A perspective on Capitol Hill



As the AGU Congressional Science Fellow for 1980–1981, I had a unique opportunity to witness the federal engine in action—a remarkable piece of machinery. The American Association for the Advancement of Science organized an excellent orientation program, introducing our class of science fellows (about 30) to the kinds of options available for a year's tenure on Capitol Hill. These include affiliation with a congressman's or senator's staff or with one of the hundred or so standing, select, or joint committees and subcommittees. I arranged to join the personal staff of Congressman Jim Santini (D, Nev.), largely because of his demonstrated interest in Department of Interior affairs in general and the minerals industry in particular. The position of fellow provides no guarantee of work in one's areas of expertise or inclination, however, and I found that my staff assignments included topics ranging from wild horses to peanut subsidies. My principal task involved evaluation of the Air Force proposal to deploy the MX missile in Nevada and the consequent impact of that incredible scheme on the physical and economic environments of the state and the nation, including effects on minerals exploration. I had not expected to become conversant with missile technology, but the exercise provided quite an education.