ORBACH'S NEW ROLE: Ray Orbach, Director of DOE's Office of Science and now also the DOE Under Secretary for Science, spoke to an advisory committee in early August about the outlook for FY07 funding, his new responsibilities as Under Secretary, and improving coordination between the department's basic science and applied research programs.
GAO FAULTS NASA PROGRAMS: A GAO review of the James Webb Space Telescope program warned that NASA was beginning implementation with immature technologies, while another GAO report criticized NASA's intent to select a single contractor for its Crew Exploration Vehicle prior to establishing a sound business case. Witnesses at a recent hearing testified that the space agency's workforce strategy plan was "incomplete and reflects a top down view" of the skills needed.
SURVEY OF ATOMIC, MOLECULAR AND OPTICAL PHYSICS: A National Research Council panel released a report surveying past contributions of atomic, molecular and optical science and identifying the most promising future opportunities in these fields, including six "grand challenges."
S&T ADVICE TO CONGRESS: Witnesses at a House Science Committee hearing complained that since the elimination in 1995 of the Office of Technology Assessment, Congress lacks a reliable source of unbiased, comprehensive assessments of S&T issues and the consequences of alternative policy decisions. "We do not suffer from a lack of information," testified Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), "but from a lack of ability to glean the knowledge and to gauge the validity, credibility, and usefulness of the large amounts of information" received. One of the sources of S&T expertise commended at the hearing was the science and engineering Fellowship programs sponsored by various professional societies. The American Institute of Physics and three of its Member Societies run such Fellowship programs.
ENERGY RESEARCH BILL: Legislation that would authorize DOE activities in many areas of energy research, introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), has been sent to the House floor. The bill offers general support for an advanced nuclear fuel cycle while questioning whether the Administration's current plans are adequate. An amendment by Science Committee Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) to authorize an "Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy" ( ARPA-E), as recommended in the National Academies' "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report, was defeated.