Friday, 3 August 1990 Washington, DC
1. THE PRESIDENT IS EXPECTED TO NAME HIS CHOICE FOR NSF DIRECTOR
to replace Erich Bloch any day now. Bloch will complete his six-
year term at the end of August. The identity of the nominee has
been a closely guarded secret, but we are told it will be an
academic scientist. Those concerned about the pervasive influence
of John Sununu thought it might be a New Hampshire industrialist.
2. NEVER SPEAK ILL OF THE DEAD--OR OF RETIRING BUREAUCRATS.
Bloch was the sole witness at a hearing of the Senate Commerce,
Science and Transportation Committee on "National Science and
Technology Policy Issues." The Chairman, Ernest Hollings (D-SC),
opened by calling the hearing "both a tribute to the Director,
who is ending an exemplary six-year term, and an exploration of
some of the issues of our times." It was a love-in. Bloch was
invited to state his priorities, which came out something like
people above "big projects"; equipment above buildings. In his
written statement, Bloch asserted that "NSF is not the captive of
individual investigators; NSF supports groups and centers as
well." Senator Gore (D-TN) was concerned about the recent sale
of Semi-Gas Systems to Nippon Sanso with White House approval.
Nurtured with taxpayer support, Gore said Semi-Gas technology was
two years ahead of competitors. White House sources say that is
simply not the case; at least six companies have the technology.
3. THE SENATE AND HOUSE GO IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS ON WEAPONS CUTS
each year at this time. Both houses are set to make large cuts
in the President's request for exotic weapons this year, but the
more conservative Senate would prefer to cut less than the House.
To preserve bargaining room, the Senate will make smaller cuts
than it really wants in such programs as SDI and the B-2. Knowing
this, the House will inflate its own cuts to offset the Senate's
conservatism. It appears at this point that the Senate will call
for a cut of $1B from the President's $4.6B request for SDI; the
House seems to be preparing to cut the request in half. That
would set the stage for a conference agreement at about $3B. In
the case of the B-2 bomber, for which another $4.6B is asked, the
House would like to scrap the whole thing. Scrapping the B-2
could also mean the end for the $40B Milstar satellite system,
which is justified in part to ensure communications with the B-2
force. The Senate will try to compensate for the House cuts.
4. THE SUPERCOLLIDER IS ON TRACK IN CONGRESS AT THE FULL $318M
requested for FY 91. The Senate passed its FY 91 energy and water
appropriations yesterday. It closely follows the House version,
differing mostly in the list of pork-barrel projects
(WN 20 Jul 90). The report language
expresses concern that there is no
foreign commitment to the SSC, but concludes that the benefits of
magnet technology outweigh budget requirements. The only hazard
the SSC still faces this year is the budget summit, which may
decide to unleash sequestration on the appropriated funds.