White House Fills Key Science Post

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The White House has chosen one of two top deputies to incoming science adviser John Marburger as part of a reorganization of his office. Richard Russell, who has been serving as staff director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) since last spring, will become OSTP's head of technology, Washington insiders said today.

OSTP is designed to be the White House's primary source of scientific advice on issues ranging from global warming to defense technology. Its staff prepares reports, attempts to coordinate government research activities, and keeps the president abreast of scientific developments. Researchers have criticized the Bush administration for being slow to appoint an OSTP director, who also serves as the president's science advisor. Marburger is expected to be confirmed shortly by the U.S. Senate.

Russell could not be reached for comment, but sources say he will be one of Marburger's top deputies. After earning a bachelor's degree in biology from Yale University in 1988, he worked for the Republican-led House Science Committee from 1996 to 2000. He is closely linked with efforts--so far unsuccessful--to kill the Department of Commerce's Advanced Technology Program, which funnels R&D funds to tech companies.

Russell may be part of a slimmed-down senior staff split between science and technology. Sources also say that White House planners may eliminate two existing senior posts, overseeing the environment and national security-international affairs. Such moves would be controversial within the scientific community, as could be the appointment of Russell, who lacks strong scientific credentials.

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