As a nuclear physicist, "spin control" was the sort of phenomenon that D. Allan Bromley explored in papers like "Enhanced E1 Deexcitations in Ra-128 and the Evolution of Reflection Symmetry at Moderate Spins."

As Bush's White House science adviser, Bromley's science of spin control is less Einsteinian than Darmanesque. In fact, Bromley -- a feisty, bow-tied Yale University professor -- is probably as gifted putting clever twists and spins on administration policy initiatives as he ever was shooting ions down linear accelerators. He persuasively pushed for increased federal funding of scientific research; science was one of the few big winners in the Bush budget.

But, more intriguingly, he's also used his position as the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to call for government intervention in what he calls "critical technologies" to boost U.S. competitiveness in global markets.

Practically speaking, Bromley is now the highest-ranking administration official advocating both national -- and nationalistic -- policies to enhance America's technology leadership. He may be the science adviser to the president, but he is intensely involved in blending public-sector science with private-sector participation. Indeed, he argues that the best way to serve the president's interests is to create new dimensions of public-private relationships.

"Competitiveness and national security aren't separated anymore," says Bromley, asserting that the success of America's high-tech weaponry in the Persian Gulf has prompted a positive "sea change in attitude" toward technology. "The two are intertwined and have to be treated that way."

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like "industrial policy" -- the anti-free-market concept that the John H. Sununus and Richard G. Darmans have sworn to expunge from the administration lexicon? Absolutely not, Bromley insists, it's really "pre-competitive generic technologies" like high-performance computer networks and new materials.

Excuse me, pre-competitive generic technologies? While Bromley doesn't quite wink when he describes such industrial pol -- excuse me, generic technologies -- you would swear there's a twinkle in his eye. Just slip a controversial industrial policy initiative like, say, high-definition television, into the Bromley Spin Vortex and it's deconstructed into tidy, fundable bundles of generic technology.

"I think the HDTV initiative {which was ultimately torpedoed by the White House} was presented in a completely wrong fashion," says Bromley. "It should have been presented as a package of generic technologies: high resolution imaging systems, application specific integrated circuits {i.e., custom computer chips} and frontier software ... technologies that have broad applications throughout the economy. Instead, this was presented as a television problem."

As Bromley freely acknowledges, "there's a gray area" where some technologies are less generic than others. Then again, that doesn't seem to be as important as prodding people into building new technological infrastructures that can have a national impact.

Bromley is consequently a huge supporter of "high-performance computer networks" -- a system that would do for high-speed, graphics-rich computer communication tomorrow what the telephone does for voice communications today. "Ten years from now," says Bromley, "I'd like it to be widely available and looked upon like the telephone network."

This new communications infrastructure -- which has also been championed by Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.), among others -- would offer a vast array of new opportunities for American businesses to share information with each other, thus making them more competitive, Bromley hopes.

He feels so strongly about this that insiders indicate he will ask the Justice Department to seek an antitrust waiver for the giant regional phone companies to let them participate in building these new networks. "It's extremely important to take advantage of all the expertise we have," says Bromley.

But given Japan's dominance in computer chips and other telecommunications components, wouldn't this new American network have to be assembled from foreign parts?

"I don't think so," asserts Bromley. "We still have the leadership in hardware and software." In fact, he wants this network to be an American effort using American companies.

Bromley takes much the same perspective in his efforts to open up the national labs to better collaborate with American business. "We support the national labs, but too often they're doing things just to satisfy their own curiosity," he remarks. "We need to get people from industry much more involved in decisions that are now entirely internal. We want industrial collaborators to be present at the creation of new ideas and directions."

So should a Sony Corp., a Hitachi Ltd. or a Siemens AG be able to participate in the newly formed Lawrence Livermore industrial council? "I would probably say no," Bromley says. "The element of time is why ... a six-month advantage can be critical."

Make no mistake, Allan Bromley may not have a huge budget, but he has a lot of influence and an agenda to go with it. Bromley is "wonderful, profane, vigorous and blunt," says Bruce Smith, a senior science policy scholar at the Brookings Institution who has known him for over 15 years. "But he's also a shrewd and cautious guy."

While Bromley is not an administration heavyweight like Sununu or Darman, he picks his battles carefully and is widely regarded as a credible team player. He has also enjoyed some success at mobilizing resources throughout the Office of Management and Budget and other executive departments.

By any fair measure, the Bush administration and Bromley have treated science and technology seriously in both policy and budget circles. What's not yet clear is just how far the administration is prepared to go. Without question, Bromley's efforts at semantic engineering have gone over well thus far. Will they continue to succeed when some of these initiatives harden into reality?

Can Bromley's brand of techno-nationalism survive and flourish in the Bush White House? To the extent that free-market ideologues dominate the White House, Bromley is playing a dangerous game. To the extent that George Bush believes government has to play an increasing role -- however ill-defined -- in sharpening America's technical edge, Allan Bromley is now the point man. We'll know by the end of the year. Michael Schrage is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.