Cabinet-level Council Presents Strategic Plans for Science & Technology

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Publication date: 
12 April 1995
Number: 
54

One of the initiatives announced by President Clinton early in his
presidency, but only now underway, is an "across-the-board review
of federal spending on research and development."  This review is
being conducted by nine committees of the National Science and
Technology Council (NSTC), a cabinet-level council chaired by
President Clinton.  The purpose of the Council is to integrate the
Administration's science and technology (S&T) policy across the
federal government.  It has been described by Administration
officials as a "virtual department of science."

The thrust of the review effort is to examine the federal S&T
portfolio in light of current budget constraints and global
competition, and determine how to achieve the most effective and
efficient policies for each area of investment.  The separate areas
being examined are: Fundamental Science; International Science,
Engineering, and Technology; Health, Safety and Food; Environment
and Natural Resources; Education and Training; Information and
Communication; Civilian Industrial Technology; Transportation R&D;
and National Security. 

The nine committees have each prepared a strategic planning
document.  In his transmittal letter with the plans, Presidential
Science Advisor John Gibbons states that the documents "provide a
new and unique vehicle for discussing the appropriate focus of
federal research efforts as well as planning for future endeavors."
He cautions, however, that "these Plans are not an end unto
themselves, but rather a means to achieve national goals." 

For example, the Committee on Fundamental Science (CFS) 18-page
plan describes the committee's role as "establishing a
government-wide mission for and approach to fundamental science;
and developing a cross-agency strategy for dealing with
foundational issues that affect the broad research and development
enterprise,... within the context of agency missions and broad
administration priorities."  Noting that it is no longer efficient
for federal agencies to set their priorities independently, the
Committee "is committed to providing" the framework and rationale
for priority decision-making among research programs.  The
strategic plans can be obtained via the OSTP World Wide Web Home
Page at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/OSTP.html

In countering the quest of some Republicans for a Department of
Science, the Administration has claimed that the NSTC represents a
"virtual department" that can coordinate federal S&T efforts
without changing the existing agency structure.  Given the
traditional difficulties of inter-governmental coordination, and
the early stage of NSTC efforts, it remains to be seen how
successful this argument will be.

UPDATE TO FYI #52:  PCAST notes that Norman Augustine will not
serve on the Fusion Working Group.  Diana MacArthur of Dynamac
Corporation will be joining this group.  The panel will "identify
budgetary requirements and policy and technology tradeoffs for
different options in structuring [DOE's] magnetic fusion energy
program.  These options include whether and when the United States
should commit itself to constructing major new facilities for
fusion energy development."

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