The position has been vacant for the past 19 months
Per an article published by the Washington Post, President Donald Trump may be getting ready to finally nominate someone to fill the open position of top science advisor to head the White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP).
Kelvin Droegemeier, an Oklahoma University expert on extreme weather, is expected to be tapped by Trump to oversee the OSTP, which advises the president on issues ranging from artificial intelligence to medical research and climate change. While many major strides have been made in tech fields like A.I., the position has been vacant for over a year and a half, giving little guidance and offering very little organization to those in the fields it oversees.
Michael Kratsios, the administration’s deputy chief technology officer, has been working double duty and covering the position as head of OSTP since Trump’s inauguration.
Who is Kelvin Droegemeier?
Droegemeier boasts an impressive track record of research work focusing on many impacts of climate change, specifically the dynamics and predictability of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Although the current administration has been known to throw climate change out the window a few times, having Droegemeier in charge of the OSTP could bring about the expertise needed to steer it in another direction.
As part of his work, Droegemeier led the development of the world’s first atmospheric computer model that integrated Doppler radar and other data for forecasting local thunderstorms and other extreme weather events. He also established two supercomputing centers at the University of Oklahoma and worked with a group set up to examine America’s cyber infrastructure. So he should be able to get to grips quickly with policy issues facing the country in areas like quantum computing and cybersecurity.
Politically speaking, Droegemeier is no stranger to how things work in Washington. He’s had experience with high-level scientific policy-making under two presidents already, and was appointed Oklahoma’s cabinet secretary of science and technology last year. John Holdren, who headed the OSTP under President Barack Obama, calls the likely nomination “a solid choice” by Trump.
Getting the job
Although he has experience under two previous presidents, getting approval from the Senate may be harder than it seems. Democrats could use the opportunity to call President Trump out on climate issues and his threat to cut non-defense-related research spending, which could hurt Droegemeier’s chances of landing the job. Given that Droegemeier has publicly said he’s against cutting federal investment in fundamental research, maybe he’s got a better shot than we think.