Debating Science | September 30, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 40 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 40 | pp. 27-37
Issue Date: September 30, 2008

Debating Science

Presidential candidates answer science policy questions
Department: Government & Policy
Credit: UPI / Roger Wollenberg / Newscom
Credit: UPI / Roger Wollenberg / Newscom

With the first debate behind them, the candidates for president have a month left to inform voters of their positions. Science and technology questions—key but rarely addressed—are vital to the chemistry enterprise and central to economic growth and national security. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on problems such as innovation, energy, climate change, national security, science education, federal funding of R&D, scientific integrity, stem cell research, and space exploration, among others.

In August, C&EN sent specific questions to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) asking for their positions on significant science policy issues. Unfortunately, the campaigns did not respond to C&EN's request. However, they did answer a set of similar questions from the large initiative called ScienceDebate2008, of which C&EN was an early supporter and the American Chemical Society is a primary sponsor. ScienceDebate2008 is now backed by more than 175 U.S. universities and organizations. The replies to most of the questions, edited for space and C&EN style, follow. The candidates' complete answers to 14 questions are available at

INNOVATION. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since World War II. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

MCCAIN: I have a broad and cohesive vision for the future of American innovation. My policies will provide broad pools of capital, low taxes, and incentives for research in America, a commitment to a skilled and educated workforce, and a dedication to opening markets around the globe. I am committed to streamlining burdensome regulations and effectively protecting American intellectual property in the U.S. and around the globe.

Transformative information and communications technologies permeate every aspect of our daily lives. Nurturing technology and innovation is essential for solving the critical problems facing our country: developing alternative fuels, addressing climate change, encouraging commercialization of new technologies, deploying technology to manage cost and enable new jobs, stopping the spiraling expense of health care, and better educating our children and our workforce.

I am uniquely qualified to lead our nation during this technological revolution. I am the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. Under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology that enables Americans to surf the Web while sitting at a coffee shop, airport lounge, or public park. As president, I will:

  • Utilize the nation's science and technology infrastructure to develop a framework for economic growth both domestically and globally.
  • Appoint a Science & Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged, that policies will be based upon sound science, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored.
  • Eliminate wasteful earmarks in order to allocate funds for science and technology investments.
  • Fund basic and applied research in new and emerging fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology and in greater breakthroughs in information technology.
  • Promote greater fiscal responsibility by improving the scientific and engineering management within the federal government.
  • Ensure U.S. leadership in space by promoting an exploration agenda that will combine the discoveries of our unmanned probes with new technologies to take Americans to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
  • Grow public understanding and popularity of mathematics and science by reforming mathematics and science education in schools.

OBAMA: Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my Administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world's number one high-technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining.

My Administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.

A vigorous research and development program depends on encouraging talented people to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and giving them the support they need to reach their potential. My Administration will work to guarantee students access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels so they graduate knowing how science works—using hands-on, information technology-enhanced education. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers. Additionally, my proposal to create Teacher Residency Academies will also add 30,000 new teachers to high-need schools—training thousands of science and math teachers. I will also expand access to higher education, work to draw more of these students into science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships.

Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my Administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.

ENERGY. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the U.S. this century. What policies would you support to meet demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

OBAMA: America's challenges in providing secure, affordable energy while addressing climate change mean that we must make much more efficient use of energy and begin to rely on new energy sources that eliminate or greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. My programs focus both on a greatly expanded program of federally funded energy research and development and on policies designed to speed the adoption of innovative energy technologies and stimulate private innovation.

