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Statement to Subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, HUD, and Independent Agencies

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Statement of
The Honorable John H. Gibbons, Director
Office of Science and Technology Policy

before the

Subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, HUD, and
Independent Agencies Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives

March 5, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) budget request for Fiscal Year 1998.

As we approach the turn of the century, it seems appropriate to take stock of the Nation's science and technology (S&T) enterprise, and to look to the future -- to the opportunities that lie ahead as well as the challenges that we face. The Information Age is bringing changes to our society that are only beginning to unfold. Already, new communications technologies are transforming the way we work, where we work, and what we need to know to be successful in tomorrow's competitive environment. Five years ago "Internet" was still a word known mostly to those in S&T. Today, it is the backbone of a new industry and a window to a tremendous world of information for all segments of our society, from business executives to school children.

The rapid economic growth of other nations means a future with greatly expanded markets for U.S. goods and services. Our ability to move our ideas, our goods, and ourselves swiftly to any place on the planet, with the help of new technologies, enhances our ability to share in the growth of global wealth. The increasing availability of these same capabilities throughout the world also means greater competition; it means increasing pressures on our shared environment, health, and natural resources; and it means more diverse dangers to our security from threats such as terrorism and the spread of nuclear and other materials of mass destruction.

The President's key goals for our country include competing aggressively in the global market place, preserving our environment and managing our Nation's resources in a sustainable manner, safeguarding our national security from emerging threats, and maintaining the technological innovation that has contributed to our economic prosperity and quality of life. Achieving these goals requires a sustained commitment to our S&T investments. Therefore, this year, as in the previous four, the President has called for increasing our national commitment to support S&T.

Just as we struggle with the increasingly difficult choices that a balanced budget requires, we also must focus on the importance of sustaining our investment in the future. Funding for S&T, like funding for education, is a high-leverage investment in our continued peace and prosperity. Support for such investments has traditionally been a matter of bipartisan agreement. It is imperative that we build common ground in support of a shared vision -- a commitment to keep America the world's leader in S&T.

Recent Advances in Science and Technology

Over the past year there have been numerous scientific and technological advances, reminding us of how much there is yet to know, and of the potential of S&T to further enrich and improve our lives. I will mention just a few such recent advances.

    In December 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy, in cooperation with Intel Corporation, announced the completion of the worlds' first 1-trillion-calculations-per-second computer -- breaking the "teraflop" goal. This computer was developed as part of the Department's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, which is pioneering technology to ensure the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. This accomplishment is the culmination of years of effort to reinvent computing organized within the Federal government as a multiagency consortium called the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Initiative. Instead of focusing on a single computer processor, which would have been extremely difficult and expensive, the U.S. program resulted in an entirely new computer technology called parallel computing. Parallel computing allows the biggest computers in the world to be assembled from mass-produced microprocessors, which were originally developed for use in desktop and home PCs. This new computing power is valuable in a variety of applications, including the simulation of disease progression, the projection of severe weather systems, the mapping of the humane genome, the improvement of highway safety, and the development of environmental remediation methods to reclaim polluted lands.

    Scientists are unraveling the complex interactions that exist between HIV and the human immune system. We now have a much better understanding of how HIV gains entry into cells. NIH-supported scientists have discovered two new cell-surface proteins that act as "cofactors" along with the CD4 receptor that assist HIV in binding and infecting immune cells. This information will be extremely useful in developing new approaches to control this devastating disease. In addition, the use of powerful triple drug therapies are having a remarkable impact on lowering the number of deaths caused by HIV -- down 13 percent from last year.

    Two NIH-funded groups, using different but related genetic techniques, reported advances in understanding how mice create a mental map of a new environment. Employing sophisticated monitoring equipment, researchers were able to detect activity in individual brain cells as the mice investigated their surroundings. This work provides a window into how human memory functions.

    Wolfgang Ketterle's group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has succeeded in using a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) to make the world's first "atom laser," which fires a narrow beam of coherent "matter waves" with about a million atoms per pulse. Coherent beams of atoms could eventually allow much finer measurements and manipulations, such as moving atoms around one by one or "writing" atoms into semiconductors.

