During 13 years as director of the Office of Technology Assessment, the job of John H. Gibbons--President Bill Clinton's choice as White House science adviser--was largely a balancing act. He had to provide Congress with independent, authoritative analysis of technical and scientific questions while treading gingerly amid divergent political views, bureaucratic turf battles, and special-interest "stakeholders."

Washington observers familiar with OTA's track record give Gibbons high marks for leading the agency through potential minefields--including nuclear power and other environmentally sensitive energy issues, Star Wars missile defense research, genetic engineering, electronic surveillance, and health care policy. In the face of controversy, OTA's role has been not to take sides, but instead to prepare comprehensive, dispassionate assessments of the available data, and then offer a balanced selection of possible policy options.

Characteristically, Gibbons's initial public remarks after being appointed by Clinton have also been carefully balanced.

"Our security and prosperity depend, as...

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