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FYI Number 127: October 12, 2001

Text of OSTP Director Nominee Marburger's Senate Statement

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 to come.

"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 enterprise.

"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, energy efficiency.

"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 and instrumentation.

"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 pool.

"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
(301) 209-3094

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