By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing on March 17, 2021, on “Brain Drain: Rebuilding the Federal Scientific Workforce.” The Subcommittee heard from the following witnesses:
- Ms. Candice Wright, Acting Director, Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO);
- Mr. Max Stier, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Partnership for Public Service;
- Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists; and
- Dr. Betsy Southerland, Former Director of Science and Technology, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
During the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Bill Foster (D-IL) submitted a Majority staff report into the record on “trends in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce within federal science agencies following the sequestration in the early 2010s that impacted staffing within federal agencies and workforce-related actions taken by the Trump Administration that contributed to destabilizing the federal STEM workforce over the last four years.” The staff report, “Scientific Brain Drain: Quantifying the Decline of the Federal Scientific Workforce,” evaluates how STEM civil service employment has expanded or contracted over the past decade at several federal agencies, including EPA. According to the Committee’s press release, the report finds significant declines in the STEM workforce at EPA, particularly within the Office of Research and Development, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as that racial and ethnic employment gaps are significant in STEM fields compared to the total federal workforce. The press release states that “[t]hese trends suggest the United States may need to recommit to promoting U.S. competitiveness in science and innovation, especially as China redoubles its investments in advanced technology and commitment to a pipeline of highly educated STEM workers.”