The Senate on Thursday confirmed Dr. Arati Prabhakar’s nomination as the next director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in a 56-40 vote, making her the first woman and person of color to serve in the position.

Republican Senators Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. all voted yes. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., voted no to Prabhakar’s nomination.

President Biden nominated Prabhakar back in June. In his announcement of her nomination, the president said, “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.”

“I share Dr. Prabhakar’s belief that America has the most powerful innovation machine the world has ever seen,” President Biden said.

In her role as OSTP director, Prabhakar will also serve as Biden’s chief advisor for science and technology and as a co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Prabhakar will also serve on the president’s Cabinet.

“The historic bipartisan confirmation of Dr. Arati Prabhakar is a testament to her sterling track record of leadership and innovation stewardship, as well as her extensive expertise in science and technology policy,” Dr. Alondra Nelson, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director for science and society and current acting OSTP director, said in a statement following the Senate’s confirmation vote. “We are thrilled to welcome her to OSTP and begin a bright new chapter.”

Prabhakar previously served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2012 to 2017. Prior to that, she served as the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 1993 to 1997, where she was the first woman to serve as NIST director and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to lead that agency.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.