WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- The kind words of a bipartisan group of legislators before a Senate committee bodes well for two of President George W. Bush's nominees for high-level science and technology posts.
Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as other senators and congressmen, gave strong statements Tuesday in support of Phillip Bond and John Marburger III.
Marburger, currently in charge of the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, was nominated to direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which directly advises the president on those matters. Bond, a Hewlett-Packard executive, was tapped to be the Commerce Department's undersecretary for technology.
Reps. Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House Science Committee, and Felix Grucci, both New York Republicans, described Marburger's extensive research and educational background in recommending his confirmation. "No one can spend time around Jack Marburger without being impressed," Boehlert said. "He is thoughtful, articulate and straightforward -- traits all too rare around this town."
Science Committee member Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said Bond's long career, both on Capitol Hill and in the high-tech industry, will serve him well as an undersecretary.
While both nominees are well-suited to their posts, they will need their skills to tackle a wide range of issues, said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chaired the hearing. Chief among their concerns should be integrating technology into the post-Sept. 11 world, he said.
"It's important that intellectual security be seen as an integral part of any national security approach," Wyden said. "Given the possibilities for the misuse of science, I also see tremendous potential in harnessing science and technology in a protective effort."
Marburger agreed, saying OSTP exists to help coordinate the efforts of different federal agencies.
"There are many programs ... that bear on homeland security, and in this changed circumstance, it's necessary to look at these programs again (to avoid redundant work)," Marburger said. "There are sometimes invisible ways in which R-and-D (research and development) activities can support each other, and it's not always simple to disentangle roles and intents. In this critical time, increased communication among agencies is absolutely necessary."
Wyden said the nation's tax dollars have to be invested in meaningful projects, not "junk science" based on politics. He asked Marburger for ways to weed out the junk, but Marburger reminded the committee some famous advances in science were at first rejected by the majority of researchers. Hard and fast rules on defining "junk" probably will not work, Marburger said.
Allen queried Bond for his views on Internet access taxes and similar items, which are currently prohibited by a moratorium set to expire at month's end.
"Our economy is in a very shaky situation right now," Bond replied. "We don't want to do any harm ... the central issue will be (extending the moratorium) before the deadline comes, to avoid any harm to the economy."
Bond would oversee the National Institute of Standards and Technology in his role as undersecretary. He told the committee NIST is working on several technologies, such as next-generation X-ray machines, which could help restore consumer confidence in airlines and other economic sectors.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Bond will have to pay attention to the need for protecting U.S. space-launch capabilities in the face of budget constraints and other threats. The commercialization of space will suffer greatly if companies, such as Sea Launch, which sends satellites into space from a floating platform on the Equator, become targets for terrorists.
"With all of the cost overruns on the (International) Space Station, the 'starvation diet' that NASA's being put on is actually delaying or canceling the safety upgrades for the Space Shuttle," Nelson said. "After Sept. 11, we don't have a choice -- we have to have assured access to space."
The full Science Committee is expected to send the nominations to the full Senate soon with a favorable recommendation.