The White House science adviser, a prominent position for every president since the Eisenhower administration, is responsible for giving the president scientific and technical advice in “areas of national concern,” according to a 1976 law that codified the role — which cited spheres ranging from national security to the environment.
More than 8 months into his first term, Trump has not nominated anyone to the position. Once selected, Trump’s nominee would require Senate confirmation, which could take weeks or even longer as Congress addresses a string of other contentious, time-consuming debates.
The official said that while it lacks a director, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy does have more than 40 staffers in place, “including expertise in natural disasters, energy, nuclear, national security.”
Still, the long-standing vacancy contrasts sharply with Trump’s predecessors.
Former president Barack Obama nominated John Holdren, a Harvard physicist and energy expert, on December 20, 2008 — a month before taking the oath of office. Holdren was confirmed by the Senate on March 19, 2009, about two months into Obama’s first term.
Former presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton all also named a science adviser before taking office, with Nixon being the quickest to pick his; he named a nominee just 28 days after being elected.
President Ronald Reagan waited four months after his inauguration to name his adviser. President George H.W. Bush waited three months. President Jimmy Carter took two.
Even the modern president who previously waited longest to name a science adviser, George W. Bush, moved more quickly than Trump by a significant margin. Bush named physicist John Marburger for the role in June 2001 and officially submitted him for confirmation on Sept. 21, 2001.
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