White House nominates Arati Prabhakar for OSTP director role

If confirmed, she would be the first woman, immigrant and person of color confirmed to the position.
The White House
(Getty Images)

President Biden intends to nominate the former director of two federal research and development agencies to serve as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, increasing the science and technology agenda’s emphasis on innovation, the White House announced Tuesday.

Arati Prabhakar would be the first woman, immigrant and person of color confirmed by the Senate to lead OSTP, after serving as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2012 to 2017 and being unanimously confirmed director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology at 34 in 1993.

Prabhakar would replace Acting Director Alondra Nelson, who filled the vacancy left by Eric Lander when he resigned over disrespecting and demeaning staff — and women, in particular, according to multiple staffers’ accounts.

“Dr. Prabhakar is a brilliant and highly-respected engineer and applied physicist and will lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy to leverage science, technology and innovation to expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges and make the impossible possible,” Biden said in the announcement. “I share Dr. Prabhakar’s belief that America has the most powerful innovation machine the world has ever seen.”


Prabhakar would further serve as assistant to the president and chief advisor for science and technology, co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and a Cabinet member — the third Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander to achieve the latter.

At DARPA, Prabhakar oversaw the team enabling interoperability of complex military systems, established an office for spurring new biotechnologies and started development of a platform that helped make COVID-19 vaccines. At NIST she matured the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, boosting competitiveness of small and midsize manufacturers, and the Advanced Technology Program for emerging technology development.

Prabhakar has also worked with startups and large companies in 15 years in Silicon Valley, where she founded nonprofit Actuate in 2019 to discover diverse talent developing solutions to pressing climate, health and IT challenges.

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