Making It Official at NSF

On 21 November the Senate confirmed Arden Bement as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), completing a process in sync with how the 72-year-old materials engineer has run the agency on an acting basis since February: efficiently, and with a minimum of words.

Bement agreed to serve after Rita Colwell resigned 6 months short of completing her 6-year term (ScienceNOW, 11 February). In September, the president officially nominated Bement 3 days before his stint as acting director would have expired (ScienceNOW, 15 September). With scant time before the election, a Senate panel moved the nomination along without actually holding a hearing. And in the wee hours of 21 November, as the Senate ended a weeklong lame-duck session, Bement was approved, without discussion, as part of a slew of year-end appointments that included eight new members of NSF's oversight body, the National Science Board.

"I'm delighted," Bement says about a job that he accepted despite being director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Now that he's official, Bement will cut his ties to NIST, which is now headed by acting director Hratch Semerjian.

Science watchers give him high marks so far for his performance at NSF, in particular his ability to work with congressional panels that oversee the agency. But a gloomy budget picture--a 1.9% cut this year and no relief expected in the upcoming presidential request for 2006--may leave little room for new initiatives. "We're pleased to have him on board, but he's certainly got his work cut out for him," says David Goldston, staff director of the House Science Committee.

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