John Marburger appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation on October 9, as President Bush's nominee for Director
of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. FYI
#126 provided coverage of the nomination hearing. The full text
of Marburger's written statement, which runs several pages, is provided
below. In it, he addresses making choices among fields of science, the
role of S&T in combating terrorism, coordination of federal research
efforts, the government's role in R&D and its impact on society,
balance in the research portfolio and interdependence among fields,
and four priority areas he considers "grand challenges."
Written Statement of Dr. John H. Marburger III:
"It is a great honor and privilege to come before you as President
Bush's nominee for Director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy within the Executive Office of the President.
"I approach this opportunity and profound responsibility with
a mixture of humility and immense pride - humility in the wake of the
distinguished American scientists who have gone before me, pride in
this nation's unmatched scientific establishment. Science and technology
have long provided us with increased security, better health, and greater
economic opportunity and will continue to do so for many generations
"I believe my professional career over the last three decades
- as a Professor of physics and electrical engineering, as a university
Dean and President, and as the Director of the Department of Energy's
Brookhaven National Laboratory - has provided me with the knowledge
and experience to meet the needs and expectations of this office.
"Should I be confirmed, I look forward to a close and productive
relationship with the Congress and particularly with this Committee,
which has long provided bipartisan and enduring support of our world-leading
science and engineering enterprise. The counsel and support of Members
of Congress is an essential element of continued U.S. leadership across
the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
"We must make important choices together because we have neither
unlimited resources, nor a monopoly of the world's scientific talent.
While I believe we should seek to excel in all scientific disciplines,
we must still choose among the multitudes of possible research programs.
We must decide which ones to launch, encourage, and enhance and which
ones to modify, reevaluate, or redirect in keeping with our national
needs and capabilities.
"Today the most pressing of these needs is an adequate and coordinated
response to the vicious and destructive terrorist attacks on September
11, a response in which science and technology are already playing an
important role. The scientific and technical communities have signaled
their commitment to this urgent national need, and functions of coordination
and evaluation of proposed programs are increasingly important to realize
their full potential.
"The struggle against terrorism has many fronts, and science and
technology pervade them all. From instruments of surveillance that are
consistent with our nation's love of individual freedom, to basic advances
in science that feed technologies important for long term economic strength,
and the international collaborations that awaken in other cultures the
spirit of objectivity and the quest for truth, the security of our nation
depends upon thoughtful management of our scientific and technical resources.
"It is our joint responsibility to ensure that our science and
technology portfolio is responsive to Presidential and Congressional
intent, that our cross-cutting programs are well-coordinated, and that
our research and development (R&D) funds are efficiently used.
"Since its inception, the Office of Science and Technology Policy
(OSTP) has played an important national role not only in enhancing the
connections between fundamental research and our overarching national
goals, but also in sustaining and nurturing America's unmatched scientific
"If confirmed as the President's science advisor, I will seek
the counsel and wisdom of the best minds in the science and engineering
community in both the public and private sectors and provide the most
knowledgeable advice directly to the President for his deliberations
and decisions. I also would hope to organize the office in a way that
builds upon the impressive progress made by my distinguished predecessors.
"As part of the Executive Office of the President, OSTP has a
unique position and perspective that enables us to assess the vast sweep
of scientific endeavors of our various Federal agencies and departments.
The complexity of this activity, the diversity of its impacts, and the
intensity of its many advocates mask an underlying machinery of the
scientific enterprise whose parts must work in balance to effect the
smooth functioning of the whole. Our joint responsibility is to identify
the crucial parts, evaluate their effectiveness, and ensure their continuing
strength through all the mechanisms available to national government.
"The roots of this governmental role in science go deep. More
than any other nation, we have used science and technology wisely to
create peace, advance democracy, and provide for the well being of our
citizens. I know these are also President Bush's goals as he seeks to
support and encourage diverse scientific research and development in
our nation's universities, national laboratories, and industries.
"Economists tell us that fully half of our economic growth in
the last half-century has come from technological innovation and the
science that supported it. It is no accident that our country's most
productive and competitive industries are those that benefitted from
sustained Federal investments in R&D - computers and communications,
semiconductors, biotechnology, aerospace, environmental technologies,
"The Federal role is crucial. Economists estimate that rates of
return on private sector R&D spending average about 30 percent.
But societal rates of return on public R&D investments - the economic
benefits that accrue to our entire society - are twice as large. As
much as half the return on a particular firm's R&D investment goes
to other companies and competitors - not to the investing company. This
"spillover" effect means that private industry cannot and
will not commit the level of resources to R&D that is best for society.
