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FYI Number 133: October 31, 2001

New OSTP Director Offers Views on S&T

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" in 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 of 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 needed.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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