After returning from August recess, Congress spent much of the month working out the details of a continuing resolution (CR), which will keep government spending at Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations levels through December 11. The CR will allow for funding flexibility to keep NOAA’s program launches for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R) on schedule. Congress will return to Washington after the mid-term elections on November 12.
In September, the House passed H.R.5309, the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act, and H.R.2495, the American Super Computing Leadership Act of 2014. H.R. 5309 reauthorizes a NOAA program supporting tsunami monitoring and research, and modifies the program to incorporate research on tsunami mitigation and improvement of near-field tsunami detection. H.R. 2495 seeks to improve high-end computing research and requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and coordinate high-end computing systems. The bill also requires establishment of partnerships (through competitive merit review of two or more DOE National Laboratory-industry-university) to conduct integrated research, development, and engineering of multiple exascale architectures. Developments in supercomputing technology have advanced modeling capabilities, including improved weather forecasting.
House committees passed two bills in September with ocean and coastal research impacts. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to reauthorize the National Estuary Program (NEP) (H.R. 5266), which included a requirement that 15 percent of NEP funding apply to competitive grants programs. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific approved H.Res. 714, calling for peaceful and collaborative resolution of jurisdictional disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Freedom of navigation is essential for research programs in the area.
House and Senate committees also approved several fisheries bills in September. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved three bills that would implement international fisheries agreements (S. 2482, S. 2484, and S. 2485), while the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2013 (H.R. 69), to improve the enforcement of IUU fishing.
Ocean Leadership joined other science organizations in expressing support for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014, which was introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller [D-WV]. COMPETES would reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through FY 2019.
In mid-September, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of Vice Admiral (ret.) Manson K. Brown to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction. At the end of the month, NOAA announced that Dr. Stephen Volz would succeed Mary E. Kicza as the new Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS). Volz comes to NOAA after serving as the Associate Director for Flight Programs in NASA’s Earth Science Division. His new responsibilities will include overseeing JPSS and GOES-R.
In mid-September, the Senate and House held several hearings on topics including climate change, the Chesapeake Bay, endangered species, and management transparency in the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). During the hearing, “The Administration’s Climate Plan: Failure by Design,” several members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology questioned the scientific basis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to address multiple bills regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and members of the committee called for increased state and local influence on species management. The committee also held a hearing to discuss concerns about issues with transparency in the FWS. The Water & Wildlife Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works held a field hearing to address strategies for achieving the goals of the New Voluntary Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Peyton Robertson, Director of NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, stated that NOAA’s role in the agreement will include continued support for fisheries science research, as well as research on the impacts of shoreline development on coastal ecosystems.
At the end of the month, the Marine Mammal Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service held a briefing to address research tools for monitoring the impacts of ocean noise on marine mammals, as well as strategies for reducing these impacts.