Peters Floor Remarks in Opposition to NASA Administrator Nominee Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Peters: “I am deeply concerned that his nomination is further evidence of a deeper problem. I am concerned that this Administration does not respect science, especially science in government institutions.”
Peters: “A White House that does not respect science will hold our nation back.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), spoke on the Senate floor today in opposition of Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s (OK-01) nomination as Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Below is video and text of his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I rise today to express my concern about the nomination of Congressman Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator. I will oppose his confirmation when the Senate votes this afternoon.
“While this nomination is problematic due to Congressman Bridenstine’s lack of relevant qualifications and the importance of this position to our nation, I am deeply concerned that his nomination is further evidence of a deeper problem. I am concerned that this Administration does not respect science, especially science in government institutions.
“Now, let’s look at the data. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, has four positions requiring political appointment, including the Director who also serves as the President’s chief science advisor. The President has made zero nominations to OSTP and he has now taken significantly longer than any modern president to name a science advisor.
“Let’s look at how the President’s delay compares to past administrations on both sides of the aisle. Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton all named a science advisor before taking office.
Presidents Reagan, Carter, and George H.W. Bush all named their science advisor within four months of taking office. President George W. Bush waited the longest, but he still chose a physicist to fill the role by June of his first year as President.
“When it comes to prioritizing science in the Executive Branch, President Trump is not normal. You could say this Administration is an outlier or an anomaly. This is the same President who flirted with anti-vaccine conspiracy theories as a candidate and regularly suggested that climate change is a hoax. I’m not saying that his lack of a science advisor is causing the President’s ill-informed views, but I am saying there is a clear correlation.
“It’s not just the top science positions that are empty or filled by unqualified nominees either. A talk radio host and political science professor was nominated to be chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture. Political science might be interesting to us here in the Senate, but it doesn’t have much to do with agricultural science.
“Of the 43 nominations the Administration has actually made to science-related positions, almost 60% do not have advanced degrees in science or health related fields.
“A White House that does not respect science will hold our nation back. We have historically been a leader in science and it has unleashed trillions of dollars of economic growth and millions of jobs. Investment in research and development has been the seed corn for growth of our economy.
“This Administrations’ blatant disregard for science risks ceding that leadership to our competitors, like China, who are making unprecedented commitments in the area. I do not believe that the Chinese government is pouring money into scientific research just out of intellectual curiosity, it is because they know it will be the biggest driver of competitiveness and economic growth in the 21st century.
“Madam President, in addition to strong funding for basic research, we need smart, qualified individuals providing leadership across the American scientific enterprise to make sure this money is well spent. We need qualified leaders and scientific experts at OSTP, at NOAA, at NSF, at NIH, and we need them at NASA.
“NASA has upwards of 18 thousand employees, 80 thousand contractors - and budget of $20 billion dollars. NASA also is in charge of keeping our astronauts safe and inspiring a generation of young minds as we face a significant shortage of STEM professionals. NASA’s research, science, and technology missions need a champion who understands and promotes the nuances of the work done by the scientists on their team. NASA needs an Administrator who will be driven by science, not politics.
“Looking at all the data, from NASA to OSTP to USDA, I can’t help but reach the conclusion that this administration does not prioritize science, and this needs to change. I urge my colleagues to vote against Mr. Bridenstine’s confirmation today. I also urge the Administration to wake up, make science a priority in the White House and across the Executive Branch, and start nominating respected scientists to the remaining vacant positions.”
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