Three important changes in agency and cabinet heads have been announced in the last few weeks. Each of the changes affects major sources of funding for physical sciences research.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION:
Following Senate confirmation, President George Bush officially appointed Arden L. Bement Jr. to be the director of the National Science Foundation. Director Bement is the 12th individual to hold this position. Bement replaced Rita Colwell as the acting director of NSF on February 22, 2004. He was previously the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Bement's six-year term began on November 24, 2004. For a brief biography of Bement, see http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/forum/bement/bement_bio.htm
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY:
Following the announcement by Spencer Abraham that he would retire as Secretary of Energy (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/147.html), President George Bush nominated Deputy Treasury Secretary Samuel Bodman to be the new Energy Secretary.
In remarks at the White House on December 10, Bush said: "Sam Bodman is an experienced executive who has served in my administration as Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. During his varied and distinguished career in the private sector, Sam has been a professor at MIT, president of an investment firm, the chairman and CEO of an industrial company with operations worldwide. In academics, in business, and in government, Sam Bodman has shown himself to be a problem solver who knows how to set goals and he knows how to reach them. He will bring to the Department of Energy a great talent for management and the precise thinking of an engineer. I thank him for agreeing to serve once again."
In a brief statement, Bodman responded, "Mr. President, the job as Energy Secretary, in many ways, combines all aspects of my life's professional work. I started as a teacher in chemical engineering at MIT, spent 17 years helping create and manage Fidelity Investments, and then spent 14 years managing Cabot Corporation, a globally-deployed chemical company. Each of these activities dealt with the financial markets and the impact of energy and technology on those markets." The full text of both Bush's and Bodman's statements can be accessed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/12/20041210-3.html
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) both issued statements supporting the Bodman nomination. Boehlert stated, "I am extremely pleased with the nomination of Sam Bodman as Secretary of Energy. We've worked closely with Deputy Secretary Bodman when he was the number two official at the Commerce Department. He has broad experience in industry, academia and government, excellent management skills, and boundless intellectual curiosity. Obviously on the Science Committee we are especially pleased that the Energy Department will have leadership with great interest and expertise in the Department's important science responsibilities. We look forward to once again being able to work with Dr. Bodman."
Bodman will appear before Domenici's committee for a confirmation hearing. In his statement, Domenici said, "I visited with Mr. Bodman this morning. He is articulate and brings a broad and impressive set of skills to the Department of Energy. His management experience will be a boon to the department. His financial expertise will be a tremendous asset in accurately assessing the economic impact of energy policy and crafting that policy in an environment of fiscal restraint. I am particularly pleased with his technical training and outstanding track record at MIT. He understands the critical role science, research and advanced technologies will play in meeting our energy challenges."
Bodman has a B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University and a ScD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. His previous experience included service as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce, where he had oversight over NOAA, NIST, and the Patent and Trademark Office. A brief biography for Bodman can be read at http://www.treas.gov/organization/bios/bodman-e.html
Bodman has appeared before congressional committees on two rather controversial issues. In a March 2003 House Science Committee hearing, Bodman defended the Bush Administration's decision to terminate the Advanced Technology Program (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/031.html) and he appeared at a 2002 Senate Commerce Committee hearing to discuss the same topic (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2002/049.html, also http://www.aip.org/fyi/2002/024.html.) In July 2003, he was one of several senior officials testifying on the administration's "Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program" (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/101.html.)
At the 2002 Commerce Committee hearing, Bodman was asked a number of times about the Bush Administration's decision to terminate the Advanced Technology Program by the program's strongest defender, Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC). Despite their great differences in opinion, Hollings told Bodman, "we are very lucky to have you."
Yesterday, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe sent a five-page hand-written letter to President Bush announcing his resignation. In this letter, Administrator O'Keefe explained, "It is this very commitment to family that draws me to conclude that I must depart public service. The first of three children will begin college next fall. I owe them the same opportunity my parents provided for me to pursue higher education without the crushing burden of debt thereafter. That commitment from them made possible all that I have been able to pursue in my professional life. I owe my children that same option, but I can't do that if I remain in public service."
O'Keefe has served as NASA Administrator for almost three years, during which the Administration developed, in response to critics, a vision for the space agency. Additional information on O'Keefe's decision to resign, including a copy of his letter, can be viewed at http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/aok_resigns.html