President Trump has nominated Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, a meteorologist and Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, to be the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Droegemeier will serve as the President’s chief science adviser.
The Director of OSTP advises the Administration on issues ranging from funding priorities to opportunities to improve policy coordination across federal departments and agencies. Historically, the head of OSTP has also played important roles in providing timely scientific input on matters related to public health, safety and security.
Droegemeier has expertise in extreme-weather forecasting and has led two National Science Foundation (NSF) funded centers, one focused on predicting storms and the other on adaptive atmospheric sensing. He has served on the National Science Board (NSB)—the governing body for the National Science Foundation—having been nominated by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Droegemeier has been a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma for 33 years. He also serves as the Secretary of Science and Technology for Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) and has worked on weather and climate issues for former Governor Brad Henry (D-OK). Droegemeier earned his Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
In 2013, Droegemeier testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment that climate models “can be useful for determining future environments” and the potential for extreme storms. “Our understanding of, and ability to predict, high-impact weather will improve climate model representations of storms, precipitation, the radiation budget and even chemical processes,” he said.
Droegemeier co-authored an op-ed last year along with Daniel Reed, a former Vice President at Microsoft, warning about declining research spending in the United States. “U.S. government investment in basic research is now at a 40-year low as a percentage of [gross domestic product]. This places the ‘miracle machine’ in grave danger.”
The President’s nominee has received support from the scientific community. According to John Holdren, who served as OSTP Director under President Obama, Dr. Droegemeier is a “respected senior scientist and an experienced adviser on science policy to state and national leaders.” He said, “I expect he’ll be energetic in defending the R&D budget and climate change research in particular.”
The position of OSTP Director has been vacant for more than 18 months, a record length of time. During the Trump Administration, the number of OSTP staff has dropped from 135 under President Obama to 35 last year. The number has since grown to 60 under Acting Director Michael Kratsios.