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall report annually, with the President's budget request, to Congress on the progress in carrying out the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under paragraph (1).

(b)

Expert working groups

(1)

In general

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology may establish 1 or more discipline-specific expert working groups to identify gaps, areas of need, and opportunities for standards development with respect to forensic science.

(2)

Members

A member of an expert working group shall—

(A)

be appointed by the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology;

(B)

have significant academic, research, or practical expertise in a discipline of forensic science or in another area relevant to the purpose of the expert working group; and

(C)

balance scientific rigor with practical and regulatory constraints.

(3)

Federal Advisory Committee Act

An expert working group established under this subsection shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.).

(c)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to carry out this section—

(1)

$12,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;

(2)

$20,000,000 for fiscal year 2015;

(3)

$27,000,000 for fiscal year 2016;

(4)

$35,000,000 for fiscal year 2017; and

(5)

$43,000,000 for fiscal year 2018.

8.

Forensic Science Advisory Committee

(a)

Establishment

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in collaboration with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall establish a Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

(b)

Duties

The Advisory Committee shall provide advice to—

(1)

the Federal departments, agencies, and offices implementing the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(2)

the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including recommendations regarding the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under section 7; and

(3)

the Department of Justice, including recommendations regarding the Department of Justice's responsibilities under section 9.

(c)

Subcommittees

The Advisory Committee may form subcommittees related to specific disciplines in forensic science or as necessary to further its duties under subsection (b). A subcommittee may include an individual who is not a member of the Advisory Committee.

(d)

Chairs

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, or their designees, shall co-chair the Advisory Committee.

(e)

Membership

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall appoint each member of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee shall include balanced representation between forensic science disciplines (including academic scientists, statisticians, social scientists, engineers, and representatives of other related scientific disciplines) and relevant forensic science applications (including Federal, State, and local representatives of the forensic science community, the legal community, victim advocate organizations, and law enforcement).

(f)

Administration

The Attorney General shall provide administrative support to the Advisory Committee.

(g)

Federal Advisory Committee Act

The Advisory Committee established under this section shall not be subject to section 14 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.).

9.

Adoption, accreditation, and certification

The Attorney General—

(1)

shall promote the adoption of forensic science standards developed under section 7, including—

(A)

by requiring each Federal forensic laboratory to adopt the forensic science standards;

(B)

by encouraging each non-Federal forensic laboratory to adopt the forensic science standards;

(C)

by promoting accreditation and certification requirements based on the forensic science standards; and

(D)

by promoting any recommendations made by the Advisory Committee for adoption and implementation of forensic science standards; and

(2)

may promote the adoption of the forensic science standards as a condition of Federal funding or for inclusion in national data sets.

10.

National Institute of Standards and Technology functions

Section 2(b) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act (15 U.S.C. 272(b)) is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (12), by striking and after the semicolon;

(2)

in paragraph (13), by striking the period at the end and inserting ; and; and

(3)

by adding at the end the following:

(14)

to identify and coordinate the development of forensic science standards to enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities.

.

1.

Short title; table of contents

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014.

(b)

Table of contents

The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings.

Sec. 3. Definitions.

Sec. 4. National forensic science research initiative.

Sec. 5. Implementation of forensic science research recommendations.

Sec. 6. Forensic science research challenges.

Sec. 7. Forensic science standards.

Sec. 8. National Commission on Forensic Science.

Sec. 9. Adoption, accreditation, and certification.

Sec. 10. National Institute of Standards and Technology functions.

Sec. 11. Effect on other laws.

2.

Findings

Congress finds that—

(1)

at the direction of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences led a comprehensive review of the state of forensic science and issued its findings in a 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward;

(2)

the report states that research is needed to address issues of accuracy, reliability, and validity in the forensic disciplines;

(3)

the report stresses the need for standards in methods, data interpretation, and reporting, and the importance of preventing cognitive bias and mitigating human factors; and

(4)

according to the report, forensic science research is not financially well supported, and there is a need for a unified strategy for developing a forensic science research plan across Federal agencies.

3.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Appropriate committees of Congress

The term appropriate committees of Congress means the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate and the Committee on Science and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

(2)

Commission

The term Commission means the National Commission on Forensic Science, a Federal advisory committee established under section 8.

