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U.S. Department of the Interior Draft Revised Strategic Plan for FY 2003-2008

Summary

The Department of the Interior (DOI) Draft Revised Strategic Plan for FY 2003-2008 outlines the agency's future goals. As DOI moved towards a department-wide approach for its strategic plan, it recognized science as a foundation used throughout all of its mission areas. The strategic plan places a major emphasis not only on results, but also recognizes the difficulty of fitting science into a results-oriented framework. Science, and more specifically the geosciences, appear in the strategic plan both implicitly -- as a necessary part of the required information but not outlined by specific measures -- and explicitly -- by providing stated scientific information to others who incorporate the information into their goals as they see fit. Comments on the draft are accepted until April 25, 2003.

Purpose of Strategic Plan

Each federal agency is required under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) to complete a multiyear strategic plan to Congress that sets the agency's long-term goals and outlines how the agency will accomplish those goals through specific outcomes. GPRA's purpose is to hold agencies accountable for their performance and shift decision making from activities to accomplishing results. The strategic plans, along with annual performance plans and reports, are used to determine if the agency is meeting its stated mission and using funds appropriately and efficiently. Performance evaluations based on strategic plans are linked to budget decisions.

The Department of the Interior, through its eight bureaus, is responsible for protecting and managing the nation's natural and cultural heritage; providing scientific and other information about those resources; and honoring special responsibilities and commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities. The broad mission has resulted in a decentralized agency that provides stewardship of public land, water, recreation and cultural opportunities, Native American lands and needs, energy needs, scientific research, and fish and wildlife. The DOI Revised Draft Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2003-2008 outlines how the agency will meet these obligations through specific goals, outcomes, and measures to verify progress towards the outcomes. The strategic plan divides DOI programs and services into four mission areas: Resource Protection, Resource Use, Recreation, and Serving Communities.

Science in the Strategic Plan

The DOI strategic plan approaches science as a foundation that provides the basis for decisions in each of the mission areas. A diagram of a house is used to depict the plan's organization, with science appearing literally as the foundation supporting the house (see figure below). DOI believes it has a strong science program that interacts with a wide range of customers and partners, carries out studies on a national scale, and performs long-term monitoring and assessment needs. The plan states that the benefits of the public investment in science have been demonstrated through the quality and timeliness of DOI scientific products and services.

The plan emphasizes an integrated approach to science, both in terms of integrating DOI's major scientific disciplines (biology, geology, hydrology, and geography), and in terms of integrating science into the decision making progress. As with the rest of the strategic plan, DOI highly stresses that science must produce results that support the overall mission goals. Effective science is viewed as developing realistic plans and program goals, measuring progress towards them, and holding people accountable for results.

In order to emphasize science in the future, DOI proposes to:

  • identify opportunities to conduct further research in the areas of hazards, environment, and natural resources;
  • serve as a standard-setting and quality-assurance body and as the primary conservator of the nation's geospatial science data;
  • conduct more long-term monitoring to obtain data necessary to understand natural cycles, fluctuations of earth systems, and human impact;
  • play a stronger role in disaster information monitoring, analysis, and dissemination;
  • enhance leadership role in assessing energy, mineral, water, and biological resources;
  • and pursue collaborative efforts with other countries in identifying and dealing with natural resource problems of an international and global nature.

To meet the DOI's role in providing scientific information to internal and external customers, the agency is committed to:

  • giving greater emphasis to strengthening ties to related agencies in the federal community;
  • strengthening ties to state and local government; facilitating the use of scientific information by the public;
  • increasing interaction with the private sector and foreign customers;
  • encouraging scientists to publish and communicate research findings more promptly;
  • and nurturing student interest in the sciences.