    In a stunning scientific advance that contributes to our fundamental understanding of the origins of life, in August of 1996, a team of researchers announced that they had decoded the first complete genetic blueprint of a microorganism from the third major branch of life on earth, a microbe named Methanococcus janaschii. The finding will allow scientists to understand more about the operation and function of the cell, while bringing them closer to understanding the nature of ancestral cells from which life stemmed early in the planet's history. In the years ahead, the gene sequence holds dramatic prospects for commercial applications in biotechnology, for the development of renewable energy sources, and for cleaning the environment.

The National Research Investment Portfolio

Overall, the Federal government invests approximately 2.5 percent of the Federal budget annually (roughly $75 billion) to generate new knowledge, new technologies, and new scientists and engineers. The return on investments in S&T as a whole for our Nation have been impressive: half of our economic productivity growth in the last fifty years is attributable to technological innovation and to the science that supported this innovation.

The Administration's FY1998 budget supports the cutting-edge research of the Federal government's mission agencies by augmenting stable funding levels with targeted increases that include:

  • A 2.6% increase in the National Institutes of Health budget, to fund high-priority research areas such as HIV/AIDS-related illnesses, breast cancer, minority health initiatives, disease prevention, and spinal cord research.

  • A 3% increase in the funding of science, engineering, and education R&D at the National Science Foundation.

  • A five-year, 1 billion dollar increase in NASA's space science budget, funding research into the origins of the galaxy and the possibility of life beyond Earth.

  • An 8% increase in the basic research budget of the Defense Department.

  • A $1.4 billion appropriation for the Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship Program, which supports the research that will allow us to assure the reliability and safety of our nuclear stockpile without resorting to nuclear testing.

  • A 4.6% increase in basic science research programs at the Department of Energy.

  • A $289 million increase in funding for university-based research to strengthen the University-Government partnership and a $497 million increase in peer reviewed R&D programs.

Shaping the Twenty-first Century

A bipartisan consensus has emerged around the view that we must create, not simply a Federal research program, but a truly national S&T enterprise -- one in which federal investments stimulate the S&T efforts of state and local governments, of private industry, and of universities. In a tight budget environment, these partnerships are essential, and will be a cornerstone of our S&T enterprise in the coming years.

The long-standing Federal partnership with universities has made our Nation the world's leading generator of new knowledge and fundamental insights that lead to new industries, breakthrough medical therapies, and a more sophisticated defense. We are also placing an increased emphasis on partnerships with industry, in which the Federal government shares the costs and the risks of advances that promise a large benefit to society. An example is the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles initiative, in which seven federal agencies and twenty national laboratories have partnered with the Big Three automobile manufacturers in R&D projects aimed at improving auto safety, emissions, and fuel efficiency.

Other Federal partnerships include grass roots projects that bring people and technology together. One such venture, the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant Program, has already lead to the creation of dozens of partnerships linking school systems with businesses, universities, parks, and museums to develop creative uses for information technologies. Partnerships such as these extend the benefits of our Nation's investment in S&T.

The OSTP Mission

In support of our Nation's S&T priorities, OSTP has two primary responsibilities: advising the President on S&T; and providing leadership and coordination for our government's role in the national S&T enterprise.

In the 1950's, in response to Soviet advances, highlighted by the launch of Sputnik, President Eisenhower saw the need for expert S&T counsel, and he invited James Killian, then President of MIT, to Washington to serve as the head of the first President's Science Advisory Committee, an OSTP predecessor. Since then our Nation's Presidents have drawn on the expertise of our office for S&T policy advice, and I see this as a contribution that will continue to grow in value as the challenges we face become increasingly complex.

Within our agency, a small staff of professionals analyzes developments at the frontiers of scientific knowledge, and aids the President in shaping policy. OSTP also provides scientific and technical information and recommendations to the Vice President, the White House Offices, the Executive Branch Agencies, and to Congress.

A second responsibility of OSTP is to provide leadership and coordination across the Administration. OSTP plays this role for a range of Administration priorities, including national security and global stability, environment, science, and technology. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has been an invaluable partner with OSTP in developing interagency evaluations and forging consensus on many crucial S&T issues.

