On November 23, 1993, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12881 creating the National Science and Technology Council. The Council is chaired by the President. Membership consists of the Vice President, the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; and the Cabinet Secretaries and agency heads with responsibility for significant science and technology programs, and other key White House Officials.
The principal functions of the Council are (1) to coordinate the science and technology policy-making process; (2) to ensure science and technology policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President's stated goals; (3) to help integrate the President's science and technology policy agenda across the Federal Government; (4) to ensure science and technology are considered in development and implementation of Federal policies and programs; and (5) to further international cooperation in science and technology.
The NSTC is a model of how those seeking to reinvent Government can work with existing resources and create a more efficient and effective process to serve the needs and advance the goals of the American people. In the words of President Clinton, "Science and technology are essential tools for achieving this Administration's goals: for strengthening the economy, creating high quality jobs, protecting the environment, improving our health care and education systems, and maintaining our national security." The NSTC has proven itself to be an effective means to advance the federal science and technology agenda and to provide a mechanism for development and implementation of programs to achieve national goals.
In 1994, the NSTC focussed its efforts to improve the federal science and technology enterprise in several areas: the R&D budget process; improving the efficiency of federal S&T programs; and considering issues of accountability within the enterprise.
As the first step in this process, each of the NSTC Committees identified strategic goals and objectives and research priorities within their respective areas. The Committees sought input from a wide spectrum of stakeholders including private industry, academia and the public. A combined NSTC/Office of Management and Budget working group refined these into a coherent set of guiding principles.
The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology issued a joint budget guidance memorandum in May 1994 to convey these guiding principles to the heads of agencies and departments. Agencies were instructed to use this strategic guidance in the development of their FY 1996 budget submissions. Agency budget requests were to reflect the identified priorities and goals.
The R&D priorities developed cooperatively between OMB and the NSTC Committees were then used in the FY 1996 R&D Data Collection and Review process. Eight priority areas were identified for assessment and analysis to measure how well cross-cutting goals and policy issues were being addressed. The NSTC Committees were asked to provide summaries of each of these priority areas for use by OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in preparing the President's FY 1996 budget request.
As a result of this effort, the Administration's goals were more clearly reflected in budget submissions. The information provided by the Committees enabled OSTP to assist OMB in analysis of agency budget submissions. In 1995, the NSTC will work toward refining this process of identifying priorities through the NSTC strategic planning initiative and providing earlier guidance to the agencies as they prepare their FY 1997 R&D budgets. This will enable the Administration to ensure that, in a time of limited funding, the highest priorities of the nation will be advanced.
These plans identify the major goals of each Committee, the relevant policy issues and questions confronting the Committee and the scientific/technological goals and research priorities necessary to achieve the goals. Each Committee attempted to address the research priorities identified in their area by identifying program goals and plans to accomplish these priorities. This strategic planning activity required the agencies to review major science and technology initiatives in terms of appropriate agency roles, milestones, performance measures, resources, private sector input and international issues. This effort was a major initiative in the Committees' first year with tangible products endorsed by the NSTC member agencies.
These strategic plans are not an end unto themselves but rather a means to achieve national goals. Each plan differs in approach and detail, just as each Committee has a different history, composition, and perspective. Each plan is central to the NSTC activities, and all will be refined over time. Since strategic planning is a continuing, evolving task, the plans will be periodically reassessed and revised. Although the plans reflect a snapshot of a dynamic, evolving process, these documents reflect our continuing commitment to improve the Federal science and technology enterprise.
Two NSTC Presidential Decision Directives were announced on May 10, 1994. First, the President decided to converge the polar orbiting environmental satellite systems of the Departments of Defense and Commerce. Aspects of NASA's Earth Observing System are also to be included in the single, converged, national polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system. A single system will reduce duplication of efforts and satisfy the requirements of both the civil and national security communities. Savings are expected to amount to $300 million during fiscal years 1996 to 1999, with additional savings thereafter.
The second Presidential Decision Directive was to continue the Landsat remote sensing satellite program and to restructure Federal agency responsibilities for acquiring and operating the next satellite in this series (Landsat-7). This decision insures the continuity and availability of the Landsat remote sensing capability which is used for civil, commercial and national security purposes.
A third Presidential Decision Directive was issued on August 4, 1994 to establish national policy, guidelines and implementing actions for the conduct of national space transportation programs. These programs are intended to sustain and revitalize the space transportation capabilities which are critical to U.S. national security, scientific, technical, commercial and foreign policy goals.
Science in the National Interest: The Committee on Fundamental Science, the National Academy of Sciences and other organizations co-sponsored this forum on January 31 - February 1, 1994. Over 400 attendees participated in a broad-based forum to consider policy objectives for the Nation's research enterprise.
National Forum on Environment and Natural Resources R&D: The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Research co-sponsored this forum with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering on March 28 - 30, 1994. This was one of a series of planning efforts designed to develop an effective, long-term strategy for this Nation's environment and natural resources R&D programs. More than 300 participants took part in this forum.
Civilian Industrial Research: The Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology organized a major private sector review of the Administration's civilian industrial research programs, which was hosted by the National Academy of Engineering and the Competitiveness Council on July 19, 1994.
Electronics Manufacturing Initiative: As part of the NSTC's National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative, over 200 representatives of the electronics industry, government and academia met on July 25 - 26, 1994 to discuss R&D priorities for electronics manufacturing technologies.
Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles: The Vice-President hosted a day-long seminar on July 27, 1994 with representatives of the U.S. automobile industry, academia, and government. This event was part of the on-going Government-industry partnership to develop technologies for a new generation of vehicles. The Federal effort is being coordinated by the Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology.
Meeting the Challenge: Health, Safety and Food for America: The Committee on Health, Safety and Food R&D co-sponsored a health, safety and food R&D forum on November 21 - 22, 1994 with the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and others. The purpose of the forum was to obtain input on the appropriate future agenda for federally supported R&D in the area of health, safety and food.
A White House Conference on Environmental Technologies was held in December 1994 to build upon the "Technology for a Sustainable Future" dialogue which took place at regional workshops throughout the country. The culmination of these sessions will be the development and release of a national environmental technologies strategy in April 1995.
In 1995 and beyond, the NSTC will continue to sponsor and co-sponsor a variety of events to ensure that the goals and priorities of the Administration reflect the needs of the public. It is essential that resources be directed to those areas of highest priority, and it is only through continued communication with stakeholders that we can ensure that those needs are identified.
Some of the publications issued under the auspices of the NSTC in its first year include:
Science in the National Interest: This Administration statement on science policy was released by the Vice-President on August 3, 1994. The first such statement in 15 years, this document presents policy objectives for the Nation's research enterprise. It is the product of an extensive NSTC consultation, combined with the input received at the forum held on January 31 - February 1, 1994.
Technology for a Sustainable Future: A Framework for Action: This document was issued to catalyze a national dialogue on the Federal Government's role in facilitating innovation and stimulating a shift from incrementalism to technological transformation, from managing waste to sustaining and restoring ecosystems, from reacting to environmental and public health threats to anticipating and preventing them. This paper is the product of multi-agency analysis and input from the Environment and Natural Resources R&D forum held in March 1994.
Our Changing Planet: The FY 1995 U.S. Global Change Research Program: This report was issued by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Research as a supplement to the President's Fiscal Year 1995 budget. The U.S. Global Change Research Program supports research related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, desertification and forestry issues, and other global environmental issues. This research significantly contributes to the larger worldwide effort to study natural and human-induced changes in the Earth system.
High Performance Computing and Communications: Technology for the National Information Infrastructure; and HPCC FY 1995 Implementation Plan: These documents were issued in April 1994 by the National Coordination Office for High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC). The HPCC program is a multi-billion dollar effort which operates under the oversight of the Committee on Information and Communications.
Some of the planned and continuing activities include: distribution of the Committees' first strategic planning documents; completion of the Interagency Federal Laboratory Review; review and submission of the Biennial National Critical Technologies Report; development of an interagency strategic plan for refurbishing the nation's academic research infrastructure; continued implementation of "Science in the National Interest" goals; and continuation of the Metrics in Fundamental Science effort.
The NSTC committees will continue to bring together a variety of disciplines and stakeholders to address specific policy issues. Input from industry, academia, state and local governments, and the general public will be obtained as well as that of a variety of professionals in the social and natural sciences, engineering and economics. As one means of obtaining that input, forums are planned in the areas of transportation R&D; the role of science and technology in national security and global stability; and public understanding of science. Also, NSTC committees will participate in a series of regional meetings involving university and industry personnel in examining the challenges and objectives set out in "Science in the National Interest".
The challenges this nation currently faces require an effective, coordinated, multi-agency, interdisciplinary approach. The NSTC draws upon the diverse strengths of the federal science and technology enterprise and cuts through needless bureaucracy to provide leadership in meeting these challenges.
The NSTC has been enthusiastically embraced and is now an integral part of the federal S&T process. The Administration will move forward in 1995 to build upon the foundation laid in the past year and to continue to aggressively advance the interests of the American people through an improved science and technology enterprise.