The DC rumor mill (well, the science community subset) is buzzing about an Administration announcement tomorrow of a new NSF Director nominee to replace Acting Director Arden Bement. Bement has been “Acting” director since Rita Colwell resigned the post in February, but current law apparently precludes anyone from serving as an “Acting” director for more than 210 days (a term that would on Sept 19th). The rumor suggests that the Administration will name someone other than Bement to take the position, but it’s a toss-up as to who that will be.
More details as they emerge….
Update (12:30, 9/15/04): Looks like it’s Bement. No official announcement yet, though.
Another Update: Here’s the e-mail Bement sent NSF employees today:
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR ARLINGTON, VA 22230
O/D 03-07 September 15, 2004
SUBJECT: Nomination for the Director of the National Science Foundation
The President today announced my nomination to be the next Director of NSF. This is an extraordinary and inspiring honor for me — and one that I feel very humble in accepting.
The Foundation has a rich history of strong and independent Directors, and I look forward to continuing with that tradition. Most important to our success, however, are you — the staff of NSF. I have come to appreciate your strong qualities and dedication that provide the underpinnings for NSF’s organizational excellence. As many of you already know, the Foundation’s mission and our accomplishments are critical to the Nation’s well being. Without your help and dedication, none of NSF’s goals or objectives can be met. I appreciate your support.
Although NSF faces significant challenges in the near future due to Federal budget issues, I am committed to the policies and operations that have stood the test of time and have helped make NSF an extraordinary agency. I look forward to working with Dr. Bordogna and all of you in continuing the outstanding manner in which NSF leads the nation. Our pursuit of research and education at the frontiers of science and engineering, our commitment to broadening participation both within and without the Foundation, and our desire to ensure that we have the resources to carry out this vision will be among my top priorities.
During the upcoming months I will continue as Acting Director while my nomination is pending. I will continue to devote my energies to moving the Foundation forward. I thank you in advance for working with me and look forward to meeting many more of you personally in the days ahead.
Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Distribution: All employees
Tech Daily’s William New and Sarah Lai Stirland have a piece today (sub. req’d) on the White House’s 2003 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers in which Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz praised the role of science and technology in America’s victory in the Cold War.
At the ceremony, Wolfowitz said he considered pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at MIT but opted instead for political science. Still, he lauded the role of science and technology in modern society. He attributed America’s ultimate dominance in the Cold War to the nation’s technological and scientific superiority.
“I think it could be argued correctly that it was science and technology that eventually forced the Soviet Union to face up to the failure of its own system,” he said. Pointing to technology’s role in the current war against terrorism, Wolfowitz said that it “allowed us to win two brilliant military victories, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.”
While it’s great that the leadership of the Pentagon recognizes the important contribution S&T makes to DOD’s mission, it’s equally important that they recognize that the technologies they’re relying upon now are the result of investments made in basic research 15, 20, even 30 years ago (or more). And it’s crucial that they recognize that DOD is moving away from those sorts of long-term investments, emphasizing instead nearer-term development projects. You can see this trend by looking at this chart showing the actual dollars of defense spending for basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development (“6.1,” “6.2″, and “6.3″ research in Defense parlance, respectively).
What the chart shows is that while advanced technology development (the “D” in “R&D”) funding has more than doubled over the 20 year period from 1984-2004, basic research (the “R” in “R&D”) has remained essentially flat.
This funding profile isn’t sustainable if we hope to continue to fuel the innovation that drives the technology that in turn gives us the advantages we enjoy over our adversaries today.
(For a bit more background on problems with DOD’s approach to basic research, and particularly IT-related research, check this post detailing DARPA’s role in cybersecurity research. CRA also spelled out these problems in a bit more detail in our testimony (pdf) before PITAC’s cybersecurity subcommittee in July.)