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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Column: Trump puts science and technology by the wayside

0131_TrumpTech_CreativeCommons_Web.jpg
0131_TrumpTech_CreativeCommons_Web.jpg

President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address on January 30. While he addressed several topics, notably he left out any mention of policies regarding science, technology and other related endeavors.
Not only has the president not named a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), also known as the Science Advisor to the President, his administration actually cut the number of staff in the OTSP from 135 to 45, according to CBS News. Additionally, NASA has been without a formal administrator for over a calendar year, the F.C.C saw its chairman Ajit Pai, who Trump appointed to the position, help vote down net neutrality and Trump appointed former Texas governor Rick Perry to Secretary of Energy, a position Perry once said he would eliminate if elected president.
Five months ago, the Trump administration put forth the nomination of Oklahoma Congressman James Bridenstine for NASA administrator. However, he has yet to receive a vote before the Senate and faces extreme opposition to his appointment, with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio saying Bridenstine’s political history could prove too controversial for the agency, and Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson pointing out that past administrators have been scientists themselves, not politicians. The New York Times has also reported that Bridenstine rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.
Trump’s administration has proposed building a 5G network across the nation, a move that would place the U.S. as the world’s leader in internet technology and telecommunications manufacturing. However, the memo released detailing the plan to do so has been met with opposition, even by Trump’s allies. Pai said he opposes any plan for the government to build and operate the network, and Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said he sees no reason for the network to be nationalized.
Not everything science related is in shambles, however. In June of 2017, Trump signed an executive order which revived the National Space Council, which had been disbanded in 1993. The council should help the nation navigate the complex environment of space exploration, and could open up possibilities regarding commercial space travel.
Trump has also said his tax cuts have allowed tech giants such as Apple to grow. Earlier this month, Apple pledged $350 billion to provide 20,000 more jobs in the U.S. over the next five years. Other companies, such as AT&T and American Airlines, who have much of their profits come from technological advances, have seen growth and credit new employee bonuses to the new tax laws Trump has spearheaded.
In September, Trump issued a presidential memorandum for the Secretary of Education, in which he directed the Secretary to make promoting high quality science, technology, education and math and computer science courses one of the Department of Education’s main priorities. This was done in hopes to increase the pathways to jobs in those related fields. The memorandum specifies that at least $200 million a year should be devoted to this task.
Trump’s unconventional views on science, namely his seeming dislike for the field as a whole, have also been reflected in his proposed budget. His revised budget for 2018 featured drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Agency, the National Institutes of Health and others.
While not a total attack, Trump has shown a general disregard for the world of science during his first year in office. While there have been some advancements, his rejection of scientific consensus and failure to nominate a science advisor set a dangerous precedent. The nominations of people who’s backgrounds do not compliment their offices, especially when dealing with complex issues such as telecommunications, agriculture, environmental efforts and space exploration does not bode well.
Trump ran on the idea that he would run the country like a business, appointing the best people to positions and listening to their input before making decisions. So far, he has shown that when it comes to scientific matters, he would rather put his efforts elsewhere. Americans should find this troubling as the world around them becomes more and more dependent on science and technology.

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