(3)

Coordinating Office

The term Coordinating Office means the National Forensic Science Coordinating Office established under section 4.

(4)

Forensic science

(A)

In general

The term forensic science means the basic and applied scientific research and its application, including all tests, methods, techniques, measurements, and procedures, to the recognition, collection, preservation, evaluation, and analysis of evidence for use in investigations and legal proceedings.

(B)

Applied scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term applied scientific research means a systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

(C)

Basic scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term basic scientific research means a systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.

(5)

Interagency Committee

The term Interagency Committee means the interagency forensic science committee established under section 4.

(6)

Standards development organization

The term standards development organization means a domestic or an international organization that plans, develops, establishes, or coordinates voluntary consensus standards using procedures that incorporate openness, a balance of interests, consensus, due process, and an appeals process.

4.

National forensic science research initiative

(a)

Establishment

There shall be a National Forensic Science Research Initiative to improve, expand, and coordinate Federal research in the forensic sciences. Federal participation shall include the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Justice, and other Federal departments, agencies, and offices contributing to research in forensic science.

(b)

National forensic science coordinating office

(1)

Establishment

There is established a National Forensic Science Coordinating Office, with a full-time director and additional staff, as needed, to be located at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

(2)

Director

The Director of the Coordinating Office shall be a senior Federal agency manager with expertise relevant to forensic science detailed to the Office of Science and Technology Policy for a period of 3 years. Responsibility for providing a director shall rotate among the Federal departments, agencies, or offices participating in the National Forensic Science Research Initiative.

(3)

Duties of the Director

The Director shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this section, including coordinating the development of a unified Federal research strategy under subsection (e), working with the Federal departments, agencies, and offices to execute the research strategy, coordinating the interagency forensic science committee established in subsection (c), and overseeing periodic reviews of the initiative.

(4)

Funding

Responsibility to fund the Coordinating Office shall be shared by the Federal departments, agencies, and offices participating in the National Forensic Science Research Initiative. The Federal departments, agencies, and offices participating in the National Forensic Science Research Initiative may dedicate additional full- or part-time staff to the Coordinating Office, as appropriate, to sustain ongoing activities, facilitate special studies, and provide additional support.

(c)

Interagency forensic science committee

There is established an interagency forensic science committee. The Interagency Committee shall be co-chaired by the Director of the Coordinating Office and a senior Federal agency scientist with expertise relevant to forensic science from a Federal department, agency, or office participating in the National Forensic Science Research Initiative. Committee members shall include representatives from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and other Federal departments, agencies, and offices contributing to research in forensic science.

(d)

Report on Forensic Science

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act—

(1)

the Director of the National Science Foundation, in consultation with the Director of the Coordinating Office, shall contract with the National Academy of Sciences, or a similar external, independent science entity, to develop a report that—

(A)

identifies the most critical forensic science disciplines that require further research to strengthen the scientific foundation in those disciplines;

(B)

makes recommendations regarding research that will help strengthen the scientific foundation in the forensic science disciplines identified under subparagraph (A) and mechanisms to accomplish that research;

(C)

takes into account previous studies and reports; and

(D)

takes into account the expertise and needs of Federal, State, and local forensic science practitioners, law enforcement, the legal community, victim advocate organizations, and organizations that defend the wrongfully convicted; and

(2)

the entity contracted under paragraph (1) shall submit the report under that paragraph to the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Director of the Coordinating Office, the Attorney General, and the appropriate committees of Congress.

(e)

Unified Federal research strategy

The Director of the Coordinating Office, in coordination with the Interagency Committee, shall oversee—

(1)

the development of a unified Federal research strategy that—

(A)

specifies and prioritizes the research necessary to enhance the validity and reliability of the forensic science disciplines;

(B)

is consistent with the recommendations in the report on forensic science under subsection (d); and

(C)

takes into account practical applications and implementation of the research;

(2)

the development of a 5-year roadmap, updated triennially thereafter, for the implementation of the unified Federal research strategy under paragraph (1) that includes a description of—

(A)

which Federal department, agency, or office will carry out each specific element of the unified Federal research strategy;

(B)

short-term and long-term priorities and objectives; and

(C)

common metrics and other evaluation criteria that will be used to assess progress toward achieving the priorities and objectives under subparagraph (B); and

(3)

the development of any necessary programs, policies, and budgets to support the implementation of the roadmap under paragraph (2), including mechanisms for joint-agency review of research proposals, for interagency co-funding of research activities, and for information sharing across agencies.

