The Departure of former Energy Secretary Steven Chu earlier this year was one of several departures from the Energy Department, primarily amongst science and technology positions. While we have a new Energy Secretary and a nominee for the Advanced Research Projects Administration – Energy, there are still two positions currently unfilled.
One is the Director of the Office of Science, which has been empty since William Brinkman left in April of this year. Marc Kastner, a physicist involved in semiconductor research at MIT, will be nominated to take over the office, which supervises the agency’s research portfolio and its research labs. He would take leave from the institution where he serves as Dean of the School of Science (and where Secretary Moniz directed the Laboratory for Energy and Environment before re-joining the Department).
The Undersecretary of Science position has been vacant for over two years. The President will nominate Franklin Orr to the position, which is responsible for the Office of Science along with the Department’s programs in education and training, research and development, and functions as the Secretary’s science and technology adviser. Orr is a chemical engineer at Stanford, where he directs the Precourt Institute for Energy.
Moving outside of the Energy Department, President Obama has nominated Thomas Burke to become the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development at the Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Burke’s background is in public health, and he currently serves as the Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at Johns Hopkins University. He also has a long tenure in state government, working for the New Jersey Department of Health and Department of Environmental Quality.
I am a broken record on this point, but the troubles in getting timely confirmation hearings and Senate votes for top-level nominees has been poor. I anticipate it could be several months before these lower-tier nominees will be confirmed.