National Science and Technology Council

To meet the Administration's priority S&T goals we must combine the efforts and the expertise of multiple agencies. OSTP personnel support the work of the NSTC, a Cabinet-level Council that sponsors interagency initiatives to advance key S&T objectives.

Our distributed system of research funding also places a premium on coordination between complementary agency programs. The NSTC, now in its fourth year, is improving such coordination

NSTC membership includes Cabinet Secretaries, heads of science and technology agencies, and key White House officials with significant S&T responsibilities. In the process of generating specific budgetary and policy recommendations, the NSTC routinely reaches beyond the federal government to seek input from a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

An important objective of the NSTC is to guide individual agency budget priorities for R&D and to orient the S&T spending of each Federal mission agency toward achieving national goals. To meet this objective, the NSTC has established nine goal-oriented committees, each of which is chaired jointly by a senior agency official and an OSTP Associate Director. These standing committees, along with ad hoc working groups within NSTC, provide an effective forum to resolve cross-cutting issues such as interagency review of the future role of the U.S. national laboratories, or the Federal response to the threat of emerging infectious diseases.

Current interagency S&T initiatives include:

  • The National Bioethics Advisory Commission, a multiagency-supported commission composed of experts and community representatives, established by the President to ensure the ethical conduct of human biological and behavioral research.

  • A three-year, $300 million Next Generation Internet Initiative to create the foundation for the networks of the 21st century , by connecting more than 100 of our universities and national labs at speeds that are 100 - 1,000 times faster than today's Internet -- with the capacity for secure, reliable transmission of voice, video, and virtual reality data.

  • A multiagency task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the University-Government partnership. This review will examine which components of the university system may be under stress, and will determine what the U.S. Government role should be in addressing these issues.

  • An Intelligent Transportation Initiative to support traffic control centers that can manage the operation of major roads by providing real-time information that will drastically cut accident rates, produce an estimated 15 percent savings in travel time, and result in significant productivity gains for business and industry.

  • An Emerging Infectious Diseases Initiative to develop more effective systems of surveillance, prevention, treatment, and response to these growing domestic and international health threats.

  • An interagency antiterrorism body, the Technical Support Working Group, to coordinate the development of new technologies to counter the modern terrorist threat.

  • An Environmental Modeling and Research Initiative that will allow, for the first time, a comprehensive evaluation of our Nation's environmental resources and its ecological systems, thus producing a sound scientific base to support natural resource assessment and decision-making.

  • A variety of educational technology projects and classroom telecommunications links, funded by major Federal agencies, that will reflect the President's unwavering support for improving the educational and training opportunities of the workforce of tomorrow.

  • A multiagency Children's Initiative assessed the current scope of research on children and adolescents, identified significant gaps in the research agenda, and developed recommendations for needed efforts and linkage in the research and policy development.

The President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology

As Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, I co-chair the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) with John Young, former President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. PCAST is a distinguished assembly of scientists, academics, and industrial leaders. It serves as the highest-level private sector S&T advisory group for both the President and the NSTC. This past year, issues examined by PCAST included the health of our research universities, the government's investment role in technology, prevention of deadly conflict, University-Government partnerships, sustainable development and the Federal research and development role in learning technologies.

OSTP Budget Request

I ask today for your continued support of OSTP's role in coordinating S&T policy for the Executive Branch and for our Nation at large. OSTP's budget request of $4,932,000 for FY1998 will maintain the ability of our agency to serve both the public and this President to the fullest extent. This is the same figure as our request for FY1997. We intend to compensate for inflation losses by increased productivity, but this is a substantial challenge.

Since personnel costs constitute the largest portion of OSTP's budget, wherever possible the FY1998 request reflects a reduction of administrative expense in keeping with the Administration's goal of creating leaner, more efficient government. The request for FY1998 reflects our commitment to operate cost-effectively while retaining the most vital element of our agency -- our high-caliber personnel.

1996 Accomplishments

Before concluding, it is appropriate that I take some time to provide a sample of OSTP's accomplishments over the past year. (We have submitted for the record a document fully summarizing our FY1996 accomplishments.) OSTP, working with the NSTC, has been instrumental in shaping our Nation's S&T policy; not only as it relates to Federal S&T activities, but also to partnerships between the Federal government and states, universities, and industry.

