After a five-month delay, the Bush administration has nominated John Marburger to become director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The OSTP chief has direct oversight of the federal funding of key university research and development areas, including optics, lasers and advanced networking. He or she also serves as the presidents key science adviser.
Marburger is a widely respected physicist with experience as a scientist, as a university president and as director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y.
The Democrat must be confirmed by the Senate. A hearing date had not been set by press time.
The Marburger nomination "shows [President George W. Bush] is putting technology above party. I think it shows that our industry is something that transcends partisanship," said Marc Brailov, spokesman at AeE, formerly the American Electronics Association.
Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller championed the OSTPs role in helping to direct technology policy. "In the White House, this person has the ability to be very knowledgeable about what the science and technology community is thinking at any time, and he can bring the scientists knowledgeable but skeptical eye to science and technology policy."
The long vacancy perturbed some in the science and technology communities, including Yale University physicist Allan Bromley, a Republican who was former President George Bush Sr.s OSTP director. Critics complained that Bushs failure to quickly appoint a director revealed his lack of commitment to technology. Former President Bill Clinton, by comparison, nominated his first OSTP director a month before taking office.
"This is one of many indicators that the Bush administration isnt paying much attention to technology issues," said Rob Atkinson, director of the Technology and New Economy Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democrat think tank. He added that Bush in the past talked about appointing a director with more of a technology than a science bent, but Marburger is a traditional science-oriented director.
Marburger served as president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and as dean of the college of letters, arts and sciences at the University of Southern California. He was not granting interviews during the Senate confirmation process.
Peter Paul, interim director of Brookhaven Labs, described the OSTP nominee as a "very determined and deliberate person. The importance of the sciences in the nation needs to be communicated more directly to the citizens," he said, "and we feel he is superbly equipped to do that."