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CENTRALIZATION OF FEDERAL SCIENCE ACTIVITIES
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1969
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND ASTRONAUTICS, SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND DEVELOPMENT,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:10 a.m., in room 2325, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Emilio Q. Daddario (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DADDARIO. This meeting will come to order.
Dr. Piore and Dr. Keeney, will you come forward together. I think that will probably be the best way for us to have our hearing.
Before commencing with your testimony, I would like to simply remark that today we resumed hearings on the question of whether the present organizational framework for Federal activities in science and education and engineering is as good as it should be.
Frankly, the testimony is closely correlated with the position of where the witness stands; that is, is he presently in or out of Government? The present administration appears to suggest that congressional budget cutting is the first problem to be solved and suggests that any reorganization wait.
Ex-officials are agreed that organizational weaknesses do exist; that more centralization is needed for planning, coordination, and efficiency; and that something need be done.
There is also no clear indication that centralization would, in fact, lead to more funding support. In fact, a billion dollar National Science Foundation would still have to be augmented with considerable money from mission agencies to total up to the required amount for a strong academic research and training program for the United States.
As we continue to study the relationships of organization funding and deployment of science and national objectives, we will continue to consult further with many experienced persons. We are fortunate today in having as our witnesses Dr. E. R. Piore and Dr. Barnaby Keeney:
Dr. Piore is vice president and chief scientist of IBM and has rendered long, valuable, and varied service to the Government including his present Vice-Chairmanship of the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Keeney, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, brings to these hearings the very necessary viewpoint of the scholarly and academic community. Incidentally, as everyone knows, he is a former president of Brown University and, as many do not know, is a native of Hartford, Conn., which is my home city.
STATEMENT OF DR. E. R. PIORE, DIRECTOR, VICE PRESIDENT, AND CHIEF SCIENTIST, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.
Dr. PIORE. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am delighted to have been asked to participate in this discussion on how the executive department should be organized to optimize the national effort in science and technology. I am also grateful that this subcommittee has opened the dialog and is keeping the issues before the Congress and the public at large.
I would like to observe that I am speaking as an individual and not representing the point of view of any board or any other group that I may be associated with, since I don't know what the consensus would be if I tried to obtain one.
The desirability and the need for a Department of Science on the Cabinet level has been debated for the last 20 years. Until recently, the outcome of these debates could be summarized by stating that it has neither appeared desirable nor in the national interest nor important to the support of science to have a Department of Science. This feeling was very strong in the scientific community. During the
last few years, however, the scientific community's opposition to a Department of Science has been gradually eroding. This change in the general feeling toward a Department of Science has been due, in large part, to the modification of budgets, the shifting of support among various fields and the very large dependence upon Federal financing for the continued forward movement of science in this country and the desire for continued world leadership in scientific fields. When I refer to science, I am referring very broadly to the natural sciences and the social sciences.
It is well to point out that during World War II there was centralized and coordinated direction of our scientific and technological efforts under Dr. Vannevar Bush, who practically had Cabinet status. Under conditions of war and centralized administration, we, as a scientific community, distinguished ourselves. Dr. Bush, in his report to the President, entitled “Science: The Endless Frontier," did recommend certain structures within the executive department to deal with and manage our scientific and technological effort. For a variety of reasons, those recommendations were not accepted, and we faced a period of establishing various new agencies with specialized responsibility for moving ahead in the area of science and technology. Between the end of World War II and now, only two actions were taken in an effort to pull things together across Cabinet departments and independent agencies. They were the creation of the Federal Council for Science and Technology and the appointment of a number of assistant secretaries for science and technology within the Cabinet departments. The creation of this Council was based on a report issued by the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1958 entitled "Strengthening American Science.”
There is no question in my mind that the last decade has demonstrated the great creative capabilities in our country in science and technology. The United States has made major contributions and has displaved great intellectual leadership in many fields. Many of the countries of the world have copied our patterns, are increasing their support of science, and are meeting the pace set by us.
Whether we can continue this thrust remains to be seen. There is a danger we may become has-beens in the scientific world community.
For the reasons I have indicated, I feel this is a very good time to review the structure in the Federal Government and, at the same time, determine whether we wish to continue to be world leaders. In analyzing the current state of affairs, we must deal with the missions of various agencies, we must deal with science both as an intellectual and a practical field, and we must decide what is needed and in what direction we ought to go in science generally. That implies an element of scientific planning we have not done and an element of scientific policy that is yet to be formulated. We also need to be concerned with the health and stability of the institutions that must perform the work, for, without these institutions, the missions of the various agencies cannot be accomplished and scientific work cannot be done. Thus, these are the three elements: The mission, the health of science, and the health of our institutions.
Some of the executive departments and agencies have very clear and specific missions given to them by the President or the Congress. Others have very broad missions also defined by executive action, by legislation, and by appropriations. The mission of the Department of Defense is very clear. The mission of the Department of Labor is very clear. In its mission, the Department of Defense must rely heavily on science and technology. It must maintain contact with the best that is thought and done in all our institutions, in industry, in the universities, and in its own laboratories.
Similarly, the Department of Labor, with its broad responsibility for our manpower, must be directly coupled to the best thinking and the best work that will give it new insights into the general area of manpower and how the dynamics of our economy relate to employment, et cetera. I realize the Department of Labor has other responsibilities, but this is just one example.
