Harry Truman Agreed With Me, Says Chairman of House Science Panel

first_imgIn the latest salvo in a yearlong battle, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) has suggested that a long-dead Democratic president would have backed his legislative proposal to change the grantsmaking process at the National Science Foundation (NSF). But President Harry Truman didn’t address the issue that Smith is raising when he vetoed a bill to create the foundation, says the agency’s historian.Yesterday, presidential science adviser John Holdren publicly criticized Smith’s proposals, which the lawmaker argues would “ensure transparency and accountability” at the $7 billion agency. “I don’t think we should be trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” Holdren said.Today, Smith responded to Holdren’s remarks in a statement. “What is broken is NSF’s refusal to provide Congress and American taxpayers with basic information about how NSF-funded grants are in the national interest,” Smith stated, referencing language in his Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act. It would require the NSF director to certify that every grant had the promise of fostering economic growth, improving public health, or safeguarding the nation.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Smith then stated: “President Harry Truman vetoed the first NSF-enabling legislation because he concluded it didn’t protect taxpayers’ right to know about how the agency would spend their money.”Smith is referring to Truman’s 1947 veto of a bill establishing NSF. (In 1950, Truman signed a reworked bill that was more to his liking.)But Truman’s veto message was based on another principle entirely, says NSF historian Marc Rothenberg. “I have seen no evidence that President Truman had ever raised the issue of the taxpayers’ right to know in his discussions with scientists or members of Congress regarding NSF legislation,” according to Rothenberg. “His concern was the authority the proposed legislation would give the National Science Board to name the director.”The vetoed bill, Rothenberg notes, gave that hiring authority to an executive committee of a part-time NSF board, comprised of eminent scientists and academic leaders selected by the White House. Truman objected to that setup, saying in his August 1947 veto message that it would prevent the president from “discharging his constitutional responsibility” to manage the government. That power, Truman explained, would instead be handed over to “a group of individuals who would be essentially private citizens.” In his memoirs, Truman wrote that “[s]ometimes the Congress makes an effort to rob the President of his appointive powers, I would never stand for it.” But Smith takes away a different message from Truman’s veto. “President Truman’s veto statement echoed the need for public accountability at NSF,” explained a Smith aide in a follow-up comment to ScienceInsider.None of Smith’s critics disagree with the importance of transparency and accountability. But NSF officials say they have already taken several administrative steps to address his concerns. And NSF’s oversight board said last week that the FIRST Act “would significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds” by imposing limits on the types of research that could be funded, as well as by tinkering with the process by which those grants are awarded.Holdren cited those concerns in his comments yesterday, but Smith remains unconvinced. “It’s unfortunate that the President’s Science Advisor would rather provide NSF with a blank check than set basic standards of transparency,” Smith stated. “The NSF’s cornerstone remains solid, but its boarded up windows are what need repair.”last_img

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