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Statement of the Director, OSTP, before the Committee on Science

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For Immediate Release

January 6, 1995

Statement of the Honorable John H. Gibbons, Director, OSTP, before the Committee on Science U.S. House of Representatives

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, on behalf of the Clinton/Gore Administration, I thank you for this opportunity to present our vision of the future in science and technology. We wholeheartedly agree with you that the advancement of science and technology is a vital national goal which is absolutely essential for the future well being of our people and our Nation. And we believe government has a key role to play in working with industry and academia to achieve that goal.

As Peter Drucker has noted, "Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions." So to start off the new dialogue between the Administration and Congress on present decisions about science and technology and their impacts on our Nation's future, I would like to focus on five things today:

  • First, elucidate the goals --from economic growth, to environmental protection, to national security--of the Administration's science and technology policies;.

  • Second, highlight a few of the many spectacular results from past Federal investments in science and technology;.

  • Third, describe a few of the Administration's current science and technology initiatives and the benefits we anticipate they may provide in the coming years;.

  • Fourth, summarize how the Administration has reorganized Federal science and technology policy making to improve the links between government and the private sector and to maximize the return on Federal investments in research and development; and.

  • Fifth, discuss the inextricable links between science and technology.


As enunciated by the President in his first month in office, our science and technology policies and programs are directed toward three basic goals:
  • Long-term economic growth that creates jobs and protects the environment;
  • Making government more efficient and more responsive;
  • World leadership in basic science, mathematics, and engineering.
Government is an essential actor in making sure science and technology help us reach our goals. Many of the benefits science and technology confer are in areas that are either outside the market or imperfectly subject to market forces --such things as a strong national defense, first-class education and training, improved environmental quality, and fundamental scientific research. In these areas, a strong government presence in R&D investments is essential.

A government role is also vital in promoting technologies that are critical to economic growth, the creation of good jobs, and meeting the common needs of the nation, but cannot attract adequate private investment. In our partnerships with business for pre-commercial technology development, our cardinal rule is to use government funds only where they are essential and where the payoff to society as a whole is large. We invest government funds, on a cost-shared basis, where private sector investment is not adequate to the job because of unacceptably high technical risks, prohibitive cost, long payback horizons, or where the returns cannot be captured by the investing firm but spill out to competitors, other firms, or society at large.

Experience teaches us that the likelihood is that the payoff on government investments in science and technology, if judicially made, will be enormous. It is our steadfast belief that thoughtful federal spending on science and technology is simply good economic policy. Many economic studies have shown that federal money invested in science and technology brings, on average, a 50 percent rate of return to U.S. society.


The record of the past half-century clearly shows a high average rate of return on public and private investments in science and technology. Of course, we can only make educated guesses about which investments will catalyze revolutionary developments in science and technology, and we must expect some failures. One of my early mentors, Alvin Weinberg, always said "Never make a prediction until you're very old; otherwise you might live to see it not come true." But if the past is any predictor, our expectations for an excellent return on our investments are not misplaced.

Had you convened a hearing like today's in January 1975, you might, for instance, have received testimony concerning the Administration's belief that emerging computer and telecommunications technologies would soon change the conduct of warfare; that continued funding of molecular biology would yield revolutionary advances in medical diagnosis and treatments; that progress on environmental pollution required major additional Federal research attention; or that technology could both quiet the noise and cut fuel consumption in airplanes. Decisions made at that time to invest taxpayer dollars in those areas turned out to be wise, for predictable as well as for unforeseen reasons.

  • Public investments in fundamental research and development on information technologies did, in fact, revolutionize the conduct of warfare --both the weaponry deployed and the tools used to prevent or to prepare for war. Just as importantly, those investments changed the nature of commerce, indeed the nature of everyday life in this country. Early investments in ARPANet, the first national computer network, have brought us to the 25th anniversary of the Internet, a prototype of the Global Information Infrastructure. When it started out, ARPANet could transmit only 56,000 bits of data per second. Today, networks using technology several generations more advanced routinely transmit 45 million bits a second --almost a thousand times faster. The Federal government provided a relatively small catalyst (a few tens of millions of dollars annually) that has been matched more than a hundred times over by private-sector investment in the Internet. Today, dozens of companies are investing millions of dollars and competing to provide Internet connections and new services to the tens of millions of Internet users around the world.

  • Public investments in biomedical research have, as we expected 20 years ago, improved our understanding of the root causes of many diseases, leading to better preventive and treatment techniques. What we could not predict, but benefit from nonetheless, is the multi-faceted biotechnology industry that did not exist 20 years ago. Biomedical research spawned this industry that already accounts for 100,000 jobs and $8 billion in annual sales. We owe incredible advances in agriculture and in chemical and pharmaceuticals processing, as well as our ability to capture billion dollar markets in health care and other industries, to fundamental research in molecular biology and development of advanced instrumentation funded by the U.S. government.

  • Investments in environmental research and development have improved air quality, moved us toward our goal of "fishable, swimmable" waters, and, as science often does, revealed unanticipated impacts of human life on the natural systems that support us. Twenty years ago, for instance, we determined a need to understand the impacts of emissions of anthropogenic chlorine, bromine, and fluorine on stratospheric ozone. Today we know unequivocally that the ozone layer is being depleted because of human activities. This knowledge has led to international agreements that limit the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals. At the same time, advances in technology have resulted in cost-effective substitutes that do not degrade the ozone layer. Because of the research and early detection of stratospheric ozone depletion, technological response has enabled us to largely avert a major global health problem while still providing the benefits of air conditioning, refrigeration, and other necessities and amenities that once depended on ozone- destroying chemicals.

  • Twenty years ago, civilian jet airliners were powered by fuel-guzzling turbojet engines that polluted the environment and disturbed people living near airports and under airline flight paths. Today, thanks to NASA research in combustion, turbomachinery, lubrication, aerodynamics, acoustics, and materials and structures, those airliners are 50 percent quieter, 25 percent more fuel efficient, and emit less than half the atmospheric pollutants. Many NASA-developed technologies have been incorporated directly into the current commercial turbofan engines, helping U.S. manufacturers attain world leadership in technology and market share.

One could reasonably say that we got even more than we bargained for from the government's S&T investments of 20 years ago. They were strategic, meaning they were thoughtfully directed toward goals such as national security, high quality health care, and environmental quality. And, in hindsight, they were more than fully successful.


I am confident our successors in governance in 2015 will be able to say the same about many current S&T investments --if, that is, they receive adequate financial support, both public and private. The Administration's science and technology investments are focused on six priority areas:
  • A healthy, educated citizenry;
  • Job creation and economic growth;
  • World leadership in science, mathematics and engineering;
  • Improved environmental quality;
  • Harnessing information technology;
  • Enhanced national security.
Today I would like to describe a few of the initiatives we believe will ensure long term economic growth, a broader knowledge base to support that growth, and a better quality of life for Americans.

  • Technology for Economic Growth. The Administration has made a major commitment to work with the private sector on the development and deployment of advanced civilian industrial technologies, both here and abroad. Environmental technologies --technologies that enable delivery of goods and services with less environmental pollution and technologies that trap pollutants or clean up pollution -- receive special emphasis in our investments. They will allow us to pursue our dual goals of economic development and environmental protection because we will be producing higher value goods and services with less energy, less waste, and less environmental harm.

    During the next twenty years, U.S. industries can significantly expand their share of what is presently a $300-billion global industry in environmental technologies. The potential public and private returns on investments in environmental technologies are tremendous.

    This vision of economic growth combined with protection of the environment is not unfounded fantasy. Let me give a couple of examples. Over the past 15 years, the Intel Corporation (at their Portland, Oregon, plant) has more than doubled its production of semiconductors with no increase in emissions, and no new investments in pollution emissions control technologies. Instead, they have redesigned their entire production process to make higher quality chips with less environmental impact.

    Also over the past 15 years, research into more efficient wind turbines and expanding markets have reduced the cost of wind-generated electricity by a factor of eight (from over $.40/kilowatt-hour to less than $.06/kilowatt-hour) and made the U.S. the leader in global wind energy production. These changes are indicative of what can happen within a time span of twenty years and give us a sense of what is possible as we look forward to the year 2015.

    Alan Kay at Apple Computer was right when he said, "The best way to predict the future is to make it happen." For this reason, it is necessary for us to create strategic alliances with industry, to set long-term goals, to stimulate innovation, and to make sure our industries move significantly beyond their global competitors. We are doing this, for example, with the Clean Car Initiative and our work with the U.S. construction industry. The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, also known as the Clean Car Initiative, is one of our premiere ventures into cooperative civilian industrial technology development. In it, we are tackling a technological challenge as tough as putting a man on the moon --that is, to develop within 10 years a car with 3 times the efficiency of today's automobiles with no sacrifice in cost, comfort, or safety. If the project succeeds, the payoff to the public will be huge in terms of less dependence on foreign oil and lower emissions of greenhouse gases. The project also holds the promise of an extremely attractive car for world markets in the 21st century and a thriving U.S. auto industry to produce them. The government (in this case, a consortium of Federal agencies) and industry (the Big 3 automakers and many suppliers of materials and equipment) are working closely together here to break highly challenging technological bottlenecks where the benefits are as much societal as commercial.

    In our Building and Construction Initiative, our goal is to develop better construction technologies to improve the competitive performance of the U.S. industry, raise the life cycle performance of buildings, and protect public safety and the environment. The initiative responds to a high level of industry interest and combines government and industry goals. Construction is one of the nation's largest industries, with employment of 6 million and a total yearly value of close to $800 billion, yet U.S. building technology lags behind that of foreign countries and the incidence of injury in construction work is among the highest of all industries. We are determined, in full cooperation with industry, to enable, by 2003, the following future:

    • Better constructed facilities, meaning: a 50 percent reduction in delivery time; a 50 percent reduction in operation, maintenance, and energy costs; a 30 percent improvement in productivity and comfort; 50 percent fewer occupant-related injuries and illnesses; 50 percent less waste and pollution; and 50 percent more durability and flexibility.

    • Improved health and safety of construction workers, meaning a 50 percent reduction in construction work injuries and illnesses.

    This initiative is dedicated to removing nontechnical barriers to innovation, as well as putting greater emphasis on research and development and aligning government programs appropriately with industry needs.

    • Investing in Fundamental Knowledge. America's future demands investment in expanding our knowledge base, in other words, in our people, institutions, and ideas. Science is an essential part of that investment --an endless and sustainable resource with extraordinary dividends. The nation's investment in world leadership in science, engineering, and mathematics has yielded a scientific enterprise without peer, whether measured in terms of discoveries, citations, awards and prizes, advanced education, or contributions to industrial and informational innovation. Our scientific strength is a treasure this Administration intends to sustain and build on for the future.

    We have pledged (as described in Science in the National Interest) to:

    • maintain leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge;

    • enhance connections between fundamental research and national goals, such as economic prosperity, national security, health, and environmental responsibility;

    • stimulate partnerships that promote investments in fundamental science and engineering and effective use of physical, human, and financial resources;

    • produce the finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century; and

    • raise scientific and technological literacy of all Americans.

    Broad investment in basic research is essential to our national defense strategy. A strong domestic science base supporting a robust national security S&T program is critical to preserving the technological superiority that characterizes our military advantage. The Administration's strategy is to apply resources broadly at the basic research level and make further investment decisions as emerging technologies reveal the most effective payoff areas. Through these investments in fundamental science, we can continue our science and technology advances, position ourselves to take advantage of maturing technologies, and minimize our vulnerability to surprise.

    We have given particular emphasis in the first two years of this Administration to a human resources development strategy aimed at producing the cadre of experts necessary for the scientific enterprise of the future; for research and development; for applied fields and industries; and for competing in a global marketplace. We are reevaluating the breadth and nature of graduate training --recognizing that we are not training our scientists merely to work in laboratories and universities. We are projecting the workforce needs of our future economy and developing methods for fostering the basic skills necessary for all workers. I cannot predict the science success stories of 2015. But our strong investment program for basic research sets the stage for the equivalent of:

    • Fiber optics --which were a germ of an idea in 1966 but now carry most U.S. long-distance telecommunications;

    • The Hubble Space Telescope --which has opened our eyes to distant galaxies in the same way the early space program opened our eyes to the wonders of our small planet and solar system;

    • Global positioning system --a confluence of basic research in physics, software, communications, and high-speed electronics first tapped for military purposes and now rapidly expanding into commercial markets for navigation and air safety and monitoring Earth's large scale ecosystems;

    • Severe weather prediction --which has emerged from the integration of space platforms, large computing power, and continued atmospheric science research.

    I am sure we will see equally impressive and revolutionary developments in the coming years --provided we maintain our strong commitment to basic research. My confidence stems, at least in part, from the fact that the process of good science inherently contains a healthy degree of skepticism and willingness to weigh new evidence. For example, over the past two decades, researchers in the United States and other countries, particularly Brazil, have debated the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. The answer affects calculations of the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. In a NASA-sponsored study using Landsat data, this debate was effectively resolved, with the study showing that the rate of deforestation was, in fact, lower than many thought.

    Our polar-orbiting satellites also provide information about the atmospheric cooling effects of volcanic emissions, specifically from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Phillipines. The extent and the duration of the effects of such natural phenomena on global warming must be considered in trying to understand fluctuations in the climate record. As a nation, we should take great pride in our ability to undertake policy-relevant scientific investigations designed to provide information necessary to, but not driven by, the policy debate.

    Space and Aeronautics. The commitment the Administration has made in space and aeronautics technologies reflects the critical role these technologies play in advancing U.S. economic, national security, and foreign policy interests. The international space station is perhaps the Administration's most visible commitment to US leadership in aerospace technology. As you know, early in the Administration we undertook a redesign of the space station to reduce its cost, to improve its performance and safety, to accelerate its schedule, and to make it more relevant to today's economic and political climate. The inclusion of Russia as full partners in the station program reflects not only the benefits we believe can be derived from the incorporation of Russian space technology, but also the importance of broad international cooperation in the pursuit of fundamental scientific research. We expect that research on board the space station will provide important new scientific and technical insights and will lay the groundwork for mankind's next steps into space.

    This Administration is also committed to making investments that will allow industry to dramatically reduce the cost of space transportation. In August, the President directed NASA to begin development of a new generation of launch vehicle technologies that could eventually replace the expensive Space Shuttle. The President also directed the Department of Defense to develop a strategy for evolving the existing launch vehicles into a fleet of vehicles that is significantly more cost effective. These government actions, combined with the energy and creativity of the private sector, not only holds out the possibility for much less expensive access to space for science, exploration, and national security, but lays the foundation for a reemergence of US industry as the dominant player in the commercial space launch market.

    The Administration's commitment to space technology research has not lessened its commitment to space science and applications. Through its Global Change research program -- including NASA's Mission to Planet Earth program --we will gain new insights into the fundamental processes of our planet. These insights can have a positive effect on our economy as we benefit from new knowledge of weather prediction, agriculture, disaster prediction, and other complex processes. Besides exploring out own planet, NASA is planning a new generation of small, low-cost spacecraft that will provide new opportunities for exploration and discovery elsewhere in the solar system. These new programs, combined with our sustained commitment to important facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope, will expand our already significant efforts to understand the nature of the universe in which we live.

    The U.S. aeronautics industry has benefited greatly from its strong research and technology partnership with the Federal Government. U.S. firms lead the world in the manufacture of aircraft, engines, avionics, and air transportation system equipment. This leadership role has translated into hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs and a significant contribution to our balance of trade --more than $28 billion in 1993 on exports of $40 billion. The Administration's continued support for aeronautics technologies will help to ensure that U.S. industry remains a world leader in the development of new aircraft and engines. Federal R&D will also play an important role in helping to ensure the development and implementation of a new, efficient, safe, and affordable global air transportation system. In particular, new technologies such as the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) will play a significant role in this process and may result in billions of dollars in annual saving to the airlines and a significant global market for new U.S. products and services. Finally, Federal R&D will help to ensure the long-term environmental compatibility of the aviation system. New technologies hold the promise of even greater increases in energy efficiency and further significant reductions in noise and potentially harmful chemical emissions.


Science and technology are essential to the various missions of the Federal departments and agencies. Looking to the future, our agencies must have a research and development base that will continually refresh and improve the ways in which we carry out our responsibilities.

Coordination and Streamlining

In order to confront the budgetary, scientific, and technological challenges of the 21st century, the Administration recognized that significant changes were needed in the way we plan and fund Federal R&D. The traditional single-agency, single-discipline approach to problem solving must be supplanted by a coordinated, multi-agency, interdisciplinary approach. Multi-dimensional problems can only be addressed by bringing together natural and social scientists, economists, engineers, and policymakers. For too long, science has been decoupled from informing policy decisions. Fixing this disconnect has been one of our highest priorities.

Over the past two years, the Administration has been working to improve the Federal R&D enterprise in many ways. For the first time, the United States has a comprehensive, coordinated Cabinet level body devoted to the Federal R&D enterprise. In November 1993, the President created the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The principal purpose of the NSTC is to:

  • identify national goals that require concerted R&D efforts;

  • identify the high-priority R&D needed to meet those goals; and

  • coordinate R&D government wide to make sure that adequate attention is given to high-priority areas, and to avoid wasteful duplication

Although each agency, to accomplish its missions, must have R&D directed to its particular needs, there are some commonalities in the science and technology needs of all the agencies. Put another way, overarching national goals typically cross agency boundaries. This is particularly true because of the highly interactive nature of research and development with its many feedback mechanisms. The NSTC provides a structure in which to prioritize the many legitimate demands on the public's R&D dollar. It assures a forum where critical national needs cannot be pushed aside by urgent and parochial agency needs. It can sensitize agencies to the advantage of symbiosis over isolated pursuit of objectives.

Through its nine standing committees, the NSTC has identified R&D priorities that link our S&T activities to critical national goals. Unprecedented cooperation among the member agencies plus a great deal of hard work in 1994 enabled these committees systematically to prepare research and development strategies to meet the goals. OSTP then worked with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure the priority areas received adequate attention --all within a level R&D budget.

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