Trump's pick to advise on science and tech faces the Senate

The president's pick to advise on science and tech named research, education and workforce development and public-private partnerships as top priorities.

Kelvin Droegemeier OSTP nominee Senate hearing Aug 23

Kelvin Droegemeier faces a Senate panel Aug. 23

Kelvin Droegemeier, President Donald Trump's pick to serve as his top science and technology adviser, told the Senate Commerce Committee about his plans for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Droegemeier, a meteorologist by trade, told senators, if confirmed, his areas of focus as OSTP director would entail "everything from fundamental research that is commercially risky but potentially transformative, to applied R&D further downstream."

He also said that "unnecessary regulatory burdens" and rising international competition, namely from China, represent "an increasing number of threats to [science and technology] in America."

"We must recognize that challenge, but we must also embrace the value of collaboration," he said. "Global research is not a zero-sum game, and all progress is valuable. But American leadership ensures that American values remain at the forefront of technological development."

As far as specific technologies, committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) asked Droegemeier about research and investments in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, both of which appeared in the White House's research and development priorities for 2020.

In those areas, Droegemeier said, "we have to rise to the challenge, and it's extremely important … America leads in these areas."

In science and research fields, "we really are leading despite what you seeing in terms of dollars of other countries, but we have to watch those dollars because they are on our heels," he said.

Democratic members asked Droegemeier about the shift away from science and evidence-based policymaking and the reassignment of employees under the Trump administration. The nominee said his commitment to scientific integrity was "non-negotiable," and he emphasized his intent of protecting scientists throughout government from political influence and intimidation for their research.

OSTP still has vacancies at the associate director level for four of its divisions: environment, science, technology, as well as national security and international affairs.