On July 22, the Senate confirmed William Alan Jeffrey as the new director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In a NIST press release, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared that Jeffrey "brings a strong background in science and technology policy and the practicalities of research management to one of our nation's finest research laboratories and an institution whose work affects almost every aspect of our daily lives."
Jeffrey, who earned a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard University and a B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has fifteen years' experience with federal science and technology programs. He comes to NIST from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where he was senior director for homeland and national security, as well as assistant director for space and aeronautics.
Before serving at OSTP, Jeffrey worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as deputy director for the Advanced Technology Office and chief scientist for the Tactical Technology Office. According to the NIST press release, his work at DARPA involved research in communications, computer network security, development of sensors and space operations.
Jeffrey's experience prior to DARPA includes positions with the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office and the Institute for Defense Analyses. He has served on review panels addressing national security issues, and chaired a national panel that proposed a technology investment strategy to support NASA's planetary missions.
Jeffrey's June 16 confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee was quick and free of controversy. He was introduced by Sen. George Allen (R-VA), who said that "besides being a fellow Virginian, Bill [Jeffrey] and I also share a commitment to research and advancement in physical sciences" such as nanotechnology. Calling technological innovation "one of the nation's most important competitive challenges," Allen said that progress depends upon the measurement, assessment and standardization tools and methods developed by NIST. Jeffrey's skills and experience, he said, "make him a truly outstanding choice" to serve as NIST director.
The only questioning of Jeffrey, by Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK), related to NIST's role in supporting technologies for homeland security. Jeffrey responded that NIST has a very active role in homeland security, taking the lead in the World Trade Center investigation and participating in the investigation of the anthrax sent to Senate offices, as well as other security issues.