Physicist Ernest Moniz, the White House has announced, is in line to become the undersecretary of the Department of Energy (DOE)--the number three official at the agency. This is welcome news to researchers, who hope to gain a high-level advocate for science programs in the department. Moniz's role is all the more important in Secretary Federico Peña's DOE, because neither Peña nor Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Moler has a science background.
But DOE scientists aren't celebrating yet. Moniz, now chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's physics department, must be officially nominated and then approved for his new job by the Senate, which isn't likely to vote on the nomination for several months. In the meantime, DOE science officials and lab managers say they are concerned they won't have a champion as they gear up for the battle over the 1999 budget request this fall.
Moniz is certain to encounter little opposition, however. He has already cleared the Senate once, when he was confirmed in his last federal job, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.