In the specific mission areas, science appears in explicit and implicit terms. In the primary goals for the Resources Protection mission area, geosciences appear to underpin DOI's ability to meet the goals, but the goals outlined to accomplish the primary goals do not indicate a large geoscience presence. The role of geosciences in Resource Protection is largely illustrated through the discussion of the goals, decision processes, and required background information. Resource Protection also uniquely states the need to incorporate science throughout the process of attaining goals. The mission area of Resource Use also implies the need for the geosciences, but to a lesser extent than Resource Protection. The primary emphasis of Resource Use is on the management of energy resources as opposed to exploration, with geosciences occurring primarily in remediation processes. The Serving Communities mission area approaches science more within the results-oriented framework of the strategic plan. It delineates specific goals, outcomes, and steps for the geosciences, mostly through the collection and dissemination of scientific information. The actual use of the information is left in the hands of the decision maker. In describing Serving Communities, DOI emphasizes the role of the U.S. Geological Survey in assisting customers by providing reliable scientific information that minimizes the loss of life and property from natural disasters, and supporting the management of water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

DOI's Geoscience Goals and Performance Measures

Resource Protection
The geosciences are included in the goal of improving the health of watersheds, landscapes, and marine resources that DOI manages or influences in a manner consistent with obligations regarding the allocation and use of water. To accomplish this goal, DOI plans to:

  • improve the number of stream/shoreline miles achieving desired conditions;
  • increase the percentage of marine and coastal acres achieving desired conditions;
  • increase the number of land acres for which degradation from past mining has been reclaimed;
  • increase the number of acres for which degradation from past surface coal mining has been reclaimed;
  • increase the percent surface waters that meet EPA-approved Water Quality Standards;
  • protect and restore surface and ground water systems directly managed by DOI;
  • increase the percent time that actions on DOI lands affecting air quality meet emissions standards,
  • and increase the percent time that Class I DOI lands meet ambient air quality standards and visibility objectives.

Science is identified as a "Capital Resource" within Resource Protection for its ability to provide baseline information by creating an inventory of resources and current condition; provide sensitivity studies to assess potential responses of resources to changes in ambient conditions; and monitor responses to management actions and unplanned events. While not specifically stated, it is implied that geoscientists should play an integral role in accomplishing the goal of restoring and maintaining the proper function of watersheds and landscapes.

Resource Use and Recreation
In Resource Use, geosciences are not incorporated into any of the stated goals, outcomes, or measures. The strategic plan does call for DOI to restore and mitigate damage from energy and non-energy mineral development. Also, in efforts to deliver water effectively, watershed modeling will remain important in the management of water resource projects. Recreation does not appear to include a role for the geoscience community.

Serving Communities
A primary goal of Serving Communities is to advance knowledge through scientific leadership and informing decisions through the application of science. DOI plans to improve the quality and timeliness of information relating to hazards. To accomplish this goal, the mission area identifies technology resource improvements by installing additional and new monitoring equipment to assess and track the development and occurrence of natural hazards.

In order to achieve the goal of protecting lives, resources, and property, DOI plans to increase the percentage of communities using DOI science on hazard mitigation, preparedness, and avoidance and to meet information needs of decision-makers. Outcomes expected within this goal includes improving public safety and security, protecting public resources from damage (includes natural hazards), and increasing the number of stakeholders reporting adequacy of science base to inform decision making for each hazard management activity.

To advance knowledge through scientific leadership and inform decisions through application of science, DOI plans to improve stakeholder access to needed science information and improve the number of stakeholders who found that information helped achieve their goals. To achieve these goals, DOI will expand the scientific knowledge base by increasing the percentage of land with temporal and spatial monitoring, research, and assessment/data coverage. Also, DOI foresees enhancing the quality and objectivity of their science by increasing the percentage of methodologies, data, and studies validated through appropriate peer review.

Conclusion/Questions

DOI presents a positive view of science, recognizing science's importance in the decision-making process and that science is not always a results-oriented process. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, however, requires the formation of a strategic plan in order to compare premeditated goals with agency results.

Will the White House Office of Management and Budget recognize and support science as the foundation of DOI even though science is often not explicitly mentioned in the actual goals and measures? In programs calling for the collection and dissemination of scientific information, will research be valued? In programs where science underpins the process but specific scientific measures are not outlined, will the scientific programs be valued in program reviews?

How to Comment

The Department of the Interior is accepting comments on its draft strategic plan. The comments must be received by April 25, 2003 by email (strategic_plan@ios.doi.gov), fax (202-208-2619), or mail (U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary, Office of Planning and Performance Management, Attention: Strategic Plan Coordinator, 1849 C Street NW., Mail Stop 5258, Washington, DC 20240).

DOI Strategic Plan Organization

Sources: DOI Strategic Plan

Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted on April 22, 2003


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