WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee hearing on The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's FY 2011 Budget Request and Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operations.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Putting science to work for America is at the heart of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mission—from forecasting weather and monitoring the climate to supporting safe navigation for trade and maintaining our fisheries.
Powerful investments in atmospheric and ocean science, education, and technology are enormously important to keeping this country competitive. They grow new industries, spark innovation, and provide products that support our economy.
The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request for NOAA is $5.55 billion, a 17 percent increase over the FY 2010 budget. At first glance, it seems this would be reason to celebrate. But this number does not tell the whole story.
NOAA is dedicating more than 80 percent of the proposed increase to fix the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) while providing only a three percent increase for the rest of the agency. NPOESS is a national priority and it is vital that we fix it. But, that effort cannot continue to come at the expense of the rest of NOAA’s science and management programs. NOAA is one of the nation’s premiere science agencies and we must put it on track to double its budget.
The Committee will carefully review the Administration’s efforts to restructure NPOESS. Failure is not an option: our nation is relying on this system to improve weather and climate forecasting, reduce the loss of life and property, and improve disaster preparedness while also providing data and information for weather and climate sensitive industries such as aviation, agriculture, and the maritime sector.
A third of our nation’s GDP relies in part on weather and climate information. Accurate forecasts and warnings are vital to both the public and private sectors.
In February, NOAA proposed establishing a Climate Service to integrate the agency’s climate science, data, information and services. The Service’s mission would be to provide a single, reliable and authoritative source for climate data, information, and other tools to individuals, businesses, communities and governments. It’s about keeping our economy competitive.
Look at the energy industry, for example. Every power plant, from clean coal to natural gas to solar, needs long-term climate information to determine how much energy it will need to heat and cool its customers’ homes. For every dollar we invest in climate services, our energy companies can save up to $495 in efficiencies and good planning. That’s an incredibly healthy return on a very small investment.
The Committee has long supported a NOAA Climate Service and I look forward to working with NOAA and the Department of Commerce as they bring their proposal before the Committee.
This work is a foundation we are building for our future. We need this information as a nation to protect public health by predicting the spread of infectious diseases; to anticipate droughts and reduce their economic and environmental impact; and to adjust our building codes to withstand increased storm intensity and flooding.
Dr. Lubchenco, thank you for your testimony before the Committee. I look forward to continuing our work to strengthen NOAA and to build the Blue Economy.
Senator Maria CantwellChairwomanU.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
Good morning, Dr. Lubchenco. Welcome and thank you for joining us.
Before we start this morning, I want to commend NOAA’s employees for their work this past weekend to monitor the tsunami in the Pacific Ocean.
On Saturday, we woke to learn about the devastating 8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile. Our thoughts are with the people of Chile as they work to recover from this terrible event.
We also learned that morning that the earthquake generated a tsunami. I’m sure all of our thoughts went to Christmas day five years ago when hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives due to the Indian Ocean tsunami.
We were lucky this time because the tsunami waves were minimal, but more importantly, we were prepared thanks to the Pacific tsunami warning system that NOAA operates. Coastal areas were evacuated and people were moved out of harm’s way.
This is a clear example of the vital services that NOAA provides to the nation.
This morning’s hearing is divided into two parts. On the first panel, we will hear from Dr. Lubchenco on the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the second panel, Mr. Todd Zinser, the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce, will join Dr. Lubchenco to discuss his recent report on NOAA’s Fisheries Enforcement Program and Operations.
NOAA FY2011 BUDGET REQUEST
Our oceans provide many things in our daily lives: from the air we breathe to the food we eat. Ocean and coastal economies provide over 50 million jobs for Americans and contribute nearly 60 percent of our GDP.
What many people don’t realize is our oceans and coasts are in peril. Climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise, pollution, and overfishing threaten the health of our oceans and coastal communities, and with them, our economy.
The FY2011 budget request for NOAA, while a step in the right direction, falls far short of the funding necessary.
For example, NOAA has rebuilt 12 commercial fisheries stocks since 2001; however, 46 stocks are overfished and 38 are subject to overfishing. Improved data collection and stock assessments continue to be sorely needed for effective management.
