OSTP Finally Gets a New Director

OSTP Finally Gets a New Director

Almost two years into President Trump’s term, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is getting a new director.  Kelvin Droegemeier was confirmed by the Senate tonight as one of its last acts before the end of the 115th Congress.  Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), outgoing chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, praised the action.

Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, incoming Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Droegemeier is a renowned meteorologist specializing in severe weather events such as thunderstorms and tornadoes. He has doctorate and master’s degree in atmospheric sciences and a bachelor’s in meteorology.  Currently the Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, he served on the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation, from 2004-2016, serving as vice-chair for the last four of those years. His biography posted there notes that he “helped pioneer the science of storm-scale numerical weather forecasting.”

Trump’s announcement of his intent to nominate Droegemeier on July 31, 2018 won high praise, a sentiment reflected at his nomination hearing on August 23.  He was widely praised by Senators on both sides of the aisle.  He did not raise nor was he asked any questions specifically about space programs, which is not surprising since OSTP’s role in space policy is sharply diminished now that the White House National Space Council has been reestablished.  The OSTP Director is a member of the Space Council, however.

He assured Senators of his commitment to scientific integrity and that science must be conducted without political influence — “integrity in science is everything.”  Asked by Thune about the appropriate role of science in guiding policy, Droegemeier said “science has to lead the way in telling us what the facts are” and his job is to present that to the President and others.

He was approved by the committee on September 5 by voice vote and has been awaiting confirmation ever since.

Droegemeier was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote as part of a long list of nominations approved in these closing hours of the 115th Congress amid a partial government shutdown.  OSTP is funded in the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill, the same one that funds NASA and NOAA.  This is one of the bills that has not cleared Congress yet and agencies funded therein are shut down except for essential operations.  Presidential appointees are excepted individuals who work regardless of shutdowns.  No announcement was made as to when he will be sworn in or by whom.

In a statement this evening, Thune said “The Senate has confirmed a highly respected scientist and academic to help further our nation’s economic competitiveness and national security. … I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Droegemeier and expect his leadership will benefit the scientific community and our nation.”

Thune is rising up to Senate leadership ranks on Thursday when the 116th Congress convenes.  He will become Senate Majority Whip.   Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) is expected to take over the gavel at the Commerce Committee.

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