Politics may hurt technology policy
- By Diane Frank
- Nov 15, 2000
No matter who emerges as the next president, the new administration will
not have as much direct effect on the fate of federal science and technology
as Congress will, according to experts.
Looking at the almost even split in the upcoming Congress, "any projections
of policy-making become tentative at best," said Norm Ornstein, resident
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
"We are in for an era of limited and incremental policy-making...and it
won't be rational."
Ornstein and Skip Stiles, former Democratic legislative director for
the House Science Committee, spoke Wednesday at a seminar sponsored by the
Washington Science Policy Alliance. The alliance is a coalition of institutions
including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Rand
Science and Technology Policy Institute and the Center for International
Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University.
Once all the election ballots are counted — and at least one science-minded
congressman is from the Florida district that includes the disputed Palm
Beach County ballots — Congress will start dealing with committee and subcommittee
leaders who can no longer serve because of the six-year term limits imposed
Science and technology issues require a certain amount of experience
and knowledge that will be diluted with the upcoming changes. "All of this
turmoil bodes ill for science and technology policy," Stiles said.
Even the money that agencies with science and technology missions are
sure to get — such as the promised doubling of the National Institutes of
Health's budget for research — will not be enough unless Congress funds
infrastructure improvements so that the agencies can deal with an increase
in grant money, Ornstein said. More money means more grant applications,
and agencies like NIH do not have the systems or personnel in place to handle
Both men agreed on one technology policy area the federal government
needs to face immediately: increasing monetary assistance for localities
to upgrade their voting systems.
Security issues preclude Internet voting as the solution for many years
to come, Ornstein said. But other options are simpler and less expensive,
such as giving states money to provide voters with an electronic ballot
that will prompt them to confirm their choices or alert them if they chose
more than one candidate, Stiles said.