Senators See Disconnect Between Dollars And Deliverables Of NOAA’s Priorities

2018-07-30T15:03:45+00:00 July 30, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing titled, “NOAA’s Blue Economy Initiative: Supporting Commerce in American Oceans and Great Lakes.”

Why It Matters

Sectors of the economy that involve the ocean and Great Lakes, including recreation, ecotourism, transportation, fisheries, and natural resources make up the blue economy and are ripe for growth. Ensuring the health and sustainability of the ocean and Great Lakes is essential for this expansion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plays a critical role in reviewing permits, enforcing regulations, funding research, collecting science, and analyzing data that make the blue economy possible.

Key Points

There was bipartisan agreement that understanding our ocean, safeguarding fisheries, mapping coastlines, monitoring climate, and forecasting weather is expensive but important to our nation.

NOAA supports the blue economy as the federal agency responsible for managing, conserving, and sustaining the use of our ocean and coastal resources through research, observations, and environmental forecasts. Committee members grilled Rear Adm. (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet (Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA) on the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request and tried to understand how his team could accomplish their goals on such reduced funding. The president’s budget request is a suggestion to Congress, but appropriators determine actual funding levels. This year, the Senate and House bills rejected many of the cuts to NOAA in the president’s proposal.

Gallaudet repeatedly supported the proposed cuts and adjustments to NOAA’s budget, insisting that all of their work would still be accomplished by reducing internal redundancies, being more efficient, and utilizing new technologies (e.g. unmanned systems for stock assessments and mapping).

Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK) emphasized the tremendous role fisheries play in Alaska’s economy and the U.S. seafood market. He underscored that science and data are critical to effective fish stock assessments and fisheries management and disagreed with the administration’s proposed $17 million cut to NOAA’s fisheries science and management programs. The senator described the Arctic as “woefully undercharted” and explained that poor navigational charts pose threats to those working in the blue economy.

Democrats delivered a line of questioning on increased seafood fraud, highlighting NOAA’s limited capacity for law enforcement. Other questions focused on decreased support for climate science and national marine sanctuaries.

Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (FL) and Senator Brian Schatz (HI) wanted more details on the agency’s efforts to promote resilient coastal infrastructure and examples of how climate change is threatening national security. Gallaudet described flooding at coastal military bases due to sea level rise and assured the committee NOAA would continue with climate research, especially at the National Weather Service. He countered the suggestion of decreased effort on climate change research by noting the Navy and other federal agencies are engaged in this work, too. Ranking Member Nelson responded, “I think you’ve answered why it ought to be all hands on deck, not just the military and NASA, but the very agency that is tasked with studying the climate and that’s your agency, NOAA.”

Quotable

“Given the importance of our ocean to the overall economy in the United States, it only makes sense that we as a nation coordinate our use of ocean and coastal areas in an efficient manner.”– Subcommittee Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK)

The economic viability of the blue economy hangs in the balance; pollution, invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and climate change are bad for business.” – Subcommittee Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (WI)

“We are committed to our climate support, research, and advancement through the sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting capabilities, or element of it, called out in the Weather Act.” – Rear Adm. (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet (Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA)

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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