Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Today's Nomination Hearing

May 20, 2010

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—I want to congratulate Dr. Wieman on his nomination to become Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The President’s confidence in Dr. Wieman is well-deserved. His groundbreaking research in physics earned him a Nobel Prize, and his exemplary work as an educator has inspired thousands and been recognized by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the American Association of Physics.

If confirmed, Dr. Wieman will have his work cut out for him, guiding OSTP in its mission to coordinate interagency science programs across the federal government. As if that wasn’t enough, OSTP Director Dr. John Holdren has indicated that the Associate Director for Science will be tasked with overseeing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – or STEM – education.

I have been a proponent of STEM education long before it was even commonly referred to as “STEM education.” I firmly believe it is fundamental to our nation’s ability to compete. I have long seen the impact of quality STEM education in schools and colleges across West Virginia.

Earlier this year, I visited with science and math teachers in Parkersburg, West Virginia where we talked for hours about what it takes to reach students, inspire them, and give them the skills for a lifetime. One of those teachers later came to testify at a recent Commerce Committee hearing where we looked closely at this country’s science and engineering workforce to make sure we have the talent to drive future innovation and economic growth. We heard from practitioners putting STEM education to work on the ground – the challenges and the rewards. 

One issue raised during the hearing was the need to improve collaboration across the federal government between STEM programs. Many of our federal, science-based agencies have extensive STEM outreach and education initiatives, but for the most part, they act independently, making it difficult to evaluate their overall effectiveness. I am glad this Administration sees the value in STEM education programs and has proposed investing $3.7 billion across the federal government in its Fiscal Year 2011 budget. 

So I challenge Dr. Wieman, if confirmed, to come up with a national strategy of clear goals and metrics to make sure we get the most out of every dollar we invest in STEM education. For too long, American students have lagged behind much of the developed world in measures of scientific and technical literacy. The stakes are too high. We have to get this right.

I want to thank Dr. Wieman for his testimony and for his service to our nation. I will be looking to him for his leadership in this very important area. I am committed to making sure our nation is prepared to compete in the 21st-century, global economy. And that begins with creating a highly educated science and engineering workforce.