A GOOD IDEA got mugged on the floor of the Senate just before the congressional recess, and it will be up to the House-senate aid conference to put the victim back on its feet.The idea was to set up a small shop to focuse on the special scientific and technological need of developing countries. The proposed Institute for Scientific and Technological Cooperation [alas, Istc] would not merely funnel American technology, developed for American purposes, into foreign lands. It would help develop technology appropriate for the parrticular needs of foreign countries. The new institution would have cost only $25 million. To its sponsors, who included the leading science and development figures in the Congress, it was the very modesty of the idea that made ot so attractive. For legislators determined to stop "throwing money at problems," the proposal seemed ready-made.
The sponsors had not figured on Sen. Dennis DeConcini [Di-Ariz.], who prepared his case effectively and won a 58-to-42 vote killing the measure on the Senate floor, though only he and Sen. Robert Dolw [rKan.] spole against it. Invoking "rampant inflation" and the suspicion in which the federal bureaucracy and especially the aid bureaucracy is widely held, Mr. DeConcini said the case had not been made for creating a new organization to perform the functions of ISTC. Mr. Dole suggested that the financial practices of the United Nations, as criticized in a recent series of Post articles, somehow disqualified the developing cuntries from the benefits, if there might be any, of ISTC. Sen. Jacob Javits [R-N:Y.] replied that the proposal, by its emphasis on supplying American savvy rather than simply ladling out money, was precisely where the American aid program outht to go, but this eminently sensible view was overwhelmed.
The ISTC idea strikes a lot of thoughtful people as awfully promising, but one of them would contend that its loss would put the republic in great peril. Perhaps that is the point. New development proposals, especially cheap ones, should not have to be gee-whiz, super-duper crisis-solvers to win congressional approval. There should be room for less ambitious proposals. The political difficulites of this one do not so much reflect a judgment of its merits as a comment on the climate in which the United States must conduct its relations with a whole range of countries increasingly important to its well-being.