Nearly 10 months after the inauguration, a key White House position still remains vacant.
President Donald Trump’s administration hasn't hired a science adviser for the White House Office of Science and Technology, marking the longest time without the position staffed since the office's establishment in 1976. The White House science adviser is responsible for studying and analyzing pertinent matters, starting from nanotechnology to biological warfare.
However, Trump — who has been talking about “high-quality STEM and computer science education” as a means of boosting the U.S. economy — has not hired anyone for this pertinent technology.
Former science adviser John Holdren, who served as former President Barack Obama’s science adviser and as the Senate-confirmed director of his OSTP, expressed concerns over the alarming situation, calling it a “very sizable vacuum.”
“They’ve had quite a few distractions…including trying to get NFL players fired for kneeling,” he told Newsweek, stressing on how harmful it is for the Trump administration to ignore filling such a significant position.
Even though the OSTP is not as popular as other executive offices, such as Management and Budget or the Council of Economic Advisers, its importance and cannot be ignored.
The council is responsible for advising the president and his top aides on “the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment and the technological recovery and use of resources.”
“If you don’t have science and technology advice in the White House, you’re going to miss opportunities to use science and technology to advance the rest of the leadership's agenda. You’re going to make decisions, in some cases, that would be better decisions if they were informed of the science and technology dimensions,” explained Holdren.
According to Holdren, it is imperative for the Trump administration to understand “the likely effectiveness of U.S. defenses against ballistic missiles” when discussing a potential North Korean missile attack on the U.S.
OSTP has been on silent mode since the inauguration. This year, it made only six news announcements between June and September, per its web page. The related National Science and Technology Council, which is chaired by the president to coordinate federal research and development initiatives, apparently did not put out a single report since Trump’s presidency.
Many science experts left their positions after Obama’s presidential tenure came to an end. Several others have resigned or been have been pushed out from the Environmental Protection Agency over what they think of as the anti-science politics Trump and agency head Scott Pruitt.
Earlier, energy professor Daniel Kammen of University of California-Berkeley left his position as science envoy to the State Department based on Trump's reaction to neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he blamed both the parties for the violence.
Kammen wrote a resignation letter to Trump and posted it to Twitter, where the first letters of every paragraph spelled out the word "IMPEACH."
Mr. President, I am resigning as Science Envoy. Your response to Charlottesville enables racism, sexism, & harms our country and planet. pic.twitter.com/eWzDc5Yw6t— Daniel M Kammen (@dan_kammen) August 23, 2017
"There's [having] a science adviser and assistant to the president in place, but there's another thing: an administration that's willing to listen to science. You can have the best science adviser, and if he can't get a seat at the table — or get the Trump administration to listen — you're not going to be any better off,” Tamara Dickinson, the former principal assistant director of energy and environment at OSTP under Obama, told Newsweek.
It is about time for the commander-in-chief to think of refilling this important position, before touting about the importance of science and technology or promoting ballistic missile launches.
And even after Trump hires a science advisor, his administration needs to hear him/her out in the best interest of the people of the country.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Joshua Roberts