First, I have proposed programs that, taken together, will increase federal investment in clean-energy research, development, and deployment by $150 billion over 10 years. This research will cover:

  • Basic research to develop alternative fuels and chemicals.
  • New vehicle technologies capable of significantly reducing our oil consumption.
  • Advanced energy storage and transmission that would greatly help the economics of new electric-generating technologies and plug-in hybrids.
  • Technologies for capturing and sequestering greenhouse gases produced by coal plants.
  • A new generation of nuclear electric technologies that address cost, safety, waste disposal, and proliferation risks.
  • I will also work closely with utilities to introduce a digital smart grid that can optimize the overall efficiency of the nation's electric utility system by managing demand and making effective use of renewable energy and energy storage. Second, it is essential that we create a strong, predictable market for energy innovations with concrete goals that speed introduction of innovative products and provide a strong incentive for private R&D investment in energy technologies. These concrete goals include: Increasing new building efficiency by 50% and existing building efficiency by 25% over the next decade and taking other steps that will reduce the energy intensity of our economy by 50% by 2030.
  • Increasing fuel economy standards 4% per year and providing loan guarantees for domestic manufacturers of auto plants and parts to build new fuel-efficient cars domestically.
  • Extending the Production Tax Credit for five years and creating a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard that will require that 10% of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025.

MCCAIN: Over time, I believe that we must reform our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources that meet the multiple shared objective of promoting environmental, economic, and national security. One of the prevailing issues of our time and the next presidency will be how to deal with the issues of energy security and sustainability. It is important that we shift to sustainable, clean-burning energy sources or advance to technologies that make our more traditional resources cleaner burning.

As president, I will put the country on track to building 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 so that we can meet our growing energy demand and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is a proven, domestic, zero-emission source of energy, and it is time to recommit to advancing our use of nuclear energy.

In the progress of alternative energy sources—such as wind, solar, geothermal, tide, and hydroelectric—government must be an ally but not an arbiter. In less than a generation, wind power alone could account for a fifth or more of all our electricity. And just in recent memory, solar energy has gone from a novelty to a fast-growing industry. I've voted against the current patchwork of tax credits for renewable power because they were temporary and often the result of who had the best lobbyist instead of who had the best ideas. But the objective itself was right and urgent. We will reform this effort so that it is fair, rational, and permanent, letting the market decide which ideas can move us toward clean and renewable energy.

These investments by government into basic research along with aggressive and realistic targets for greenhouse gas emissions will be critical in spurring revolutionary innovations in energy that will, over the long term, reduce energy costs and increase economic growth.

CLIMATE CHANGE. Earth's climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change: a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, and research?

MCCAIN: We know that greenhouse gas emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in the climate. The same fossil fuels that power our economic engine also produce greenhouse gases that retain heat and thus threaten to alter the global climate. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple common sense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly.

To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I will institute a new cap-and-trade system that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emissions, by 2020, a return to 1990 levels, and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of 60% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. In doing this, we will transition into a low-carbon energy future while promoting the technological innovations that keep us on a course of economic growth. The purpose of this approach is to give American businesses new incentives and rewards to seek cheaper emission reductions, instead of just new taxes to pay and new regulations to follow.

To bolster research efforts, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. A McCain Administration would establish a permanent R&D tax credit equal to 10% of wages spent on R&D to open the door to a new generation of environmental entrepreneurs. I am also committed to investing $2 billion every year for the next 15 years on clean-coal technologies to unlock the potential of America's oldest and most abundant resource. In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure. From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success.

I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost, and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.

"I will appoint a Science & Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged."

"I will lift the current administration's ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, through executive order."

OBAMA: There can no longer be any doubt that human activities are influencing the global climate, and we must react quickly and effectively. First, the U.S. must get off the sidelines and take long-overdue action here at home to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. We must also take a leadership role in designing technologies that allow us to enjoy a growing, prosperous economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This is a global problem. U.S. leadership is essential but solutions will require contributions from all parts of the world, particularly the rest of the world's major emitters: China, Europe, and India.

Specifically, I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary. I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A cap-and-trade program draws on the power of the marketplace to reduce emissions in a cost-effective and flexible way. I will require all pollution credits to be auctioned.

I will restore U.S. leadership in strategies for combating climate change and work closely with the international community. We will reengage with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and I will create a Global Energy Forum based on the G8+5, which includes all G-8 members [Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.] plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. This forum would focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues. I will also create a Technology Transfer Program dedicated to exporting climate-friendly technologies—including green buildings, clean coal, and advanced automobiles—to developing countries to help them combat climate change.

NATIONAL SECURITY. Science and technology are at the core of national security like never before. What is your view of how science and technology can best be used to ensure national security, and where should we put our focus?

