Engineer Arati Prabhakar was confirmed by the Senate on September 20 to lead to White House’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). She will also serve as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a role which President Joe Biden raised to a Cabinet-level position in 2021. This confirmation comes after her nomination in June 2022 and subsequent confirmation process.
The OSTP advises the executive branch of the U.S. government on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, and the environment.
Prabhakar was confirmed by a 56-40 vote in the Senate. Ten Republicans voted in support of Prabhakar, including senators Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Cynthia Lummis, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mike Rounds and Thom Tillis. One Democrat, Joe Manchin, voted against her confirmation.
On the senate floor, Senator Maria Cantwell said, “Dr. Prabhakar has the exact experience we need to advise the President on semiconductor manufacturing, on bringing the supply chain security that we need here in the United States, and on continued growth in science and technology jobs that come along with it.”
Prabhakar succeeds sociologist Alondra Nelson, who served as the interim leader of the OSTP, and former National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins, who served as Biden’s acting science adviser, since February 2022, after geneticist Eric Lander stepped down due to bullying allegations by his subordinates. Nelson is expected to return to her prior role as the OSTP’s deputy director for science and society, and Collins is expected to return to retirement.
Nelson commented on Prabhakar’s confirmation in a press release, “The historic bipartisan confirmation of Dr. Arati Prabhakar is a testament to her sterling track record of leadership and innovation stewardship, as well as her extensive expertise in science and technology policy. We are thrilled to welcome her to OSTP and begin a bright new chapter.”
Prabhakar will be the first woman, immigrant and person of color to lead the OSTP. She headed the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1993 to 1997 and the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2012 to 2017. She also was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University from 2017-2018.
She is expected to begin serving in the role within the next two weeks.