Friday, 24 Mar 95 Washington, DC
1. CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORT SHOWS U.S. LEADERSHIP
With Congress threatening to slash funding for Administration R&D
programs, OSTP released a report comparing the U.S. with Japan and
Europe in 27 technologies deemed critical to competitiveness and national
security. The report declares the U.S. to be ahead or even in all 27
areas, but found that both Europe and Japan are rapidly closing the gap
in many areas where the U.S. now holds a lead. Critical technologies
reports are produced biennially.
2. BUT REPUBLICANS TAKE AIM AT THE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
The House Science Committee yesterday voiced its "disappointment" that
the Clinton budget makes no serious effort at R&D priority setting. The
statement notes that over the past several years witness after witness
has told the Committee that the real issues of competitiveness are the
need to hold down the cost of capital, expand R&D tax credit, reform
antitrust law to reflect a global economy and regulatory reform that relies
on risk assessment. The committee lists six criteria it intends to apply to
priority setting, but the first one says it all: "Federal R&D should be
long-term, with potential for great scientific discovery, leaving economic
feasibility and commercialization to the marketplace.
3. THE COMMITTEE MAKES AN EXCEPTION FOR SPACE
Space exploration is cited as an example
where "risks are high and government plays an important role." But,
"Finding ways to involve private industry in space activities will be a
priority of the Science Committee." Apparently they mean human activity,
in which case industry will be happy to accept federal contracts.
4. RAMBUNCTIOUS HOUSE FRESHMEN WILL INTRODUCE BILL TO
The bill is expected to call for selling most of the agency's assets,
eliminating most R&D and scattering anything left among other agencies.
According to Inside Energy, similar legislation is expected to be
introduced in the Senate by John Ashcroft (R-MO) and Spencer
Abraham (R-MI). Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) agrees DOE should be
killed, and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich used it as an
example of how money can be found to make tax cuts (WN 17 Mar 95).
The freshmen bill is expected by May 10, which is about the time Kasich
is expected to reveal his long-awaited budget. Budget czar Kasich also
endorsed the idea of a DOE lab-closing commission, an idea that's
5. MORE CONTROVERSY OVER WHETHER YUCCA MOUNTAIN MIGHT
To quell concern over Charles Bowman's claim that Pu leaking from
canisters could go critical (WN 10 Mar 95), Los Alamos released an
internal peer review that throws cold water on the idea. No sooner had
they done so, than Savannah River released a report by three of its
scientists strongly supporting Bowman's work. Oh, by the way,
Savannah River is studying vitrification of stored Pu.
THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY (Note: Opinions are the author's
and are not necessarily shared by the APS, but they should be.)