President Clinton has named a career civil servant to lead the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a research agency that has been transformed in recent years into a major supporter of industrial research. The choice could mean a lower profile for an agency that has been embroiled in ideological battles over technology policy.
Clinton's nominee, announced last week, is Ray Kammer, 50, NIST's deputy director for 14 years. Kammer, who has a bachelor's degree in English, would be the first nonscientist to lead the $600 million agency, which operates both in-house labs and the controversial Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of grants to industry-led consortia developing critical technologies. He would succeed Arati Prabhakar, who went on maternity leave in January before taking a job with industry.
The ATP grants program has been a lightning rod for Republicans who oppose any type of federal industrial policy, but now it seems to have weathered the political storm. Congress is poised to approve a 1998 budget near last year's level of $225 million without the rancor that has characterized past budget fights. And Kammer is the right man to keep both ATP and NIST out of the limelight, according to observers. "He knows the agency and he knows the politics," says one Republican aide who has followed technology issues closely. "He has no downside." Adds a former Democratic staffer, "He's been a broker on ATP and other issues, and he's scrupulously objective."
Joining Kammer on the Administration's second-term technology team is University of Rochester physicist Duncan Moore, nominated last week as assistant director for technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.