NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Policies Slow Appointments Of Scientists

September 25, 2000

Current work rules and procedures may prevent the next administration from recruiting the best scientists and engineers to fill essential government positions, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. The report draws particular attention to restrictions on employment before and after federal service as an example of one of the hurdles to recruiting top people.

  • While one-fourth of key scientific appointees came from industry during the Reagan administration, only 12 percent did so during the Clinton administration -- a result of such restrictions, according to the report.
  • The study says swift appointments and Senate confirmations of the top 80 science and technology executives should be a priority -- recommending that appointees be in office "by late spring or early summer if they are to interact with Congress on the current budget submission and begin preparation of the next."
  • From 1964 to 1984, 80 percent to 90 percent of such appointments had been confirmed by the Senate within four months -- a pace which has dropped to 45 percent in recent years.

Requirements which discourage scientists in the private sector from accepting government positions include severing all ties to employers; forgoing pension benefits; selling stocks, options and other financial interests at unfavorable terms; and forgoing options that are not yet vested.

Source: Curt Suplee, "Science Panel Urges Rule Changes," Washington Post, September 22, 2000; "Science and Technology in the National Interest: The Presidential Appointment Process," National Academies, September 21, 2000.

For National Academies report


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