"From satellites to software to superconductivity, the Federal
government has supported - and must continue to support - exploratory
research, experimentation, and innovation that would be impossible for
individual companies or even whole industries to afford. These partnerships
in pursuit of innovation enable the private sector to generate new knowledge
and develop novel technologies that ultimately lead to commercial success,
increased jobs, and healthier and more productive lives for all Americans.
"Balance in this broad research portfolio recognizes that advances
in one field, such as medicine, are often dependent on gains in other
disciplines. Diversified investments across the full spectrum maximize
our returns, both financial and technical.
"Medical diagnosis, treatment and research are continuously transformed
by new methods and insights derived from fields as seemingly disconnected
from health as physics, chemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics.
In the years ahead, networked supercomputers, linked with the life sciences,
that operate at speeds of over one thousand trillion operations per
second will have implications as profound as the industrial revolution's
spread of technology.
"Two immense forces have emerged in recent decades to transform
the way all science is performed, just as they have altered the conditions
of our daily lives: access to powerful computing, and the technology
of instrumentation which provides inexpensive means of sensing and analyzing
our environment. These have opened entirely new horizons in every field
of science from particle physics to medicine. Nanotechnology, for example,
- the ability to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular level
- and molecular medicine - the ability to tailor life essential substances
atom by atom - both owe their capabilities to advances in computing
"These forces are influencing our approach to each of the grand
challenges we face in the national missions of security, environmental
protection, healthcare, and education:
"National Security: Many factors have changed the face
of war over the past decade. And our expectations about terrorist attacks
on U.S. soil have been dramatically altered since September 11. Science
and technology can help the country through innovations in detection
technology, newly developed vaccines, and advances in weaponry for our
warfighters. Defense technologies today depend increasingly on the commercial
sector, not only to make cutting edge technologies available, but also
to reduce the cost of defense procurements. For the last half century,
possession of superior technology has been the cornerstone of our military
preparedness. Such a strategy requires a sustained investment in science
and technology to enable us to succeed in high priority missions, to
minimize casualties, and to mobilize all of our military services in
coordinated action. New technologies are necessary to strengthen our
efforts in counterproliferation, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and
the stewardship of a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile.
"Environment: Creating new scientific knowledge and technology
to help us avoid environmental damage and its consequences is one of
the great challenges facing our research enterprise. Recent advances
in environmental science and technology hold enormous promise for the
creation of a sustainable future in which our environmental health,
our economic prosperity, and our quality of life are mutually reinforcing.
At the same time, our growing knowledge has revealed vast gaps in our
understanding of many environmental issues, particularly the human influence
on the global climate. In the next 30 years, our population will grow
by 60 million people, almost 40,000 individuals per week. During that
same time, our economy is expected to double. Given such trends, we
must develop a new generation of technologies that can supply the goods
and services our society needs with less energy, fewer materials, and
far less environmental damage.
"Health Care: Medical advances have lengthened our average
life expectancy more than 60 percent beyond what it was nearly a century
ago. Scientific and technological breakthroughs are providing new approaches
to solving many of the long-standing mysteries of life and its damaging
diseases. Genetic medicine offers us the greatest hope, but the ethical,
legal, and social implications of human genome research must also be
addressed in parallel with the scientific exploration and in a manner
that encourages maximum public involvement. The public sector has a
dual role - to facilitate the advances and to protect the interests
of the public, and in both ways serve as an advocate of the public good.
Our newest technologies must always incorporate our oldest and most
cherished human values. We will need to reassess our public investments
and adjust our science and technology portfolio to reflect the new realities.
"Education: Our children carry our hopes for the future,
and preparing them for the twenty-first century is one of our most important
national priorities. More than half of our basic research support has
a dual benefit in that it is invested in our universities where, in
addition to generating new knowledge, new talent is being trained for
the future. In grades K-12, new research can determine which educational
technologies actually work and how they can be improved. The degree
to which our nation flourishes in the twenty-first century will rest
upon our success in developing a well-educated citizenry and workforce
able to embrace the rapid pace of technological change. Quality of education
and equality of educational opportunity are central to our political
future. Yet as we work to develop the finest scientific and engineering
workforce, we must also address its composition. Achieving diversity
throughout the ranks presents a formidable challenge; women and minorities
are grossly underrepresented in science and technology even though we
are becoming a more diverse society. If our scientific workforce is
to truly reflect the face of America, we must draw upon our full talent
"These scientific and technological challenges along with so many
others that we face in the years ahead are enormous - but so are the
combined strengths and resources of the American people. If we sustain
our investments in basic research, we can ensure that the United States
remains at the forefront of scientific capability, thereby enhancing
our ability to shape and improve the world's future.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this Administration
and my nation. I recognize the responsibilities and challenges of this
high office as Congress has prescribed them, and I resolve to work as
hard as I can to strengthen our scientific enterprise to help our country
reach its full potential.
"I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have."
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics