FC: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert pledges nanotech pork on New York trip

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Fri Mar 08 2002 - 16:14:47 PST

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       March 8, 2002          
       Press Contacts:
       Heidi Mohlman Tringe (Heidi.Tringeat_private)
       Jeff Donald (Jeffrey.Donaldat_private)
       (202) 225-4275
                           CHAIRMAN BOEHLERT'S SPEECH TO 
       WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
       (R-NY) delivered the following speech today at the Brookhaven
       Nanotechnology Conference:
       "It's a pleasure to be here this morning because it's a chance to talk
       about two of my favorite responsibilities - fighting for science and
       fighting for New York.
       "To 'cut to the chase,' my dual - and I think complementary --
       commitments to science and to New York mean that I will do everything
       in my power to ensure that nanotechnology research gets the funding it
       deserves - not just in the Department of Energy but throughout the
       federal government.
       "And my commitments also mean that I will do everything possible to
       see that a significant portion of that research takes place right here
       in New York State - not just because that's good for New York,
       although that would be reason enough, especially after the events of
       last September - but because New York has the talent, the
       infrastructure, and the commitment at its top-flight universities and
       federal laboratories to carry out a demanding research agenda.
       "Now, I must admit, that despite my dedication to these goals, I was a
       little hesitant about your invitation, at first.  No Congressman wants
       to hear that he's been asked to speak about the smallest topic
       imaginable.  We're not exactly a "small is beautiful" kind of crowd in
       Congress.  But, of course, what I've come to understand is that in
       science and technology, few things could actually be bigger than
       nanotechnology - in terms of its potential to revolutionize scientific
       and engineering research, improve human health and bolster our
       "Indeed, nanotechnology is a mind-boggling advance - to an extent that
       might no longer be apparent to those of you who work in that field on
       a routine basis.  Manipulating individual atoms - this sounds like the
       stuff of science fiction to a layperson.  And it's even more
       remarkable when I think of how little scientists knew about the
       structure of the atom when I was going through school - not to
       mention, how little I knew about the structure of the atom, but that
       was a different problem.
       "Perhaps equally remarkable is that the notion of nanotechnology and
       its potential impact have caught on with the public and their
       representatives in Congress.  This is no mean achievement;
       manipulating atoms is easier than manipulating public attitudes.  And
       I don't really know how the public profile of nanotechnology was
       achieved.  But it is a term that -- even though few may actually
       understand what it encompasses - it's a term that one can utter in
       Washington and receive nods of approval.
       "That obviously has practical consequences that will benefit all of
       you.  There is broad, bipartisan support in Washington these days for
       investing in scientific research, and broad agreement that
       nanotechnology is a priority field.  This is reflected in the
       President's budget, which names nanotechnology as one of just four
       national, interagency R&D priorities - the others being anti-terrorism
       research, information technology and global climate change -
       high-profile, essential areas of research, not exactly bad company to
       "The even better news is that the importance of nanotechnology is not
       just recognized in principle; it's matched by funding proposals.
       "The President proposes increasing nanotechnology research spending
       across all the federal agencies by 17 percent, including a 53 percent
       increase in the Department of Energy - that's in a federal budget in
       which proposed domestic spending as a whole barely keeps up with
       inflation.  That's quite a show of support.
       "But, of course, I wouldn't start popping champagne corks just yet.
       The release of the President's budget is just the beginning of the
       federal spending process, and that process will continue through the
       summer and into the fall.  Support for science in Congress is broad,
       as I said, but it isn't always deep.  While virtually no one opposes
       science spending in principle, it can get sacrificed to pay for other
       priorities, and, frankly, that can be especially true when it comes to
       the Department of Energy (DOE).
       "While DOE's Office of Science has a budget of about the same scale as
       the National Science Foundation (NSF), it isn't nearly as well known
       or as broadly supported.  There are many reasons for that, including
       skepticism about DOE as an entity and some problems with the
       particular spending bill that funds DOE.
       "But regardless of the cause, what it means is that all of you need to
       do a better job of telling people in my position just how much is at
       stake in funding you.  And that message has to go out to more than the
       usual suspects - people like me or folks who represent districts that
       have national labs.  You need to talk to Members of Congress and
       Senators who have no reason to be worried about DOE as a matter of
       "And you have a great story to tell, especially about nanotechnology.
       A field like nanotechnology that is brimming with both intellectual
       excitement and practical, economic potential is exactly the kind of
       field that Congress likes to support.  Similarly, research centers
       that bring together university and industry researchers; that marry
       public and private funding and researchers to conduct basic research
       that has broad applicability - that's exactly what we're looking for.
       But we're not going to find out about it unless people like you let us
       "It's especially important to educate people about nanotechnology now,
       at a time when industry does not invest in the same kind of long-term
       research it did when the United States had more of a monopoly on
       scientific breakthroughs.  I don't need to tell you that we cannot
       rely exclusively today - if we ever could - on the Bell Labs of the
       world to develop the transistors of tomorrow.  More than ever
       breakthroughs of that magnitude require public support.
       "And talking about nanotechnology can also help us begin to address a
       larger - and I fear, growing problem in the federal budget, one that
       you're all probably painfully familiar with - the disproportionate
       share of federal R&D funding that goes to health research.  Let me
       tell you exactly what I said at our Committee's hearing last month on
       the proposed R&D budget for next year.  And I should say that our lead
       witness at that hearing was Brookhaven's former director, Jack
       Marburger, who is a wonderful guy and is now, as you know, doing a
       terrific job as the President's Science Advisor.
       "I said, 'I have long supported, and continue to support the doubling
       of the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  But the NIH
       alone cannot undergird our economic health or even improve human
       health.  Yet the NIH budget is now larger than that of the rest of the
       civilian science agencies put together, and just the increase in the
       NIH budget is larger than the research budget of NSF.'
       "So we have to redress that imbalance.  It's fine - indeed necessary
       -- to pick priority areas and fund them more than others, but we're
       getting close to the point that we're funding health to the exclusion
       of other areas.  And there's one especially critical reason for that:
       health researchers have done a great job of explaining what's at stake
       for us, individually and collectively, in their research.  If there's
       any area of the physical sciences and engineering that has as clear a
       story to tell, nanotechnology is probably it.
       "In fact, I don't think it's much of a stretch to see the national
       effort in nanotechnology as analogous to the space race of the 1960s.
       Once again, we are setting up a focused effort to make rapid advances
       while competing nations - economic competitors in this case - are
       breathing down our necks.  Only this time our goal is not to explore
       outer space, but rather inner space.
       "So you have a great story to tell; but you are the ones who need to
       tell it.
       "What I can promise, as I did at the start, is that you will have my
       support, and I will help you tell it.  And I already know how I want
       the story to end - with a healthy inter-agency program of
       nanotechnology research that includes a DOE Nanotechnology Center at
       Brookhaven National Laboratory.
       "Thank you."
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