(f)

Consultation

In developing and implementing the unified Federal research strategy and roadmap, the Director of the Coordinating Office shall consult with State and local laboratories, as appropriate, to ensure that the unified Federal research strategy and roadmap take into account practical applications and implementations of the research under subsection (e)(1)(C).

(g)

Evaluation

The Director of the Coordinating Office, in coordination with the Interagency Committee, shall—

(1)

evaluate biennially the National Forensic Science Research Initiative to ensure that all activities under this section, including research conducted under external grant activities, and through multidisciplinary research centers or centers of excellence, meet the goals established by the unified Federal research strategy and implementation of the 5-year roadmap; and

(2)

report biennially to the appropriate committees of Congress the findings under paragraph (1).

(h)

Deadlines

The Director of the Coordinating Office shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress—

(1)

not later than 180 days after the date of receipt of the report on forensic science under subsection (d), the unified Federal research strategy under subsection (e)(1);

(2)

not later than 180 days after the date of receipt of the report on forensic science under subsection (d), the initial 5-year roadmap under subsection (e)(2); and

(3)

not later than 1 month after the date it is updated, each updated 5-year roadmap under subsection (e)(2).

5.

Implementation of forensic science research recommendations

(a)

Establishment

Federal departments, agencies, and offices participating in the National Forensic Science Research Initiative, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Director of the Coordinating Office, shall improve the foundation and practice of forensic science in the United States by—

(1)

conducting or supporting research consistent with the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(2)

building relationships between forensic science practitioners and members of the research community;

(3)

encouraging and promoting the education and training of a diverse group of people to be leaders in the interdisciplinary field of forensic science; and

(4)

broadly disseminating the results of the research under paragraph (1).

(b)

External grant activities

All external forensic science research grants awarded by the Federal departments, agencies, or offices under this section shall be consistent with the merit review criteria as approved by the National Science Board and described in the National Science Foundation Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, including—

(1)

the ability of each proposed research activity to advance knowledge and understanding relevant to the forensic sciences and to benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes;

(2)

the potential for the research activity to explore creative, original, or transformative concepts;

(3)

the qualifications of the individual, team, or organization proposing the research activity and the adequacy of the research plan; and

(4)

the adequacy of the resources available to the individual, team, or organization proposing the research activity.

(c)

Publication

All research conducted from grants awarded under this section by the Federal departments, agencies, or offices shall take into consideration the requirements of peer-reviewed scientific journals, and encourage the communication and open exchange of data and results to other agencies, policymakers, and the public.

(d)

Grant activities

The National Science Foundation shall award grants to improve the foundation of forensic science in the United States. Additional mechanisms for implementation may include interagency solicitations, workshops, interagency details and memoranda of understanding, cooperative research centers, pilot programs, and demonstration projects.

(e)

Forensic science research centers

(1)

Multidisciplinary research centers

(A)

In general

As part of the National Forensic Science Research Initiative, taking into account the unified Federal research strategy under section 4(e), as informed by the report on forensic science required under section 4(d), the Director of the National Science Foundation, in collaboration with other Federal departments, agencies, and offices contributing to research in forensic science, shall establish 1 or more multidisciplinary research centers led by public-private partnerships between universities, industry, State or local entities, and Federal agencies. Each multidisciplinary research center shall be created with the following objectives:

(i)

Conducting basic and translational research relevant for forensic science.

(ii)

Encouraging the application of the research under clause (i) to practical uses.

(iii)

Educating undergraduate and graduate students and developing a workforce in fields relevant to forensic science.

(B)

Evaluation

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the forensic science research grants awarded by the National Science Foundation and multidisciplinary research centers every 4 years—

(i)

to determine whether the National Science Foundation is achieving the objectives of improving the foundation of forensic science in the United States; and

(ii)

to evaluate the extent to which the National Science Foundation is contributing toward the priorities and objectives described in the roadmap under section 4(e).

