The hearing will provide an opportunity to address general NOAA oversight issues facing the agency during the remaining session of the 110th Congress, as well as the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget request. Additionally, this hearing will gather testimony from witnesses regarding current issues facing the National Marine Sanctuaries Program.
Specifically, the testimony will focus on legislation that was introduced earlier this Congress, which seeks to expand three existing National Marine Sanctuaries including the Thunder Bay Sanctuary in Michigan, and the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuaries in California. These bills were introduced by Senators Levin and Boxer respectively.
Maria CantwellSenatorI’d like to welcome you all to today’s oversight hearing of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], its Fiscal Year 2009 budget, and issues facing the National Marine Sanctuaries program.Thank you, Admiral Lautenbacher, for being here today.I would like to start out today with an important note of congratulations.NOAA scientists are among the hundreds of researchers across the globe who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).Last year, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and I was delighted to see that many of NOAA’s scientists shared in this prestigious honor.I have here a list of the NOAA scientists who contributed to this effort, and will be including it in the record.I congratulate those individuals, and all those in NOAA who work so hard on this vital topic.Budget OverviewI’m happy to see that for the first time, the President’s budget request for NOAA actually exceeds last year’s Congressional appropriation.I am concerned, though, that when we look deeper into the numbers, this budget is not the victory we would like it to be.NOAA’s Fiscal Year budget request for 2009 of $4.1 billion is 5 percent above Fiscal Year 2008 enacted levels of $3.9 billion.Almost this entire increase, though, goes toward funding the cost overruns in the troubled weather and climate satellite acquisition program.Unfortunately, this means that while NOAA’s top-line budget request is larger, the President is still proposing cuts for our nation’s ocean programs.Troubled Satellites ProgramAdmiral, as you know, there has been a lot of attention of late to the troubles with NOAA’s satellite acquisition program.Our aging fleet of satellites monitors weather, hurricanes, the climate, and the oceans, and desperately needs to be replaced.But the failures of this acquisition are impossible to ignore.While cost overruns have driven the price of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System from $6.5 billion to $12.5 billion, the lead contractor was awarded $123 million dollars in “award fees.”This is inexcusable.U.S. CensusI am also concerned about recent revelations over the 2010 Census.The Census Bureau’s handheld census computer acquisition has failed miserably. More than doubling in price, the computers are riddled with so many problems they will not be ready for use during the 2010 census.To help pay for these troubles, Secretary Gutierrez has asked Congress to transfer $27 million from NOAA to the Census Bureau during this fiscal year. He has also indicated he will need to move up to $700 million from NOAA and other agencies in Fiscal Year 2009 to make up for the Census shortfall.As these failures threaten to decimate NOAA’s budget, it is once again the oceans that will be asked to suffer.Cuts to Ocean ProgramsBecause of the financial demands of the satellite acquisition program and the Census Bureau, we are seeing cuts proposed for many of your most important agencies.The National Ocean Service, the office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Marine Fisheries Service all see their budgets slashed.Despite the demands Congress laid out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, and despite ocean acidification and the role the oceans play in global warming, the Administration still feels the need to weaken our ocean programs – in a time when attention to the oceans is needed now more than ever.In Washington, the Puget Sound Partnership is embarking on a mission to save the Puget Sound’s ecosystem – everything from salmon to orca whales. But the Puget Sound Partnership’s efforts cannot succeed without strong federal support – and this budget lacks support for either the orcas or the Puget Sound.Salmon Recovery FundIf you recall, last year I told you how disappointed I was to see the President request only $67 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund – a program that averaged $87 million in funding per year from 2000 to 2005.I’m sure you can guess, then, that I and many of my colleagues are even more upset at this year’s request of only $35 million – representing a 60 percent cut over the historically-funded level.This funding goes to those on the front lines of salmon recovery – the states and Tribes that do the hard, on-the-ground work to protect our salmon.In just the past week we have seen;
In such a critical time for salmon recovery, the Bush Administration’s proposed cuts to our salmon recovery funding are unacceptable.I was also disappointed to see funding for NOAA’s Education Program take a 51 percent cut from 2006 levels, from $34 million to $16.5 million.I look forward to working with you and my colleagues to restore funding to these critical programs.Doppler Radar GapFinally, Admiral, I would like to briefly discuss the Doppler radar gap on the outer coast of Washington state.I have discussed this issue with you before, and last year I secured funding for a NOAA study on how best to address this gap.I want to emphasize, though, that Washington state communities were devastated by massive storms and flooding last December.The urgency for solving this problem is greater now than ever before.Two months ago today, I held a community meeting on this issue in Grays Harbor, Washington, and the message from my constituents was clear: we need a solution now.I look forward to working with you to find that solution quickly, and implementing it as soon as possible.ConclusionSo thank you again, Admiral for your testimony and for appearing here today to discuss NOAA’s budget.At this time I would like to hand it over to my colleagues for their opening remarks.
- the emergency shut-down of West Coast Salmon Fisheries and the declaration of a fisheries disaster,
- the release of new Biological Opinions for Northwest listed Salmon, and
- the further escalation of the controversy over sea lions and salmon at the Bonneville Dam.
I know that you realize our state has half the coast line of the United States and really NOAA is one of our most important agencies. I’m delighted to see that this ’09 budget request is the largest one I’ve ever seen. I’m disturbed that the fisheries have been reduced and I hope you can find a way to sort of readjust that as we go along. Very clearly it’s $46 million less for marine fisheries, which the Chairman has mentioned. We have, I think, a growing problem in our state, as you know, in terms of the IUU fisheries and they’re outside the 200 mile limit. They’re coming across our line. We’re trying our best to work out, along with the various agencies some form of monitoring at the maritime border, which is really, beyond our 200 mile limit, but at least it would give us some understanding who is out there in terms of these new anonymous vessels. We do not overfish any species. There’s no endangered or threatened species that we harvest off of Alaska and we’re very proud of our fisheries. We’re very disturbed about the continued increase in the IUU fishery capability and really more disturbed than anything over the fact that we don’t know what they’re doing. So, I would urge you to concentrate on that to find some way to get us the knowledge of what species these vessels are harvesting and where they are taking that catch and if there’s any way at all for us to determine what they’re catching because I think if we don’t find some way to regulate them, they could destroy everything we’ve done and everything the world has done. By following our example and having a 200 mile limit within which you could have scientific management. Ours, I think, is the best in the world and we like to work with you to continue that.
The Honorable Carl LevinUnited States SenatorMichigan
Witness Panel 1
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.)Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and AtmosphereAdministrator, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Jefferson GraySuperintendentThunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Dr. Susan WilliamsDirector, Bodega Bay Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California - Davis
Ms. Kathy FosmarkCo-ChairAlliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries