AS the newly appointed science adviser to President Bush, Yale University physicist D. Allan Bromley faces one of the toughest assignments a presidential assistant has tackled. He must penetrate the barriers between federal agencies and between separately funded projects in an era when major scientific programs cut across established lines of authority and existing budget categories, according to outgoing science adviser William R. Graham.
Dr. Graham explained that this now is the only way the administration and Congress can plan and carry out an effective strategy to make the most of the federal government's investment in scientific research.
It's a Washington clich'e to call the problem of penetrating those traditional barriers ``nearly intractable.'' Previous science advisers, including Graham, have had minimal success in trying to solve it.
This is in spite of the fact that Congress created the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology 13 years ago to promote an interagency perspective. Its 14 members include the heads of the scientifically relevant federal agencies. Yet, speaking as the most recent council chairman, Graham said, ``We still have a long way to go.''
As an example of what needs to be done, Graham cited the research program on global climate change which the coordinating council has under review. This $200 million program cuts across seven agencies. The best way to deal with it is to consider the program as a whole rather than taking it bit by bit in terms of disconnected agency projects and their budgets.
The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that the entire federal research-and-development budget be subjected to this kind of cross-agency analysis. Both Congress and the administration have acknowledged the need to do this. They are looking to the new science adviser to provide the leadership to carry out this difficult task.
Thus, as Graham prepared to hand over his office to his successor, he said that ``building crossties between federal departments'' will be ``one of the major challenges of the next four years.''