OBAMA: When Sputnik was launched in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the event as a call to arms for Americans to help secure our country and to increase the number of students studying math and science via the National Defense Education Act. That educational base not only improved our national security and space programs but also led to our economic growth and innovation over the second half of the century. Our nation is again hearing a threatening "ping" in the distance, this time not from a single satellite in space but instead from threats that range from asymmetric conflicts to cyber attacks, biological terror, and nuclear proliferation. I will lead the nation to be prepared to meet this 21st-century challenge by investing again in math and science education, which is vital to protecting our national security and our competitiveness.

As president I will also ensure that our defense, homeland security, and intelligence agencies have the strong research leadership needed to revitalize our defense research activities and achieve breakthrough science that can be quickly converted into new capabilities for our security.

This year, I was encouraged to see that the Department of Defense (DOD) requested a sharp increase in the basic research budget for breakthrough technologies. More is needed. My Administration will put basic defense research on a path to double and will ensure strong funding for investments in DOD's applied research programs.

My Administration will build a strong and more productive research program in the Department of Homeland Security, which will include critical work on cyber and biosecurity. Another critical role for R&D in national security is energy. Our petroleum dependence continually threatens our security, and my proposals for accelerating new alternative-energy technologies will be an important part of my national security R&D agenda.

MCCAIN: I have been a tireless advocate of our military and ensuring that our forces are properly postured, funded, and ready to meet the nation's obligations both at home and abroad. I have fought to modernize our forces, to ensure that America maintains and expands its technological edge against any potential adversary, and to see that our forces are capable and ready to undertake the variety of missions necessary to meet national security objectives.

We are benefiting today from technology that was invented for military use a quarter of a century ago (such as the Internet, e-mail, Global Positioning System, and Teflon). And today, the American military has some of the most advanced technologies in the world to support them as they defend America's interest. We need to ensure that America retains the edge in the most strategic areas, and I will continue to encourage this with advanced R&D funding.

EDUCATION. A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science- and technology-driven 21st century?

MCCAIN: My Administration will promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and a focus on an innovative economy. Critical to these efforts is the creation of the best trained, best prepared workforce to drive this economy through the 21st century. America's ability to compete in the global market is dependent on the availability of a skilled workforce. Less than 20% of our undergraduate students obtain degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors has fallen by half over the past eight years. America must address these trends in education and training if it hopes to compete successfully.

We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced STEM degrees. We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs, and competitions.

We must strengthen skills of existing science and math teachers through training and education—through professional development programs and community colleges. I believe we must provide funding for needed professional teacher development. We need to provide teachers with high-quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students.

I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of Advanced Placement math, science, and computer sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

"I will put the country on track to building 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 so that we can meet our growing energy demand and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases."

"I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade."

OBAMA: All American citizens need high quality STEM education that inspires them to know more about the world around them, engages them in exploring challenging questions, and involves them in high-quality intellectual work. I will work to ensure that all Americans, including those in traditionally underrepresented groups, have the knowledge and skills they need to engage in society, innovate in our world, and compete in the global economy.

I will support research to understand the strategies and mechanisms that bring lasting improvements to STEM education and ensure that promising practices are widely shared. This includes encouraging the development of cutting-edge STEM instructional materials and technologies and working with educators to ensure that assessments measure the range of knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century. I recently introduced the Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Education Act of 2008, which would establish a STEM Education Committee within the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate the efforts of federal agencies engaged in STEM education, consolidate the STEM education initiatives that exist within the Department of Education under the direction of an Office of STEM Education, and create a State Consortium for STEM Education. I also recently sponsored an amendment, which became law, to the America Competes Act, which established a competitive state grant program to support summer learning opportunities with curricula that emphasize mathematics and problem solving.

My education plan is built on the recognition that teachers play a critical role in student learning and achievement. My Administration will work closely with states and local communities to ensure that we recruit math and science graduates to the teaching profession.