Other agencies have very broad responsibilities that deal more with national goals and purposes. The National Science Foundation is an example. In a phrase, it is responsible for the health of American science.
Similarly, NASA has a broad responsibility which one can best characterize by a single word: space.
In trying to differentiate between a functional responsibility in our society and a broad responsibility that deals with national goals and hopes for the future, we raise a different set of problems. How should support to various scientific fields be allocated? What instruments and facilities are needed? Which are the pacing items that determine the dynamics of our sciences? Are we producing the necessary manpower to continue our scientific activities? What are the shifting needs of our society in terms of technology and culture?
Finally, let me turn to the institutions in which the work is done: industry, the universities, nonprofit laboratories, Government laboratories, et cetera. Each has a different tradition. Each serves more than a single function in our society. Each has a different reaction time to various external forces, the current problems, such as fluctuations in its budget or fluctuations in our economy.
Industry is so structured and managed that it can react quickly.
Research, development, and the technological effort in industry normally are small in comparison to the total operation of the firm. Thus, in industry, any modification of programs, fluctuation in budgets, fluctuation in missions, are accomplished without too much trauma. Problems are created but the organism has learned how to deal with them rapidly.
In contrast, the universities have a very long reaction time. They cannot modify programs rapidly. The graduate schools have only one basic activity: research and the training of the next generation of scientific manpower. Thus, when faced with modification of budgets, programs, or missions, they lack the ability to make the necessary adjustments rapidly. The total expenditure for research and training in universities has evolved in this fashion in order to serve society best. The integrity of the university, let me repeat, depends on just one principal function-research and training.
Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Piore, at this point you seem to indicate that cutbacks in budgets affect the Government research program and training program, especially in the universities, much more than the actual amounts of dollars would indicate because they have this extra difficulty in adjusting.
Dr. PIORE. Yes, they have no hidden pockets of money, you know, to move from one function to another, in contrast to a large industry which can move large sums of moneys from one function to another and even retain its people. They may do a different job. Similarly, Defense can move money from one part to another with much greater facility than an agency like the Natural Science Foundation that just has one function. It has no opportunity to move money from one pocket to another.
Mr. DADDARIO. We should look to as we come to some judgment about the administration and management of our resources, we should determine how we could develop a better approach to these adjustments that you are referring to.
Dr. PIORE. This is very important. One of my solutions is to have a Department of Science with the ability to move pockets of money from one place to another. If you have an organization like the National Science Foundation with a very broad function and with a very specific set of customers, they will always be under the potential pressures of modifications, either by the executive or the legislative branch. What I am trying to suggest is a broader department, a Cabinet department, where there can be some political responsibility as adjustments are necessary.
And when I talk of political responsibility, I talk in terms of the best concept of politics.
My concern is that just augmenting or doubling the National Science Foundation does not get rid of intelligent planning when you have to adjust budgets.
Mr. DADDARIO. That is the reconciliation of the political and scientific choices that you pointed out in your third paragraph on page 4. How do you meet these various challenges?
Dr. PIORE. This country has a great future. During long periods of time, budgets will be adjusted. There is no way of avoiding it from time to time. One wants to have institutions in Government that can
take it and have a minimum impact on our nongovernmental institutions and nongovernmental customers. That is what I am probing at. I may not give you a very good solution, one that is acceptable to even my own colleagues quite apart from the Government administrators.
Let us not forget the nonprofit laboratories which are a new phenomenon. They have been created since World War II. Here again some are basically in the image of the university. They represent large or small facilities whose principal users are the universities. Others have broader programs, covering a whole spectrum of interests whose principal public is not to the universities but to other parts of our society.
Any discussion on how the executive branch should be structured to insure the health of American science must consider the three factors that I have tried to identify: the missions of the agencies; the content of science, which implies planning; and the institutions. American science is in a transitional period. The problem, as I see it, is whether we are to continue to be strong in this area or whether we will become a less important factor in the world scientific community. If we choose the latter, as a policy, ultimately our economy, our standard of living, and our ability to deal, for example, with our environmental problems and the health of our people will diminish.
Through the years the mission agencies have dominated the support of science. More specifically, they have dominated the support of science in our graduate schools. They have had a broad view of the scientific areas that were important to their future in discharging their missions. They have asked the universities to start new activities, create new structures within the academic departments, and this has been very good for the health of science in the United States. With budget cuts, however, they have narrowed their views on which scientific areas are important to their mission. This has been accelerated by congressional debate. They are gradually removing themselves from the support of laboratories in universities involved in classified and unclassified areas which they have helped to start.
By so doing, they have introduced instabilities in the universities where much of our science is done over the last two decades, basically, by the scientific community. Another important aspect that has not been debated is that they have warped the distribution of effort among the scientific fields that has evolved very thoughtfully over the last two decades, basically by the scientific community. They have stopped support of certain unique instruments and facilities that are required and often represent the cutting edge of work in many scientific areas. The National Science Foundation, it is true, even with its limited resources and continued static or reduced budget, responded in a very limited way to reduce the perturbations in our universities. It is just as important to try to maintain a certain balance among scientific fields.
It appears, by continued congressional debate and legislative action, that in the immediate future the mission agencies will continue to narrow their fields of interest.
Thus, the stability of our scientific enterprise is at stake. As I have stated, industry can react to such modifications without having its institutional structures or integrity affected. On the other hand, the