A hearing on the Clinton Administration's science and technology
programs a few weeks ago highlighted some of the issues Congress
will consider as it turns to the FY 1996 budget over the next few
months. Helpful in framing the coming debate over the
administration's support of science, and particularly technology,
is a recently issued document, "Science and Technology, a Report of
Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Gibbons and
National Science Foundation Director Neal Lane appeared before
Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) three weeks ago in a hearing of
the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
This well-attended, but low-key hearing gave Gibbons an opportunity
to speak about the high rate of return for investment in science
and technology, and to present the "compelling case for the
president's position" that is described at greater length in the
above-cited report. Lane discussed NSF's strategic plan which has
also been released, and which will be covered in a future FYI.
Chairman Burns discussed one of the more controversial technology
programs, the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) at the Department
of Commerce. "I support the ATP" for start-ups, Burns said, but
added that he was surprised at the size of the administration's
requested increased for the program (14.0%.) He asked if this
could be justified in light of other government programs being cut,
and in remarks echoing Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman
Phil Gramm (R-Texas) said it was a "very fine line...where we go
and don't go" (see FYI #56.) Gibbons explained the various
features of the program to counter the concern that the ATP is
industrial policy. Joining in this discussion was Senator John D.
Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia) who said that "it worries me
greatly" that Congress is arguing about the federal role in science
and technology. This is, Rockefeller said, "at the heart of the
greatest conflict here in the Commerce Committee."
If there was one area that Burns and Rockefeller showed great
interest in, and support of, it was NSF's EPSCoR program. A second
panel of witnesses testified in support of EPSCoR, and it was
evident that both senators, from rural states, were very
enthusiastic about the opportunities this program has given their
Coincidental with this hearing was the release of the 40-page
document, "Science and Technology, A Report of the President."
This is a biennial report required by a 1976 law. "This report
describes the actions and plans of the Clinton Administration to
harness the power of science and technology," the document
declares. It finds that the distinctions between basic and applied
science "are blurring" and contends that there is not a linear
progression between them. Federal priorities in science and
technology (such as health, environmental quality, economic growth,
education, etc.) are described. Research on the top quark is one
of highlighted areas.
This report is available via the OSTP Homepage on the World Wide
Web at the following site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/OSTP.html