A confirmation hearing for Dr. John Holdren and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, nominees for top science positions in the Obama Administration, was held by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on 12 February 2009. The hearing nature of the hearing suggests that both nominees should easily be confirmed by the Senate. Indeed, members for both sides of the aisle praised Holdren and Lubchenco.

Dr. John Holdren, a physicist at Harvard University, is nominated to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. If confirmed, Holdren would serve as the President’s top science advisor. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University, is nominated to be Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for studying and managing our Nation’s oceans, coasts, Great Lakes, and atmosphere.

A central theme during the hearing was the need to have science incform complex policy decisions on climate change, fisheries management, and space missions. Scientific integrity and funding for research were issues discussed by several Senators. Holdren and Lubchenco both testified about the value of fundamental research. Other issues that were highlighted at the hearing include:

  • Expanding the role of the National Climate Service;
  • Revival of the National Space Council;
  • Restraining pursuit of aquaculture in federal waters until research is conducted to ensure the sustainability of such facilities and safety to wild fisheries;
  • Researching treatment options for controlling the spread of invasive species from ballast water discharged from ships;
  • Increasing government resources in the Arctic to respond to oil spills; and,
  • Conducting more basic research on weather prediction and mitigation.

Chairman Rockefeller conveyed the importance of confirming Holdren and Lubchenco quickly. “Speed is important here,” Rockefeller said. The Senate will likely confirm the nominees next week, after the President’s Day recess.


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