(C)

Reporting requirement

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall report to the appropriate committees of Congress and the Director of the Coordinating Office the results of each comprehensive evaluation under subparagraph (B).

(2)

Center of excellence

(A)

In general

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall establish and operate a competitively selected Center of Excellence focusing on measurement sciences, technology, and standards in forensic science with the following objectives:

(i)

To improve the standards of practice in the forensic sciences in the United States.

(ii)

To produce research collaborations between the National Institute of Standards and Technology, academia, forensic science practitioners, and industry focused on accelerating innovations and new technology development in the forensic sciences.

(iii)

To fund the development of new forensics techniques, including automated testing methodologies, and to help transition these techniques to industry and practitioners.

(iv)

To fund the evaluation of new and existing forensic techniques in terms of reliability, cost effectiveness, and other metrics, as appropriate, and to help transition these techniques to industry and practitioners.

(v)

To provide training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students in measurement science, as is relevant to the forensic disciplines.

(vi)

To encourage interdisciplinary research in the forensic sciences by leveraging access to unique National Institute of Standards and Technology facilities and expertise, as appropriate.

(vii)

To broadly disseminate the results of the National Institute of Standards and Technology forensic science research.

(B)

Evaluation

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Center of Excellence every 4 years—

(i)

to determine whether the Center of Excellence is achieving the objectives outlined in subparagraph (A);

(ii)

to evaluate the extent to which the Center of Excellence is contributing toward the priorities and objectives described in the roadmap under section 4(e).

(C)

Report requirement

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall report to the appropriate committees of Congress and the Director of the Coordinating Office the results of each comprehensive evaluation under subparagraph (B).

6.

Forensic science research challenges

(a)

Prizes and challenges

(1)

In general

A Federal department, agency, or office may assist in satisfying the research needs and priorities identified in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4 by using prizes and challenges under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (124 Stat. 3982) or under any other provision of law, as appropriate.

(2)

Purposes

The purpose of a prize or challenge under this section, among other possible purposes, may be—

(A)

to determine or develop the best data collection practices or analytical methods to evaluate a specific type of forensic data;

(B)

to quantify or improve the efficiency, reliability, or accuracy of an analytical method;

(C)

to design new methodologies to integrate evidence collection, documentation, and analysis at crime scenes; or

(D)

to address other topics as proposed by the forensic science community.

(b)

Forensic data sets

The National Institute of Standards and Technology or the Department of Justice shall provide or contract with a non-Federal party to prepare, when necessary, for each prize carried out under this section, a sufficient set of data or samples, including associated digital data that could be shared without limitation and physical specimens that could be shared with qualified parties, for purposes of a prize or challenge.

7.

Forensic science standards

(a)

Establishment

(1)

In general

To enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities, the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall—

(A)

identify and coordinate the development of voluntary consensus forensic science standards, including—

(i)

methods, standards, and technical guidance, including protocols and best practices, for analysis and interpretation;

(ii)

technical standards useful in the development of products employed by forensic science practitioners;

(iii)

standard content, terminology, and parameters to be used in reporting the results and interpretation of forensic science measurements, tests, and procedures; and

(iv)

standards for the interoperability of forensic science-related technology and databases;

(B)

develop forensic science measurement standards, standard reference materials, and other reference materials to support forensic science disciplines and associated measurements;

(C)

test and validate existing forensics science standards, as appropriate; and

(D)

provide independent validation of forensic science measurements and methods.

(2)

Consultation

(A)

In general

In carrying out its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consult with, and in carrying out its responsibilities under paragraph (1)(A) may partner or contract with—

(i)

standards development organizations and other stakeholders, including the Department of Justice and other relevant Federal departments, agencies, and offices; and

(ii)

testing laboratories, State and local forensic science practitioners, and certification and accreditation bodies, as appropriate.

(3)

Prioritization

When prioritizing its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consider—

(A)

the unified Federal research strategy and roadmap under section 4; and

(B)

the recommendations of the scientific area committees under subsection (b).

(4)

Public review and comment

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall ensure that any proposed voluntary consensus standards, guidelines, or methods developed under this section are publically available, and that the forensic community has an opportunity for public review and comment on voluntary consensus standards.

(5)

Report to Congress

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall report biennially to the appropriate committees of Congress on the progress in carrying out the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under paragraph (1).

(b)

Scientific area committees

(1)

In general

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General shall establish scientific area committees to identify gaps in and opportunities for standards development in the forensic sciences. The scientific area committees shall report to and be administered by the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

(2)

Duties

The scientific area committees shall be the primary mechanism for identifying and coordinating the development of voluntary consensus forensic science standards as described in subsection (a). The scientific area committees shall submit, for consideration by forensic science stakeholders and by the Commission established in section 8, guidance on these forensic science standards. In accomplishing this objective, the scientific area committees shall—

(A)

encourage information exchange within the forensic science community, to include researchers, practitioners, law enforcement, and legal professionals;

(B)

ensure that standards development is appropriate to the needs of the forensic science community and relevant to practical applications;

(C)

take into account existing studies and reports; and

(D)

by holding public meetings and disseminating work products, including records, reports, minutes, and agendas, for public review and comment to the extent practicable, support public participation in the standards development process and the broad adoption of forensic science standards.

(3)

Members

The scientific area committees shall have significant representation from forensic science practitioners, academic researchers, and statisticians to balance scientific rigor with practical and regulatory constraints, and, to the extent practicable, the majority of the scientific area committees shall have a minimum representation of 50 percent from forensic science practitioners. Each member of a scientific area committee shall have significant academic, research, or practical expertise in a discipline of forensic science or in another area relevant to the purpose of the scientific area committee.

(4)

Federal Advisory Committee Act

A scientific area committee established under this subsection shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.).

(c)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated out of otherwise available appropriations to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to carry out this section—

(1)

$8,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;

(2)

$12,000,000 for fiscal year 2015; and

(3)

$16,000,000 for fiscal year 2016.

8.

National Commission on Forensic Science

(a)

Establishment

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall establish a National Commission on Forensic Science.

(b)

Duties

The Commission shall—

(1)

provide advice to the Federal departments, agencies, and offices implementing the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(2)

provide advice to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including recommendations regarding the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under section 7;

(3)

receive and review guidance on standards setting from the scientific area committees established under section 7 and, based on this guidance, advise the Department of Justice on the promotion of forensic science standards; and

(4)

provide advice to the Department of Justice, including recommendations regarding the development of a forensic science uniform code of professional responsibility and the Department of Justice's responsibilities under section 9.

(c)

Subcommittees

The Commission may form subcommittees related to specific disciplines in forensic science or as necessary to further its duties under subsection (b). A subcommittee may include an individual who is not a member of the Commission.

(d)

Chairs

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, or their designees, shall co-chair the Commission.

(e)

Membership

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall appoint each member of the Commission. The Commission shall include balanced representation between forensic science disciplines (including academic scientists, statisticians, social scientists, engineers, and representatives of other related scientific disciplines) and relevant forensic science applications (including Federal, State, and local representatives of the forensic science community, the legal community, victim advocate organizations, and law enforcement).

(f)

Administration

The Attorney General shall provide administrative support to the Commission.

9.

Adoption, accreditation, and certification

The Attorney General shall promote the adoption of forensic science standards developed under section 7, including—

(1)

by requiring, as appropriate, each laboratory under the Department of Justice to adopt the forensic science standards;

(2)

by encouraging other Federal forensic laboratories to adopt the forensic science standards;

(3)

by promoting accreditation and certification requirements based on the forensic science standards; and

(4)

by promoting any recommendations made by the Commission for adoption and implementation of forensic science standards.

10.

National Institute of Standards and Technology functions

Section 2(b) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act (15 U.S.C. 272(b)) is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (12), by striking and after the semicolon;

(2)

in paragraph (13), by striking the period at the end and inserting ; and; and

(3)

by adding at the end the following:

(14)

to identify and coordinate the development of voluntary consensus forensic science standards to enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities.

.

11.

Effect on other laws

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect or alter the support and technical assistance for State and local laboratories under part BB of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3797j et seq.).

December 8, 2014

Reported with an amendment