Senate Confirms Head Officials for Research at Departments of Energy and Defense

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Publication date: 
22 December 2015
Number: 
157

The Senate confirmed Cherry Murray as Director of the Department of Energy Office of Science and Stephen Welby as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

On Dec. 14, the Senate confirmed Stephen Welby by unanimous consent as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Welby succeeds Al Shaffer, the Acting Assistant Secretary prior to his departure for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This came shortly after the Senate’s Dec. 10 confirmation of Cherry Murray as Director of the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE Science). Murray succeeded William Brinkman, the DOE Science director from 2009 to 2013. Both will begin serving in their respective new positions immediately.

Murray a respected and experienced American physicist and leader

Cherry Murray

A renowned American physicist known for her scientific accomplishments using light scattering, Murray chaired the Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Research Council from 2008 to 2013, and was the President of the American Physical Society, an AIP Member Society, in 2009. Murray has also previously served as Principal Associate Director for Science and Technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and was Senior Vice President for Physical Sciences and Wireless Research at Bell Laboratories. Additionally, she served as Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from 2009 through 2014.

As Director of the Office of Science, Murray will oversee research in advanced scientific computing, energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, fusion energy sciences, high energy physics, and nuclear physics. In addition to supporting these areas of research and managing 10 of the Department’s 17 national laboratories, Murray will have responsibility for the development, construction, and operation of open-access scientific user facilities.

Murray received her B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1973 and 1978 respectively.  She conducted postgraduate research on ultra-high vacuum and surface physics, and became well known for her scientific accomplishments in the technique of light scattering and the study of experimental condensed matter. In 1999, Murray was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, followed by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and the National Academy of Engineering in 2002.

Murray has emerged as a vocal champion of basic research

On Aug. 5, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Murray as the Director of the Office of Science. In a testimony given during her nomination hearing on Oct. 20, Murray reflected on what she has learned about science over the course of her career:

I experienced directly how breakthroughs in fundamental science lead to the most disruptive technologies in the market. I also learned that the transition from basic science to technology development and ultimately to new products is never easy, and it is not a linear process; it is more of a spiral.

As FYI reported, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held Murray’s nomination hearing on Oct. 20, and the committee reported the nomination favorably to the full Senate at a business meeting held Nov. 19.

Welby has extensive engineering, industry, and DOD experience

Stephen Welby

President Obama announced Stephen Welby’s nomination alongside a slate of others on Mar. 18. An engineer with more than 27 years of government and industry experience in technology and product development, Welby received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Cooper Union, and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University, as well as master’s degrees in applied mathematics and computer science from Johns Hopkins University.

Prior to his confirmation, Welby was the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering since Sept. 3. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, a role he has held since 2009, Welby was the principal systems engineering advisor to the Secretary of Defense and was responsible for pre-acquisition development planning, engineering support to design, development, and manufacturing, and engineering review and technical risk assessment. His experience has included development of leading-edge aeronautical and space systems, robotics, advanced weapons, high-performance software, and military sensors.

During his Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing on Nov. 19, Welby said that the U.S. edge in technology is “challenged by the globalization of technology, the globalization of technical talent and the emergence of foreign military capabilities.” This changing environment, he said, “demands more agile approaches to technology delivery and development, and faster adoption of new innovative solutions.

Watch Welby’s Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing: