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FYI Number 25: February 26, 2002

Easy Nomination Hearing for Office of Science Nominee Orbach

"The strength of the United States' economy and defense is dependent in large part on the successful stewardship of science at the Office of Science and her sister agencies." - Raymond Orbach

Raymond Orbach's nomination hearing to be Director of DOE's Office of Science, before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was brief and positive. Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) extolled Orbach's distinguished career as a physicist and as Chancellor of the University of California Riverside. Orbach was introduced by California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who called him "a most able nominee." Wishing Orbach well and voicing strong support for the nomination, Bingaman departed. As frequently happens at hearings, only Feinstein was left to hear Orbach's statement. She commented that the absence of other committee members meant that "your appointment has absolutely no controversy associated with it," an indication that the nomination should easily be forwarded to the full Senate.

Feinstein asked several brief questions about prioritizing DOE's basic research programs and about conflicts between national security and scientific progress at the national labs. Orbach said he would work with the Administration and Congress to determine what was important for the country, and try to "bring as sensible a balance as I could" to support across the scientific spectrum. He agreed that tension has always existed between security concerns and the academic culture of science, and that "security has to come first," but added that the scientists he has met at the labs "are fully aware" of their responsibilities in that area. In closing, Feinstein remarked that Orbach was "superbly qualified" to direct the Office of Science.

The main portion of Orbach's written statement is quoted below:

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: It is a privilege to appear before you today as the President's nominee for Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, to have the opportunity to talk with you, and to answer any questions you may ask. I am honored by the President's and Secretary Abraham's confidence in me and I would like to thank them both for their support."

"The Director of the Office of Science serves as the Science Advisor to the Secretary of Energy, and is the Vice Chair of the Department's Research and Development Council. The Office of Science is the steward and principal funding agency of the Nation's research programs in high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences. It manages important programs of fundamental research in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, and computational science, all of which also support the missions of the Department. An example of the extraordinary value of these efforts are the insights being gleaned from the Human Genome Program, an effort initiated by the Office of Science.

"The Office is responsible for the overall health, well being, and management of ten laboratories, DOE-owned and contractor operated, recognized internationally for their scientific excellence, for constructing and operating large scientific user facilities, and for providing leadership on a world scale for scientific initiatives. The strength of the United States' economy and defense is dependent in large part on the successful stewardship of science at the Office of Science and her sister agencies.

"At this time of crisis, the strength of the scientific community, both in teaching and research, forms the underpinning of our technological response to terrorism, to homeland security, and to the economic opportunities available to our citizenry. The mission of the Office of Science is to provide our President and country with the best science with which to implement our national energy policy. These are awesome responsibilities, and if confirmed, I shall do my best to provide the necessary leadership.

"I have been an active scientist for over 43 years. I have been the recipient of generous federal support, both in terms of graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and research grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. I have served for two decades in educational leadership positions, while continuing my teaching and research activities. During the past ten years as Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, I have taught the introductory course in Freshman physics every year. I have been a champion of access to higher education for all children. I have personally visited elementary, middle, and high schools all over California and in Northern New Mexico, providing the reasons why, the path to, and the support mechanisms for attending college. I have seen my own campus nearly double in enrollment, becoming the most ethnically diverse Research I university in the United States. My mission has been to prove that a truly diverse student body can succeed at the highest level of academic achievement.

"If confirmed as Director of the Office of Science, I commit myself to work with you and your colleagues, listening to your advice and direction. I intend to assist with the development of not only the scientific research strength of this nation, but also with the opportunity for everyone in our country to participate in educational development at the highest intellectual level."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3094

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