"As your final speaker, I imagine that what you're hoping
for from me is a brief and upbeat speech. Well, I will try to be brief.
Upbeat will be a little harder, although there are certainly positive
aspects to point to when reviewing science policy in general and ocean
policy in particular. But the most glaring and crucial fact all of
us in this arena have to face right now is how tight the funding situation
"As I have pointed out repeatedly, this is not because
the Administration is anti-science' in any way. Quite the contrary.
Science makes out better than just about any non-defense aspect of
the domestic discretionary budget in the fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget
proposal. But when the overall budget is so tight, that doesn't allow
for anything close to ideal funding for science. We're going to have
to see if we can improve the outlook as the budget process proceeds
over the next six months or so.
"We - that is the advocates for science funding - do
start the process with some advantages. First, if I may generalize,
Congress as a whole, like the Administration, wants to do well by
science. Congress understands the value of science and sees it has
a worthy recipient of federal funding. But people like you are going
to have to build on that goodwill if it's to produce tangible results.
"Second, Congress has restructured itself with an eye
toward being more favorable to science. The creation of the new House
Science, State, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and its roughly
parallel Senate counterpart is an effort to give more prominence and
greater funding to science. We will all have to work closely with
Chairman [Frank] Wolf and Chairman [Richard] Shelby to ensure that
that comes to fruition. But the reorganization is a hopeful sign.
"A third advantage is that there is growing interest
in oceans issues. . . ."
"We're going to need to keep reminding ourselves of
this good news - and keep figuring out ways to capitalize on it -
because we've got a lot of work ahead of us. What work? Well, for
starters, we need to increase funding for the National Science Foundation.
The President has proposed a 2.4 percent increase - healthy sounding
in this budget climate - but because of cuts Congress made last year,
that increase won't even put NSF back to its FY04 level. And the increase
is less than it appears because it includes a transfer of funding
from the Coast Guard to fund icebreaking activities around Antarctica
that already occur. I should say that we're still trying to figure
out what to do about this proposed transfer. Our goal is to make sure
that NSF has the funding and the ice-breaking capacity it needs over
the long haul -- no mean trick given that the Coast Guard's two existing
ice breakers are near the end of their useful lives. We have a lot
more work to do before we figure out how to get NSF what it needs,
and whether the Coast Guard transfer fits in with that.
"I won't dwell on it here, but I'm also very concerned
about the 12 percent cut in the NSF education budget, which I think
sends us down the wrong path of relying exclusively on the Department
"Another troubling aspect of the NSF budget is the lack
of new starts for major Research Equipment, meaning a delay in the
ocean observatories initiative, among others. On the one hand, given
the overall proposed budget for NSF, delaying new starts is probably
the only sensible thing to do. But it does raise questions about how
major new projects can be funded if we remain in a prolonged period
"We also have our work cut out for us on the NOAA budget.
. . . "
"The other agency of interest to all of you that we'll
need to concentrate on is NASA. The Committee will approve a NASA
Authorization Bill this year, and I hope we can move it through the
House by summer. One of my main concerns, as many of you may know,
is ensuring that the full range of science, including Earth Science,
remains a priority at NASA even as we move ahead to return to the
moon by 2020. There simply is no planet more important to human beings
than our own, and we're remarkably ignorant about it. NASA's Earth
Science mission is essential. I'm especially concerned about NASA's
recent cancellation of the Glory mission, which was to study aerosols
in the atmosphere. We're working to see if that decision can be reversed.
"I think we also need to take a look at how NASA and
NOAA work together to make sure we are getting the most from their
cooperation. Both agencies have essential Earth Science missions and
they rely on each other. The Oceans Commission recommended taking
a look at when particular projects make the transition from one agency
to the other, and we need to do that.
"I've also urged the White House to take a broad look
at how to make sure we get the most from our satellite investments.
This came to a head last year when NASA was ready to shut off TRMM
(Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) when it was still providing
useful data on hurricanes, among other things. We were successful
in keeping the satellite going for now, but we need to figure out
what to do with satellites that start as short-term experiments but
end up providing useful operational data. Speaking of satellites,
this year we will also take a look at the Administration's planned
GEOSS (Global Earth Observing System of Systems) program. This important
international effort looks extremely promising, but we still need
more details. Happily, the initiative is getting broad attention.
The Energy and Commerce Committee, which doesn't usually follow such
programs, is holding a hearing today on GEOSS, apparently to showcase
it as an appropriate cooperative way for the government to do business.
"Several of the programs I've mentioned, maybe just
about all of them, contribute to climate change research. The Science
Committee intends to review the Administration's climate science and
technology plans and programs very closely over the next two years.
I also hope we can undertake an effort to educate our Members about
climate change. For too many Members, climate change is simply an
ideological issue, and discussing it in the House had become practically
taboo. That's just not right; scientists, other countries, and even
individual states have come to the conclusion that we have a real
problem on our hands - one with uncertainties, to be sure - but a
real problem. We need an open and engaged discussion of climate change
in which Members hear from scientists."