Late last week, the Senate voted to confirm John H. Marburger
to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy. Yesterday, Marburger addressed the High Energy
Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP). Marburger's remarks offered
good insight into his thinking and that of President George
Bush regarding science and technology policy and funding.
Marburger touched on several topics during his presentation,
the most important of which was the impact of the September 11
attacks. The attacks have had a "profound effect on the
administration," he said, recounting a meeting he attended
with President Bush the day before. Bush made clear his
commitment to winning this war, and views this as the mission
of the administration, Marburger explained. His first
message, Marburger told the panel, is that there has been a
major change in "everything." The key objectives of the
federal government are now protecting people and reducing the
possibility of future attacks.
As the scientific community interacts with Congress, "it is
obligatory to acknowledge these changed circumstances,"
Marburger told HEPAP. Search for how you can help, he said.
These changed circumstances will have implications, Marburger
predicted, although no one fully knows what these changes will
be. There will probably be less money for some programs, he
said, and the need for planning will be greater. A "much
crisper sense of priorities," and "increased discipline"
budgeting will be needed, he said. Marburger described the
Office of Management and Budget's concerns about the
distortion caused by earmarking, as well as the balance in
funding for life and physical sciences. The important
relationship between the physical sciences and life sciences
is not widely recognized, he added.
Expanding upon his remarks about future S&T spending,
Marburger thought that there could be "very serious" problems
due to the significant funding needed to prevent future
attacks, and because of the public's concern about such
attacks. Telling HEPAP that "I'm on your side," he said
"decisions about what to do next are going to be very, very
difficult" for several years. Marburger said that recent
reports about budgetary problems at the Large Hadron Collider
"are not going to help." "I don't have a clear prediction
what will happen," he added.
Turning to his interactions with the Office of Management and
Budget, Marburger said he has a good relationship with OMB
Director Mitch Daniels and OMB staff. He has also met with
Gov. Tom Ridge on homeland security matters. OSTP is "waking
up very rapidly," Marburger declared, adding that there is a
realization that there has been "a shortage of scientific
presence" in policy formulation. The Bush Administration, he
exclaimed, is taking a businesslike approach to budgeting,
with an emphasis on results.
Marburger's final advice to the panel was "take advantage of
me and my office." He urged that the scientific community
keep in touch with his office, saying that its help was
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics