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service to be removed from the Army Signal Corps. At the same time, they recognized that better coordination of the government's scientific work was needed, and various proposals were made toward that end. The aforementioned report of the National Academy committee crystallized the issues. This group was convinced that the science agencies should be pulled together “under one central authority,” but the particular form of organization they left to the future and to Congress. Then the committee ventured this cautious but significant observation (3).

... The best form would be, perhaps, the establishment of a Department of Science, the head of which should be an administrator familiar with scientific affairs, but not necessarily an investigator in any specific branch. Your committee states only the general sentiment and wish of men of science, when

says that its members believe the time is near when the country will demand the institution of a branch of the executive Government devoted especially to the direction and control of all the purely scientific work of the Government."

The NAS committee went on to say that, if public opinion was not yet ready to accept a Department of Science, the next best step would be to move the several scientific bureaus into one of the existing departments. Even then coordination would not be automatically insured, in the committee's view, and so they recommended the “organization of a permanent commission to prescribe the general policy for each of these bureaus.” The commission would "examine, improve, and approve” plans of work and expenditures and recommend efficiency measures but abstain from administrative involvement. This would be a ninemember commission composed of scientists drawn from government and private life (4).


The congressional commission, reporting in 1886, gave short shrift to the suggestions both for a Department of Science and a supervisory commission. A new department was held not justified by the degree of duplication in existing scientific agencies; a coordinating policy group was deemed impracticable because department heads could not very well relinquish to subordinates and outsiders their responsibilities for general direction and control (5). With this dismissal by an agency of the Congress, the Department of Science idea died aborning, though it was actively debated at the time in scientific circles (6). In the ensuing decades not much was heard about it. Proposals for government departments were made in the fields of health, education, labor, industry, commerce, and agriculture, separately or in various combinations, and three cabinet departments (Agriculture, Commerce, Labor) were established between 1885 and 1945. Not until 1946 was the Department of Science idea revived, at least in the legislative halls. Clare Booth Luce, then a Representative from Connecticut, introduced a bill (H.R. 5332, 79th Congress) to create a Department of Science and Research, stressing the need for national self-preservation in the atomic age and the importance of attracting young people to science careers. Mrs. Luce said : "Only the prestige which attaches to a regular member of the cabinet will render the findings of any scientific body of sufficient weight to command the constant attention of the highest officials of the Government in the consideration and formulation of policy" (). The bill was pigeonholed by a House committee.

Vannevar Bush was working for the establishment of an independent agency, which he called the National Research Foundation, to sponsor research of military as well as civilian interest (8). He proposed that it be governed by a director and part-time board of nongovernment scientists. A separate group of nongovernment scientists, which he called Science Advisory Board, would coordinate the work of government science agencies. These proposals, outlined in Bush's 1945 report to President Truman, “Science—the Endless Frontier,” were modified in legislative measures to become a National Science Foundation. The bill which the Congress passed was vetoed in July 1947 by President Truman, who objected to control of government science policy by an outside board (9). The criticisms were reminiscent, in some respects, of those heard in 1884–5 to the National Academy committee's proposal for a science policy commission which would include outside as well as government scientists.

The Bush report was followed in 1947 by the Steelman report, “Science and Public Policy," which went over much of the same ground but with closer orientation to the routines of governmental administration. The Steelman report called for a National Science Foundation to be organized "on sound lines” and suggested that the agency be located in the Executive Office of the President until other federal programs in support of higher education were established, after which time consideration could be given to grouping all such activities, including the National Science Foundation, in a single agency. The Steelman report also favored a part-time governing board for the NSF, but government as well as outside scientists were to be included. It also recommended the creation of an interdepartmental committee on scientific research and development, a special unit in the Bureau of the Budget to review government science programs, and a member of the White House staff to be designated by the President for purposes of scientific liaison (10). The Steelman report eschewed any radical department from the existing framework, presumably meaning that a Department of Science was not in the cards. Three years elapsed, however, before the differences in the several approaches to a National Science Foundation were compromised and a bill finally enacted into law (11).


Sputnik generated a new debate on departmental status for science in the Congress led by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. On 27 January 1958 a broadbased bill, S. 3126, was jointly introduced by Senators Humphrey, McClellan, and Yarborough to create a Department of Science and Technology which would coordinate and improve federal functions relating to the gathering, retrieval, and dissemination of scientific information; provide educational loans to students in certain science fields; establish national institutes of scientific research; and establish cooperative programs abroad for collecting, translating, and distributing scientific and technological information. A day later Senator Kefauver introduced S. 3180 to create a Department of Science. Both bills were referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

Jurisdictional questions were raised, presumably because the bills went beyond organizational matters into policy, and at the request of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, they were referred anew to his Senate Special Committee on Space and Astronautics, which had been created to consider the government's response to the Russian triumph in space. Without these bills, the Committee on Government Operations was unable to hold hearings in the 85th Congress on the proposal to establish a Department of Science and Technology, which was incorporated in Title I of the bill, but it directed its committee staff to maintain a continuing study of that area. The Humphrey subcommittee did manage, after an agreement reached with Senator Johnson, to hold some hearings in May-June 1958 on a limited aspect of Title I, the proposal for a scientific information center (12).

To narrow the jurisdictional issue and regain control of the organizational aspect, the sponsors of the Humphrey bill, now reinforced by Senators Ervin, Gruening, and Muskie, split off Title I and introduced it, with certain revisions, as S. 676 in the 86th Congress. It proposed a transfer to the new department of the National Science Foundation, Atomic Energy Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Bureau of Standards, and certain activities of the Smithsonian Institution. By then the impetus for a new department was considerably diminished by NASA's presence. The thrust of science organization was less to coordinate and align than to reach out and do, for Sputnik had caused hurt pride and fear in the nation. It was difficult to make a case for legislating a new department to absorb NASA when the ink was hardly dry on the President's signature to the National Aeronautics and Space Act (13).

Indeed, the rush of legislative events and the flurry of organizational activity in the executive branch during 1958 outpaced the committee's deliberations on the suitable form of a bill. The Congress created along with NASA an Aeronautics and Space Council and a standing committee in each house to monitor space and related activities. The Defense Education Act gave support to science education and facilities. A reorganization act for the Department of Defense established a Directorate for Defense Research and Engineering. The Advanced Research Projects Agency, previously established as the military's own response to Sputnik, was made an adjunct of the new directorate. The President acquired a Special Assistant for Science and Technology and gave White House status to the Science Advisory Committee. The Federal Council for Science and Technology replaced a looser interdepartmental committee of similar function. Science advisers were assigned to both the Secretary of State and the Secretary General of NATO. A NATO science committee signified the outward reach of science for defense, while "Atoms for Peace” and the International Geophysical Year represented a peaceful gesture to a world community of science. “Altogether," as James R. Killian, Jr., said before the AAAS in summing up government science for 1958, “the year brought an impressive array of organizational innovations for the management of government programs in science and technology and for the provision of scientific advice at policy-making levels" (14).


The spokesmen for science at the Presidential level made plain their distaste for a Department of Science and Technology. Killian, speaking at the AAAS meeting as the President's Assistant for Science and Technology, took pains to quote from Don K. Price's 1954 study: "In the organization of the Government for the support of science we do not need to put all of science into a single agency ; on the contrary, we need to see that it is infused into the program of every department and every bureau” (15). The President's Science Advisory Committee in its new eminence regarded a Federal Council for Science and Technology as the instrument for achieving coordination and cooperation among government science agencies. A single department, in PSAC's collective view, would not be able satisfactorily to administer either the mission-oriented scientific and technical functions of existing departments or the "unique” specialized programs of AEC, NASA, and NSF. This seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among scientists, though there were notable exceptions. Lloyd V. Berkner would settle for a department excluding the three aforementioned independent agencies; Wallace R. Brode would combine them with a host of others, including the National Institutes of Health, in a Department of Science and Technology (16).

Perhaps the strongest argument from a practical standpoint against immediate legislative action—that the President had not recommended a new departmentwas made by Representative John W. McCormack as chairman of the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration. He wrote to Senator Humphrey in 1958 (17) :

“While I believe there should be a Department of Science, I feel that until whoever is President either recommends the establishment of such a Department, or would not object to such a Department being established, it would be unwise to force such a Department upon them. I want you to know that I am strongly in favor of a Department of Science being established and, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time that one will be established.”

In March 1959 in a review of the state of science affairs, the Humphrey subcommittee observed morosely (17, p. 19):“... there have been certain administrative actions taken which tend to evade the question as to whether a Department of Science and Technology is necessary or desirable, and there are a number of indications from the scientific community that there will be opposition to such a proposal, at least until the need therefor has been more clearly established.”

