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THE GLOBAL AGENDA FOR AMERICAN ENGINEERING: Proceedings of a Symposium
very descriptive name indeed. This relationship soon proved advantageous to the NAS, since the NAE became a partner in National Research Council (NRC) activities and brought needed engineering talent—particularly from industry—to the issues being faced by the Academy complex in the international arena. This was often evident to those of us who were trying to put together effective and powerful NRC committees, which were badly in need of engineering expertise to address certain international issues.
By the early 1970s, the newly formed NAE committees already were beginning to touch on international affairs. An example of this work was the report of the NAE Committee on Telecommunications, Telecommunications Research in the United States and Selected ForeignCountries (1973). This was one of the last reports before the rapprochement between the NAS and NAE brought all NAE committees into the Assembly of Engineering and later into the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, which became a major part of the reorganized NRC. From then on, the NAE could only conduct studies using NAE members, except when there was an obvious need to make an exception. The NAE foreign secretary became one of three members of the operating body of the NRC Office of International Affairs. The other two were the NAS foreign secretary, who served as chairman, and the president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) acting as IOM foreign secretary. Bruce Old established excellent working relationships with the NAS and the IOM in the NRC.
By 1970, the United States had become a net importer of petroleum. This dependency on outside oil had an increasingly negative impact on our economy and made us vulnerable to the whims of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Some NAE members, led by Ken Davis, began to express to NAE President Robert Seamans a strong interest in having the NAE look at this issue. In October 1973, Bob put together an NAE group to study the engineering aspects of the problem. When the oil embargo hit, NAE was ready, issuing its report, U.S. Energy Prospects: An Engineering Viewpoint (1974). In the avalanche of studies on energy triggered by the oil embargo, this report represented a high point for its balanced approach. The document compared all sources of energy, foreign and domestic, including some not-so-well-known ones like solar and synthetic fuels, and it even treated energy conservation as an important component of any solution. One of the report’s most important features was its timeliness. Another was the committee members’ broad knowledge about international energy issues. When President Nixon directed me, acting as his science advisor, to establish and chair an advisory committee on energy research and development, I was well acquainted with the NAE and its energy study and used a substantial number of those NAE members as the nucleus of the new White House panel. Furthermore, when I was asked to prepare a list of candidates to head the newly formed Energy Research and Development Agency, I had a ready-made list at hand. NAE lost Bob Seamans as president but gained Court Perkins.