Yet the budget request cuts funding for fisheries research and management programs as a whole, and proposes nearly level funding for expanded annual stock assessments and improved data collection.
Oceans play an essential role in regulating the climate and levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the oceans have absorbed about one third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities. Over 25 million tons of CO2 is dissolved into seawater every day.
But, the oceans do not escape unscathed. We are slowly acidifying the water.
The effects of ocean acidification are still poorly understood. More research and monitoring is necessary, especially work adaptation strategies for industries and ecosystems. Yet NOAA’s budget only provides $11.6 million for this crucial mission.
Most of the $806 million increase that the Administration is proposing for NOAA is dedicated to restructuring the acquisition of our nation’s polar-orbiting climate and weather satellites.
If we do not include the increased funding for satellites then NOAA overall budget grew by barely 2.6 percent.
Polar-orbiting satellites are vital to the nation and we need to make sure the system is operational. However, we can no longer continue to fund satellites at the expense of other NOAA programs and services.
MARINE OPERATIONS CENTER-PACIFIC
Finally, I want to address an issue of particular interest to Washington state: NOAA’s proposed relocation of its Marine Operations Center-Pacific, also known as ‘MOC-P’.
What I am hearing from my constituents on this issue is clear: they do not understand or trust NOAA’s decision. And neither do I.
As you know, on December 2nd of last year GAO upheld a protest challenging NOAA’s decision after GAO found that the award of the MOC-P lease to Newport, Oregon violated the lease competition’s Solicitation for Offers.
GAO’s conclusions prompted me to request additional information from both the Department of Commerce and NOAA.
Unfortunately, the information provided to this subcommittee has raised far more questions than it has answered.
Among my many concerns on the MOC-P acquisition are:
- The lack of any business case analysis;
- The avoidance of oversight by appropriate review boards;
- NOAA’s exemption of MOC-P from its facility acquisition policies and procedures; and
- The failure to formally evaluate the potential use of existing federal properties to ensure the wise use of taxpayer dollars.
When tens-of-millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake, taxpayers should never have to hear that the federal government didn’t do its homework and due diligence.
Taxpayers deserve better, and I intend to make sure that NOAA, the Department of Commerce, and the federal government are held to a higher standard.
The burden is on NOAA and the Department of Commerce to demonstrate that their choices on MOC-P are the right ones – and I have yet to be convinced.
NOAA is an integral part of creating and sustaining American jobs, educating our youth and teachers, and researching and developing the innovative technologies that keep America competitive in the world marketplace. If the Administration continues to propose inadequate funding for NOAA, we risk losing much as a nation.
OTHER OPENING STATEMENTS
Before turning to our witness, Senator Snowe, would you like to make an opening statement?
Are there any other Members wishing to speak?
Dr. Lubchenco, I look forward to your testimony. Please, in presenting your testimony, take no more than 5 minutes to summarize your remarks. Your full statement will be included in the record.
INTRODUCTION TO SECOND PANEL
Joining Dr. Lubchenco for our second panel is Mr. Todd Zinser, Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mr. Zinser, thank you for joining us today to discuss your recently released Review of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Programs and Operations. This review found “systemic, nationwide issues adversely affecting NOAA’s ability to effectively carry-out its mission of regulating the fishing industry.” It also found existing law enforcement to be “arbitrary and unfair” in many situations, and a “highly charged regulatory climate and dysfunctional relationship between NOAA and the fishing industry—particularly in the Northeast Region.” I find this report troubling, and I intend to make sure that NOAA is held accountable for the quality of their fisheries enforcement program. However, I also believe Dr. Lubchenco and other NOAA senior leadership are to be commended for requesting this review by the Inspector General, and for the timely announcement of immediate actions and long-term plans NOAA is undertaking to correct these problems.
Now we’ll turn to our witnesses for their statements. Please limit your remarks to 5 minutes. Your full statement will be entered in the record. Dr. Lubchenco?
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Jane LubchencoUndersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and AtmosphereNOAA Administrator
Mr. Todd ZinserInspector GeneralU.S. Department of Commerce