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Federal Agencies: Structure and Status ( 11/16/12 )

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The executive branch is comprised of the Executive Office of the President and the federal executive departments. The heads of these departments belong to the Presidential Cabinet. According to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the member’s office. There are 14 executive departments as well as some independent agencies which can have cabinet status. Of the 14 departments, the geoscience community is concerned with the programs within the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Education (ED), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of the Interior (DOI). The independent agencies the geoscience community follows are: the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Smithsonian Institution.

Recent Action

Roger Wakimoto Selected as Assistant Director for NSF's Directorate for Geosciences (10/12)
Roger Wakimoto has been selected to serve as the assistant director of the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO), a directorate within the National Science Foundation (NSF) which has a $1 billion annual budget for supporting core research in the atmospheric, polar, Earth and ocean sciences.

The facilities and academic research fleet managed by GEO include the newly launched R/V Sikuliaq and the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, both of which were opened in October.

Wakimoto is a geophysicist with expertise in severe weather including tornadoes and thunderstorms and has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers. Wakimoto’s numerous awards and honors include a scientific and technical achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of air pollution observations and the American Meteorological Society’s Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award for his contributions to understanding mesoscale weather events.

Currently, Wakimoto serves as the director for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Previously, he served as associate director for NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory and was a professor at the University of California - Los Angeles where he chaired the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Wakimoto will begin his appointment in February 2013.

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Previous Action

House Passes Government Spending Accountability Act of 2012 (09/12)
On September 11, 2012, the House passed the Government Spending Accountability (GSA) Act of 2012 (H.R. 4631) introduced by Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL). The bill limits travel expenses for government employees and aims to make agency spending more transparent.

H.R. 4631 does not impose a limit on the number of conferences a federal employee can attend. However, federal agencies must cap their travel expenses for government employees to attend a conference (defined as a meeting, retreat, seminar or symposium that is not entirely held in a government facility and requires 25 miles or more of travel) at 70 percent of the aggregate amount of such expenses in the fiscal year (FY) 2010 and spend no more than $500,000 for a single conference. This bill must now pass in the Senate before becoming law.

In addition, federal agencies must report travel expenses quarterly on their public web site including an itemized description of these expenses for conferences that 50 or more employees attend or costs more than $100,000. This bill was drafted in response to the General Services Administration (GSA) scandal of 2012 when it was revealed that the GSA cost taxpayers $823,000 for a 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

In April, the Senate passed (S.1789), the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, which included Senate Amendment 2060 which includes similar language to H.R.4631, but would limit spending to 80 percent of the FY 2010 budget for travel expenses. This bill has not been passed in the House.

Republican Bill Would Reform EPA Science Advisory Board (09/12)
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) has introduced a bill to change the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB). The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 6564) would increase public comment opportunities, strengthen peer review requirements, and require disclosure of uncertainties surrounding scientific findings and conclusions. The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Andy Harris (R-MD), and Dan Benishek (R-MI).

NSF Moves Office of Polar Programs into Directorate for Geosciences (09/12)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has realigned four program offices including transferring the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) into the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO).

NSF announced the realignment plan to reduce the number of NSF offices and directorates on September 7 and the plan went into effect October 1. OPP is now a division within GEO instead of its own division within the Office of the Director. Similarly, the Office of International Science and Engineering and the Office of Integrative Activities have merged to become the Office of International and Integrative Activities. The Office of Cyberinfrastructure has become a division within the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. These changes have been made “to maximize research and education outcomes for science and engineering, while enhancing NSF's operational agility.

NSF GEO Seeks Input on Changes to Education and Diversity Programs (09/12)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has revised their portfolio of investments related to geoscience education and diversity. Affected programs include, Geoscience Education (GeoEd), Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) and Geoscience Teacher Training (GEO-Teach).

Several recent reports concerning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce needs have prompted NSF to re-invigorate and strengthen funding opportunities that support advancements in STEM education. In light of these evolving NSF-wide priorities, GEO has rebalanced investments related to geoscience education.

As part of the rebalance, GEO-Teach has been retired, GeoEd is undergoing significant review and restructuring, and the current solicitation of GeoEd has been archived. In addition, a revised OEDG solicitation will be issued in fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013). NSF is seeking comments regarding efforts to engage, recruit, and retain underrepresented students in the geosciences and broaden public Earth System Science literacy among diverse communities as well as how to best engage relevant stakeholders and communities for addressing those needs given budgetary constraints. These comments, due November 1, 2012, are intended to help shape the direction of a revised OEDG program.

Report Says Government Science Advisory Panels Need Greater Transparency (09/12)
The Research Integrity Roundtable released a report on September 18 which recommends key procedures, policies, and protocols to help improve scientific processes which advise important regulatory decisions.

The report, titled “Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Decision-Making: Dealing with Conflict of Interest and Bias in Scientific Advisory Panels, and Improving Scientific Reviews,” found that “the regulatory process is better when there is more consistent and greater transparency in selecting panels, and when there is consistent, transparent, and systematic review and evaluation of the scientific literature.” As part of the report, the Roundtable developed best practices for establishing, selecting, managing, and evaluating scientific advisory panels for consideration and adoption by agencies. These include recommendations for every aspect of a scientific panel from establishing such panel, selecting the individual panelists, managing and balancing bias, and evaluating the panel. The report was based on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s 2009 report, “Science for Policy Project: Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Policy.”

