As reported in FYI
#90, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy has released a preliminary
version of what its Chairman, Admiral James Watkins, referred to as
"a blueprint for a coordinated, comprehensive national ocean policy
for the 21st century." The commission views improved funding, coordination,
and infrastructure for ocean and coastal science as a vital aspect of
the policy. Four chapters of the commission's report are devoted to
"Science-based Decisions: Advancing Our Understanding of the Oceans."
Highlights of the four science chapters and a summary of the related
Chapter 25: Creating a National Strategy for Increasing Scientific
The commission's report finds that "the United States does not
have a national strategy for ocean and coastal research, exploration,
and marine operations that can integrate ongoing efforts, promote synergies
among federal, state, and local governments, academia, and the private
sector, translate scientific and technological advances into operational
applications, and establish national goals and objectives for addressing
In addition to a doubling of federal funding for ocean and coastal
research over the next five years (to $1.3 billion annually), the commission
recommends: developing a long-term national ocean research strategy
and budgets; creating a program to study the economic and social science
dimensions of ocean policy; making NOAA and NSF the lead agencies of
an expanded national ocean exploration program; and creating standardized,
easily accessible maps of ocean and coastal features.
Chapter 26: Achieving a Sustained, Integrated Ocean Observing System
According to the report, "the implementation of a sustained national
Integrated Ocean Observation System (IOOS) is overdue and should begin
immediately." Such a system would be "a complex amalgam of
many different land-, water-, air- and space-based facilities and technologies."
The commission's recommendations include: congressional authorization
of an "Ocean.US" federal interagency office within NOAA to
seek input, develop plans, and establish a core set of variables for
an IOOS, which would also be operated and funded as part of NOAA. The
IOOS should be coordinated into a national Earth observing system, and
should cooperate with international ocean observation activities. Additionally,
the commission says that NASA, while still responsible for the engineering
and development of space-based Earth observation satellites, should
transfer satellites to NOAA for operational control.
Chapter 27: Enhancing Ocean Infrastructure and Technology Development
The commission believes that "a unified national strategy can
help achieve and maintain an appropriate mix of federally supported,
modern ocean facilities that meet the nation's needs for quality resource
management, science, and assessment."
The commission recommends: development of a national ocean and coastal
infrastructure and technology strategy, with assessments every five
years; creation of a modernization fund for critical ocean infrastructure
and technology needs; and establishment by NOAA of national virtual
marine technology centers and an Office of Technology "to expedite
the transition of experimental technologies into operational applications."
Chapter 28: Modernizing Ocean Data and Information Systems
"There are two major challenges facing data managers today,"
the report says: "the exponentially growing volume of data...and
the need for timely accessibility of these data to the user community
in a variety of useful formats."
The commission recommends the following: a federal interagency planning
organization ("Ocean.IT") should take the lead in ocean and
coastal data and information management; NOAA and the Navy should establish
a joint program to generate information products relevant to national,
regional and local needs; a federally-supported system should be implemented
for accessing ocean and coastal data and federally-funded investigators
should be required to submit data in a timely manner; the Navy should
periodically declassify appropriate oceanographic data for civilian
scientific use; and an interagency task force should plan for modernizing
the national environmental data system.
The committee's preliminary report, issued in April, is available at
It runs nearly 400 pages plus appendices. No date has yet been announced
for release of the final report.