RESEARCH. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

OBAMA: Federally supported basic research, aimed at understanding many features of nature, has been an essential feature of American life for more than 50 years. Although the outcomes of specific projects are never predictable, basic research has been a reliable source of new knowledge that has fueled important developments in fields ranging from telecommunications to medicine, yielding remarkable rates of economic return, and ensuring American leadership in industry, military power, and higher education. I believe that continued investment in fundamental research is essential for ensuring healthier lives, better sources of energy, superior military capacity, and high-wage jobs for our nation's future.

Yet today, we are clearly underinvesting in research across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Federal support for the physical sciences and engineering has been declining as a fraction of gross domestic product for decades, and after a period of growth of the life sciences, the National Institutes of Health's budget has been steadily losing buying power for the past six years. As a result, our science agencies are often able to support no more than one in 10 proposals that they receive, arresting the careers of our young scientists and blocking our ability to pursue many remarkable recent advances. Furthermore, in this environment, scientists are less likely to pursue the risky research that may lead to the most important breakthroughs. Finally, we are reducing support for science at a time when many other nations are increasing it, a situation that already threatens our leadership in many critical areas of science.

This situation is unacceptable. As president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.

MCCAIN: With spending constraints, it will be more important than ever to ensure we are maximizing our investments in basic research and minimizing the bureaucratic requirements that eat away at the money designed for funding scientists and science. I have supported significant increases in basic research at NSF. I also called for a plan developed by our top scientists on how the funding should be utilized. We must ensure that our research is addressing our national needs and taking advantage of new areas of opportunities and that the results of this research can enter the marketplace. We must also ensure that basic research money is allocated to the best science on the basis of quality and peer review, not politics and earmarks.

I am committed to reinvigorating America's commitment to basic research and will ensure my Administration funds research activities accordingly. I have supported increased funding at Department of Energy, NSF, and NIH for years and will continue to do so.

"Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent."

"I propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost, and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."

SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY. Many government scientists report political interference in their jobs. Is it acceptable for elected officials to withhold or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, and how will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision-making?

MCCAIN: We have invested huge amounts of public funds in scientific research. The public deserves to have the results of that research. Our job as elected officials is to develop the policies in response to those research results. Denial of the facts will not solve any of these problems. Solutions can only come about as a result of a complete understanding of the problem. I believe policy should be based upon sound science. Good policy development will make for good politics.

I support having a science and technology adviser within the White House staff and restoring the credibility and role of OSTP as an office within the White House structure. I will work to fill early in my Administration both the position of Science Advisor and at least four assistant directors within OSTP. I am committed to asking the most qualified scientists and engineers to join not only my OSTP but all of the key technical positions in my Administration.

Integrity is critical in scientific research. Scientific research cannot succeed without integrity and trust. My own record speaks for integrity and putting the country first, not political agendas.

OBAMA: Scientific and technological information is of growing importance to a range of issues. I believe such information must be expert and uncolored by ideology. Policies must be determined by a process that builds on the long tradition of open debate that has characterized progress in science, including review by individuals who might bring new information or contrasting views.

In addition, I will:

  • Appoint individuals with strong science and technology backgrounds and unquestioned reputations for integrity and objectivity to the growing number of senior management positions where decisions must incorporate science and technology advice. These positions will be filled promptly with ethical, highly qualified individuals on a nonpartisan basis.
  • Establish the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies, and services for the 21st century. The CTO will lead an interagency effort on developing best-in-class technologies, sharing best practices, and safeguarding our networks.
  • Strengthen the role of the President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology by appointing experts who are charged to provide independent advice on critical issues of science and technology.
  • Restore the science integrity of government and restore transparency of decision-making by issuing an executive order establishing clear guidelines for the review and release of government publications, guaranteeing that results are released in a timely manner and not distorted by the ideological biases of political appointees.

STEM CELLS. Stem cell research advocates say it may successfully lead to treatments for many chronic diseases and injuries, saving lives, but opponents argue that using embryos as a source for stem cells destroys human life. What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?

OBAMA: Stem cell research holds the promise of improving our lives in at least three ways—by substituting normal cells for damaged cells to treat diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, heart failure, and other disorders; by providing scientists with safe and convenient models of disease for drug development; and by helping to understand fundamental aspects of normal development and cell dysfunction.