Environment: OSTP continued its focus on improving the efficiency and coordination of on-going agency and interagency environmental R&D activities. OSTP fostered an interagency effort, NSTC's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR), to integrate the Nation's environmental monitoring and related research. CENR will provide an integrated scientific information base to support natural resource assessment and decision-making. Many of today's monitoring programs are designed with the goal of providing information on single-agency missions and tend to focus on a single source or issue. By integrating these monitoring and research activities, the Nation can begin to assess the status of resources and their multiple uses in the context of the entire ecosystems.

OSTP staff helped develop a strategy for national earthquake loss reduction to focus scarce research and development dollars on the most effective means for saving lives and property and limiting the social disruptions from earthquakes. This Administration is strongly committed to reducing losses from natural disasters by supporting programs in observing, documenting, understanding, assessing, and predicting the potential consequences of natural hazards.

Following a series of workshops held across the country with more than 1,000 key stakeholders, OSTP hosted a White House Conference to discuss ways to implement the National Environmental Technology Strategy. The required improved efficiency in our technological infrastructure is being achieved through collaboration among industry, academia, and communities to develop long-term goals, measure performance along multiple dimensions and scales, and implement complementary policies to encourage high levels of innovation. Anticipating future needs is critical to achieving successful improvements in efficiency.

OSTP played a key role in a number of domestic and international science assessments. In climate change research, OSTP continued its role in coordinating scientific and technical assessments to support the U.S. delegation to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. A planning framework for Federal research related to the human health and ecological effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals was developed and an inventory of related on-going Federal research programs was completed.

Technology: OSTP led the effort to reshape agency research programs in information technology through the NSTC Committee on Computing, Information, and Communications. This group designed and is leading the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, launched in October 1996. The NGI initiative is a three year, $300 million investment that will create the foundation for the networks of the 21st century.

OSTP continued its active role in the Administration's education technology programs. OSTP has provided broad support for the President's Technology Initiative launched in February 1996, and has included public/private partnership activities such as NetDays, Tech Corps, Cyber Ed, and the Technology Literacy Challenge (TLC). The TLC program challenges communities to form local partnerships of school systems, colleges, universities, and private businesses to develop creative new ways to use technology for learning. In FY1996, 24 finalists were awarded grants to communities in 16 states. An interagency team under NSTC, developed a set of research priorities which shaped agency R&D funding for education technology.

OSTP provided technical support for the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, through both its Technology and National Security and International Affairs divisions, and is coordinating the new interagency research program on advanced air traffic management developed in response to the Commission's report.

Other efforts included: (1) providing continued leadership for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle program; (2) developing an integrated plan for R&D in transportation and launching a number of implementation efforts; (3) initiating a project to streamline and coordinate the regulatory permitting of construction projects by developing model regulations and standards; and (4) initiating cooperative agreements with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to evaluate the near- and long-term potential for biomass to serve as a major fuel source for electricity generation, and for converting biomass fuels for transportation. This led to three pilot biomass energy projects in 1996.

OSTP played a leadership role in the broad interagency review and revision of the National Space Policy released last September. OSTP has ongoing White House oversight responsibility for the International Space Station and Space Shuttle programs, national R&D strategies for satellite technology, launch vehicle systems in international trade, and global communications technologies. OSTP supported the President in commissioning an independent review of the Space Shuttle program that reaffirmed the operational safety of the Space Shuttle. OSTP coordinated the White House response to the discovery that life may have existed on ancient Mars and organized the Vice President's Space Science Symposium in December. OSTP worked with OMB to define a stable and balanced budget for NASA that continues to support our ongoing mission priorities while enhancing our commitment to science. OSTP continues to co-chair with the National Economic Council an interagency and international process designed to transform the current intergovernmental organizations INTELSAT and INMARSAT into competitive, fully-private satellite communication firms.

