Prioritize Research in the National Interest | Letter to the Editor

In a recent article, “Obama’s Mind Control Plan,” (CQ Weekly, Sept. 21) the president’s science adviser, Dr. John Holdren, criticized members of Congress who want to restore the natural and physical sciences as priorities for federally supported basic scientific research.

In recent years, tens of millions of dollars appropriated by Congress for basic scientific research have been spent by the National Science Foundation for questionable social-science projects. These include studying the fashion-veil industry in Europe, Icelandic textile-making during the Viking Age and early human-set fires in New Zealand. The National Endowment for the Humanities or private foundations should consider supporting these endeavors. But when the NSF diverts taxpayer dollars to lower priority social-science projects, it puts our future economic and national security at risk.

The America COMPETES Act of 2015, a bill I introduced that passed the House earlier this year, cuts social sciences at the NSF while increasing funds for basic research in mathematics, engineering, biology and computer science by more than 12 percent. These are the areas that have the greatest potential for the kinds of breakthroughs that produce new technologies, new industries and millions of new American jobs.

Holdren refuses to acknowledge that taxpayer funding is limited and priorities matter. The NSF funds only one out of five research proposals it receives. We must prioritize research that will create new industries and jobs for decades to come.

The article highlights a White House-supported project that found personalized emails get more responses than ordinary mass emails. This is old news to marketing professionals. If our nation’s future weren’t at stake, it would be laughable to claim the miracle of personalized emails as a justification for siphoning away taxpayer money from basic scientific research.

Taxpayers want Congress to hold the administration accountable for ignoring the national interest and funding the wrong priorities.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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