For these reasons, I strongly support expanding research on stem cells. I believe that the restrictions President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current Administration's ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.

I recognize that some people object to government support of research that requires cells to be harvested from human embryos. However, hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in the U.S. at in vitro fertilization clinics will not be used for reproductive purposes and will eventually be destroyed. I believe that it is ethical to use these extra embryos for research that could save lives when they are freely donated for that express purpose. Rather than restrict the funding of such research, I favor responsible oversight of it, in accord with recent recommendations from the National Research Council.

MCCAIN: Although I support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress. Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic. I also support funding for other research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research, which hold much scientific promise and do not involve the use of embryos. I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes, and I voted to ban the practice of "fetal farming," making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes.

SPACE. The study of Earth from space can yield important information about climate change, focus on the cosmos can advance our understanding of the universe, and human space travel can help us inspire new generations of youth to go into science. Can we afford all of them? How would you prioritize space in your Administration?

"I will create a Technology Transfer Program dedicated to exporting climate-friendly technologies to developing countries to help them combat climate change."

"I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities."

MCCAIN: The real question is whether we can afford not to. We must ensure that we have a balanced approach to our space investments along with proper management controls. Today, we rely more upon our space-based assets than at any other time in history. We need the technological advances of these systems to effectively address tremendous challenges such as climate change.

Spurred on by the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the world's first satellite, and the concern that the U.S was falling behind in science and technology, U.S. policymakers enacted several policy actions to firmly establish U.S. dominance in science and technology. Among them were the establishment of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) and the national Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, increased research funding, and a reformulation of the nation's science and technology education system.

Today, more than 50 years after Sputnik, the U.S. faces a very different world. The end of the Cold War and the space race has greatly reduced the profile of space exploration as a point of national pride and an emblem of U.S. power and thus created some degree of "mission rut" for NASA. At the same time, the scientific community views the use of space as an important observation platform for advancing science by increasing our understanding of the solar system and the universe. In addition, our recent comprehension of Earth's changing climate is based on data that we have received from our weather and Earth observation satellites.

I understand the importance of investments in key industries such as space to the future of our national security, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and national pride as a technological leader. Although the general view in the research community is that human exploration is not an efficient way to increase scientific discoveries given the expense and logistical limitations, the role of manned space flight goes well beyond the issue of scientific discovery and is a reflection of national power and pride.

Current U.S. space operations policy commits the U.S. to completing the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 and then terminating the Space Shuttle flights, with the completion of the ISS. I have called on the Bush Administration to suspend its decommissioning of the shuttle until the next president is in office, and to retain the option of continuing shuttle flights to ISS until the Ares/Orion successor vehicles are in service. As president, I will:

  • Ensure that space exploration is top priority and that the U.S. remains a leader.
  • Commit to funding the NASA Constellation program [to send human explorers back to the moon and onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system] to ensure it has the resources it needs to begin a new era of human space exploration.
  • Review and explore all options to ensure U.S. access to space by minimizing the gap between the termination of the Space Shuttle and the availability of its replacement vehicle.
  • Seek to maximize the research capability and commercialization possibilities of the ISS National Laboratory [the U.S. part of ISS].
  • Maintain infrastructure investments in Earth-monitoring satellites and support systems.
  • Seek to maintain the nation's space infrastructure.
  • Prevent wasteful earmarks from diverting precious resources from critical scientific research.
  • Ensure adequate investments in aeronautics research.

OBAMA: As president, I will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program. Under my Administration, NASA not only will inspire the world with both human and robotic space exploration but also will again lead in confronting the challenges we face here on Earth, including global climate change, energy independence, and aeronautics research. In achieving this vision I will reach out to include international partners and to engage the private sector to amplify NASA's reach.

There is currently no organizational authority in the federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government's space-related programs, including those being managed by NASA, DOD, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, and other federal agencies. This wasn't always the case. Between 1958 and 1973, the National Aeronautics & Space Council oversaw the entire space arena for four presidents; the council was briefly revived from 1989 to 1992. I will reestablish this council reporting to the president. It will oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial, and national security space activities. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community, and work toward a 21st-century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth.

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