The subcommittee held hearings in April 1959 on S. 676 and S. 586 (Senator Kefauver's bill) to establish a Department of Science. Senator Humphrey, aware of the opposition, hedged a bit. His opening statement said that the proposed Department of Science and Technology was to be considered one possible solution to the problems of centralization and coordination of federal science programs and operations, but not a final conclusion of the committee. The witnesses before the subcommittee were divided. Lewis L. Strauss, as Secretary of Commerce, opposed departmental status for science. Brode, as scientific adviser to the State Department and chairman of the AAAS, strongly favored it. Others pressed for a stronger advisory apparatus at the Presidential level or a study to determine the need for a department and what agencies should be included (18). It was easier to agree on a study commission which, to the advocates of a department, appeared better than nothing, to the dubious, a means of seeking more information, and to the opponents, a device for deflecting action on a controversial subject.

At the conclusion of the April 1959 hearings, the staff of the Senate Committee on Government Operations drafted a bill proposing the establishment of a Commission on a Department of Science and Technology. This was introduced in the Senate on 5 May 1959 as S. 1851, under the joint sponsorship of Senators Humphrey, Capehart, Mundt, Gruening, Muskie, Yarborough, and Keating. In a 1-day hearing (28 May) on S. 1851, S. 676, and S. 586, the subcommittee heard no comforting words from the Eisenhower Administration. Alan S. Waterman, whose NSF budget had been increased from $50 million to $136 million after Sputnik, opposed both a Department of Science and Technology and a commission to study the matter. The Bureau of Budget representative, the official spokesman on all matters dealing with reorganization, did likewise, doubting that “the



scientific members of the Commission would necessarily be best able to judge the optimum form of Government organization in this field.” Leonard Carmichael, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, endorsed the study commission but suggested that, if it were established, the membership nominations be made by the National Academy of Sciences (19).

Notwithstanding the administration's opposition, Senator Humphrey for the Committee on Government Operations reported S. 1851 favorably on 18 June 1959 (19). A bipartisan commission was needed, the report said, so that “the Congress and the President may have the benefit of the recommendations of qualified experts in the fields of science, engineering, and technology” as the basis for legislation to improve federal science programs and operations. The committee justified a study commission mainly on the ground that the Congress needed more and better information. As a case in point, Killian had politely declined an earlier invitation to appear before the committee because it might conflict with his advisory role in the White House. Science policy coordination or control at that level, in the committee's belief, would not assure an ample flow of scientific and factual data to the Congress. The Department of Science and Technology, or at least a commission to study its feasibility, was the committee's proposed solution. The Senate did not take up the bill. A companion House bill (H.R. 8325) introduced on 22 July 1959 by Representative Brooks of Louisiana, chairman of the Committee on Science and Astronautics, was referred to the Committee on Government Operations but received no action.


Early in 1960 Senator Humphrey put the case for a department or a commission before the American Academy of Political and Social Science (20). But those who favored strengthening the Presidential advisory apparatus rather than a new department for science found a champion in another subcommittee of the same Senate committee—that on National Policy Machinery chaired by Senator Henry M. Jackson. The Jackson subcommittee held hearings in April 1960 on the role of science and technology in foreign and national defense policy. A staff report of 14 June 1961 entitled “Science Organization and the President's Office” rejected the Department of Science idea on the by now familiar ground that the diverse scientific activities of the federal government could not be conveniently extracted to form a new department. It approved such views expressed before the subcommittee by James Fisk, president of Bell Telephone Laboratories, and then observed (21):

"Eight departments and agencies support major technical programs and all parts of the Government use science in varying degrees to help meet the agency objective. This diffusion of science and technology throughout the Government is not a sign of untidy administrative housekeeping. Rather it reflects the very nature of science itself. Organizationally, science is not a definable jurisdiction. Like economics, it is a tool. It is an instrument for accomplishing things having nothing to do with science.

The staff report emph zed the President's responsibility for science policy direction and accordingly recommended the strengthening of his advisory support by the creation of an Office of Science and Technology. It pointed out that the President could take this step through submission of a reorganization plan rather than through the conventional legislative route. The Kennedy administration was asked to submit to the Congress by January 1962 "its considered findings and recommendations for action.” On 29 March Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1962 creating the OST was submitted, to take effect within 60 days if the Congress did not disapprove (22).

Before the plan was formally sent to the 87th Congress, S. 2771 was introduced on 31 January 1962, jointly sponsored by Senators McClellan, Humphrey, Mundt, Cotton, and Yarborough. S. 2771 was similar to S. 1851 of the 86th Congress, which had been reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Government Operations. The revised bill contained a broad declaration of congressional policy and objectives in science and placed more emphasis on the need for improvement in federal programs for processing the retrieval of scientific information. It also provided that the 12-member commission be strengthened by a scientific advisory panel with prescribed qualifications which included "ability to communicate not only to professional scientists but to laymen.” Hearings were held on 10 May and 24 July 1962. Some moral support was provided by Carl F. Stover's report of March 1962 on "The Government of Science" to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. A Department of Science and Technology, the Stover report said, would establish for science a major center of policy studies, higher stature, and a more favorable environment for scientific work. Combining all government science functions made no sense, but a single department for those functions less mission-oriented was “a sound and desirable next step in the evolution of Government action with respect to science” (23).

The committee now had to take judicial notice of the alternative scheme recommended by the Jackson subcommittee and seized upon by the Kennedy Administration as a sufficient response to the demands for improved science organization. Administration spokesmen pointed to OST as a needed mechanismu for coordinating science policies and advising the President, whatever the organization of science functions for the government as a whole. Waterman, who was assessing NSF's truncated policy role in the wake of the OST plan, again opposed a commission, as did Elmer B. Staats, deputy director of the Budget Bureau, where all reorganization plans are put together. Their plea was that OST, being new, should have a chance to work. Furthermore, by the “statutory underpinning” of a reorganization plan, OST would give the Congress the kind of access to scientific information sought by the sponsors of S. 2771. This was the persuasive point for congressional acceptance of the plan (24).

Jerome B. Wiesner, who would serve the Kennedy Administration in the quadruple capacity of OST director, President's science adviser, chairman of the President's Science Advisory Committee, and chairman of the Federal Council for Science and Technology, made his first appearance before Congress as OST director when he testified on 31 July 1962 at hearings of the Holifield subcommittee (House Committee on Government Operations). In amplifying his views on science organization, Wiesner gave conditional endorsement to a Department of Science. To “set up a radically new organization” encompassing all the scientific activities of the federal government he considered unworkable. If a "less comprehensive Department of Science were created,” including the Atomic Energy Commission, National Science Foundation, National Bureau of Standards, and certain other agencies, he believed the operations of these agencies might be improved. At the same time, the need would remain to coordinate and integrate the activities of these agencies with the related scientific and tec al programs cf the mission-oriented agencies. “In other words, the OST is neither a substitute for nor in competition with a Federal Department of Science” (25).

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, not daunted by the new presence of OST, reported favorably (with some technical revisions) on S. 2771, proposing a Commission on Science and Technology (26). The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on 8 August 1962 (27). In the House it was referred to the Committee on Science and Astronautics on 9 August, and there it died. The exercise was repeated in the 88th Congress. S. 816, sponsored by Senators McClellan, Humphrey, Mundt, Gruening, Javits, Cotton, and Yarborough, was introduced on 18 February 1963. Chairman McClellan, now the leading sponsor, emphasized that Wiesner, in his testimony before the Holifield subcommittee, maintained that OST and a Department of Science and Technology were not in conflict (28). The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Government Operations and reported to the Senate on 4 March 1963 (29). It passed the Senate by unanimous consent on 8 March (30) and was referred to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, which also had a companion bill, H.R. 4346, introduced by Representative Teague of Texas (31). No action was taken on these bills in the House committee.

In place of a mixed commission, the reaction on the House side was to create several new subcommittees on science. Thus in August 1963, the House Committee on Science and Astronautics created a Subcommittee on Science, Research and Development, chaired by Representative Daddario of Connecticut. And the House of Representatives, a month later, created the Select Committee on Government Research, chaired by Representative Elliott of Alabama. The Select Committee took a dim view of departmental status for science, judging by its tenth and concluding report of 29 December 1964, which contained this statement (32): “The specters of overlap, gaps, conflict, and duplication among agency programs can best be met through adequate top-level coordination of agency programs. Consolidating research and development into one or a few separate agencies-such as an often suggested Department of Science and Technology—would separate such work from the purposes for which it is performed, the committee believes, with devastating effects both to tbe work and to the capacities of agencies to carry out their missions."

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