White House Calls on Science Community to "Increase Public

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Publication date: 
11 August 1995
Number: 
115

Dialogue"

With the House already in recess and the Senate preparing to leave
town tonight, officials of the Clinton Administration are busy
drumming up opposition to many of the budget priorities set by
Congress in its Budget Resolution and appropriations bills.  On
August 3, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown held a press briefing to
discuss the status of his department and to rally supporters.
Yesterday, eight Administration officials gathered in the Old
Executive Office Building to give a briefing on the implications
for science and technology (S&T) of the competing plans to balance
the budget. 

Secretary Brown expressed hope that his congressional testimony has
"had some impact" in recent hearings on eliminating the Department
of Commerce.  "Some Republicans had good things to say," about the
department, he said.  Brown repeated President Clinton's promise to
veto any legislation that attempts to eliminate Commerce, and noted
that the House-passed Commerce appropriations bill was "already in
line with the Budget Resolution without getting rid of" the
department.

In Thursday's presentation by Administration officials, National
Economic Advisor Laura D'Andrea Tyson compared President Clinton's
strategy for eliminating the budget deficit in ten years with the
Congressional majority's seven-year plan.  While both sides were
committed to balancing the federal budget, she said, the debate was
over how it should be done.  "It is important to keep in mind why"
we're trying to balance the budget, Tyson pointed out; "It's about
the nation's future growth and prosperity."  She cited a general
consensus that investments in science and technology do improve the
nation's economic growth, and called cuts to federal S&T programs
short-sighted and "inconsistent with the goal."  If we skimp on
funding technological innovations today, Tyson warned, we will "end
up poorer tomorrow."

Tyson found it a "great irony" that many of the R&D programs
supported by the congressional majority are fully
government-funded, while the programs they hope to eliminate are
cost-sharing partnerships with the private sector.  The completely
government-funded projects, she said, have patrons in Congress to
protect money flowing to their districts, while the
industry-partnership programs are "designed so well, so insulated
from politics," that they have not gained congressional "guardian
angels."

Presidential Science Advisor John Gibbons and a number of agency
representatives, including NASA's Dan Goldin and Arati Prabhakar of
NIST, described the effect of Congress's budget actions on their
programs.  According to the briefing materials, the congressional
majority has proposed reductions to such Administration priorities
as Mission to Planet Earth, High Performance Computing and
Communications, and the Clean Car Initiative.  The Technology
Reinvestment Program and NIST's Advanced Technology Program- both
competitive, industry-led partnerships to encourage innovative
technologies- have been targeted for elimination in the Budget
Resolution, while Clinton's plan would provide them with steady
growth.  Other S&T programs favored by the Administration but
targeted for cuts by the Congress include renewable energy and
energy efficiency programs, high speed rail, air traffic control
enhancements, the Environmental Technologies Initiative, and
Superfund research into technologies for cleaning up hazardous
waste. 

The officials indicated that President Clinton was considering
vetoing many of the appropriations bills in their present form.  A
question-and-answer session focused on how Congress could be made
to understand and support the portfolio of federal S&T programs.
Gibbons exhorted the audience to get involved, saying, "The next 30
to 45 days are absolutely critical.  [This is the] time to raise
awareness, increase public dialogue."  A member of the audience
noted that the speakers were "preaching to the choir" of the
importance of such programs.  Gibbons responded, "First of all, the
role of the choir is to sing!"

NOTE:  In FYI #112, the quote regarding funding of the Tokamak
Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) was incorrectly attributed by the
Congressional Record to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM.)  The speaker
making the remarks was actually Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). 

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