Science: OSTP led the effort to ensure that basic research budgets were given high priority in the FY1998 budget request and in the outyears. OSTP also led an effort to follow up on the results of the Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) on reforming DOD, DOE, and NASA National Laboratories. This effort indicated that substantial progress has been made in meeting the goals of the PDD, but much remains to be done. OSTP initiated the first Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This award was given to 60 young scientist that have made outstanding scientific contributions and that have the leadership potential to keep our Nation on the cutting edge of scientific and engineering advancement. OSTP also initiated the first Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring, given to 10 individuals and six institutions who have demonstrated their high degree of commitment to promoting diversity in the S&T community.

OSTP staff, working with the NSTC, developed the Children's Initiative, which addresses the need to better tie Federal actions that impact children to sound science. As the Initiative develops, it will identify research gaps in a variety of areas relating to the health and well-being of children and promote tighter linkages to policy making. Other accomplishments related to children include the OSTP, DPC, NSF, and DoEd collaboration on how to improve the performance of our Nation's eighth graders in math.

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses, for which OSTP had White House responsibility, released to the President its final report that contained numerous recommendations on how we can improve the treatment of Gulf War veterans and how we can prevent similar problems in future conflicts. An interagency response to the Committee's report is due to the President in the near future. OSTP also launched the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and was instrumental in arranging for appropriate levels of funding. The Commission was recently charged by the President to address the legal and ethical issues associated with cloning human embryos.

National Security and International Affairs: OSTP coordinates, in conjunction with the National Security Council, both the national and international aspects of U.S. efforts to dispose of worldwide stocks of excess weapons-grade plutonium. OSTP played a key role in the successful October 1996 conference of experts on plutonium disposition that was called for by the April 1996 Nuclear Safety and Security Summit. OSTP co-chairs a joint U.S.-Russian Plutonium Disposition Steering Committee which oversees the government to government collaboration in this area and delivered the first-ever joint study of plutonium disposition options. OSTP provided technical analyses and advice for the NSC process that led to the endorsement of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which requires confidence in the U.S. nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing, and OSTP has led the interagency effort to ensure that existing U.S.-operated global seismic networks will be fully integrated into CTBT verification. More generally, OSTP has provided important science and technology policy perspectives in a variety of key national security areas including aviation security, critical infrastructure protection, the banning of antipersonnel landmines, counterterrorism, information warfare, and ballistic missile defenses.

To more effectively address the growing global threat stemming from the spread of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, at the President's direction OSTP took the lead in forming an interagency task force to address this issue. The Task Force has initiated activities to strengthen disease surveillance, prevention, and response, including the development of a global disease surveillance network.

OSTP has worked successfully to expand U.S. S&T relationships with important trading partners and economies in transition to strengthen benefits to our national security, economic, and scientific goals. Through the high-level binational commission with Russia, OSTP played a lead role in the effort to develop guidelines for intellectual property rights protection for government agreements and contracts with Russia, and to reach agreement on a plan to promote the use of the Internet in Russia. OSTP has also supported international S&T efforts to address policy priorities through other high level binational commissions with South Africa and Egypt, and through the evolving Sustainable Development Forum with China. S&T partnerships have been strengthened with Japan, such as in the creation of an Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Partnership, and OSTP is participating in negotiations over an S&T agreement with the European Union.

OSTP has also taken the U.S. Government lead in several multilateral fora as a way to promote U.S. interests and maximize the value of U.S. S&T investments. OSTP worked closely with the technical agencies and OMB to coordinate the U.S. Government's negotiating position on such international projects as the Large Hadron Collider, the Human Frontier Science Program, and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. OSTP promoted the creation of a follow-on mechanism to the OECD Megascience Forum. In Asia, OSTP led U.S. participation in the APEC Science and Technology Ministerial, and in Latin America, OSTP had a lead in organizing the first-ever meeting of S&T Ministers. Both fora have launched S&T initiatives that are useful in promoting U.S. S&T interests in these regions.

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1997 Remarks

Remarks: Stresses on Research and Education

Remarks: Presidential Advisory Committee for High-Performance Computing

Remarks: Technology Partnering

Remarks: Council on Competitiveness

FY98 R&D Budget Review

Statement to Subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, HUD, and Independent Agencies