Congress Passes Bill to Accelerate Presidential Appointments (07/12)
On July 31, the House of Representatives passed the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (S. 679) originally introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in March 2011. The bill eliminates the requirement of Senate approval for nearly 170 presidential appointments.

Presidential appointments often take long periods of time to be approved by the Senate. In the past, senators have placed holds on certain appointees they disagree with therefore delaying an individual nomination process indefinitely. If the Senate does not act on a nomination, the President has the power under the Constitution to appoint a nominee when the Senate is in recess.

Among the appointments that the bill singles out for direct appointment are the Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and all board members of the National Science Board.

NRC Nominees Macfarlane and Svinicki Confirmed by Senate (06/12)
On June 29, the full Senate approved two nominations by President Barack Obama for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Allison Macfarlane will serve as chair of the NRC to replace outgoing chairman Gregory Jaczko. Republican Kristine Svinicki was nominated to be a commissioner for a second five-year term.

Macfarlane is an environmental science policy professor at George Mason University and served on the Blue Ribbon Commission for America’s Nuclear Future (BRC). She received her Ph.D. in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her nomination and approval came after Jaczko announced his departure amid accusations that he was bullying NRC staff and withholding information from the commissioners. Macfarlane will serve for the remainder of Jaczko’s term which will end in June 2013. At a hearing before the Committee on Environment and Public Works on June 13, Macfarlane promised to bring control to the NRC after a rocky four years under Jaczko.

Svinicki has served on the commission since 2008. She has worked as a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy and as a professional staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Some senators opposed her re-nomination because of concerns that she supports industry interests over nuclear power plant safety.

Wendy Harrison Named EAR Division Director (06/12)
On June 22, Wendy Harrison was named the new director of the Earth Sciences Division (EAR) in the Geosciences Directorate (GEO) of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Harrison is a professor at the Colorado School of Mines where her research focuses on environmental geochemistry. As EAR director, Harrison is responsible for overseeing EAR activities such as grant proposal review, education and outreach, and large programs like EarthScope. A program director holds the position for a maximum of four years.

NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations Named (06/12)
On June 1, Rear Admiral David Titley was named the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Deputy Under Secretary for Operations. Titley is responsible for operations of all NOAA programs and procedures and will serve as an advisor to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco on policy.

Titley has been a naval officer since 1980, serving as the commander of Fleet Numerical Meteorological and Oceanographic Center, Naval Oceanography Operations Command, and Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and as a staff member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He was acting assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance in 2012.

Titley received a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University. His postgraduate studies at the Naval Postgraduate School include a Master of Science in meteorology and physical oceanography, and a Ph.D. in meteorology, where he studied tropical cyclone intensification as his dissertation. 

Leadership Changes at Federal Agencies (05/12)
Several lead administrators announced their departures in May of 2012 including Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Arun Majumdar, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) and Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the NRC, has been the focus of criticism and controversy since his appointment. Some of the controversy stems from events beyond his control, such as the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster after the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Even so he has drawn criticism for opposing Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, assuming emergency powers during the Fukushima disaster, and not always working well with the Commission or NRC staff.

Soon after Jaczko announced that he would step down at the end of his term (July of 2013), President Obama nominated Allison Macfarlane to replace him. Macfarlane is a geologist and is currently an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University. She is an expert on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and served as the only geologist on the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Opponents quickly criticized Marfarlane as biased against Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, but Senate confirmation may come quickly because Jaczko is controversial and Republican NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, who has been renominated by Obama, could be confirmed at the same time. Svinicki has been criticized by some senators for being pro-industry and not concerned enough about nuclear safety. Relatively quick confirmation of the two women might be one way to dial down opposition to one or the other.

Arun Majumdar was the first director of the new ARPA-E.  About $522 million for 180 projects, covering alternative energy resources, energy storage, a smarter energy grid and other topics, has been distributed as of March, 2012. Eric Toone, ARPA-E’s deputy director of technology will replace Majumdar on June 9. David Sandalow, the assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, will take on Majumdar’s responsibilities as the Energy Department’s acting undersecretary.

Bob Abbey overhauled oil and gas leasing, expanded renewable energy development, and focused on conservation on public lands during his three year tenure as director of BLM. Since 2009, BLM has approved of 17 solar plants, eight geothermal plants, and five wind farms. Controversy and legal challenges continue regarding oil and gas lease reforms, new rules regarding hydraulic fracturing, and conservation initiatives, such as the wild lands policy to protect wilderness areas. He will retire at the end of May and will be replaced by BLM Deputy Director Mike Pool. Pool will serve as acting director until a new director is nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Russian Shipping Company Ends Icebreaking Contract with NSF (05/12)
Murmansk Shipping Company has informed the National Science Foundation (NSF) that the diesel-fueled icebreakerVladmir Ignatyuk will not be available for refueling the McMurdo and South Pole stations in Antarctica for the winter of 2012-2013. NSF signed a one year contract with Murmansk in August 2011 with an option for use in additional years.

In a Dear Colleague letter distributed in May 2012, Scott Borg, Division Director of Antarctic Science at NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP), announced that a multi-year effort to reduce fuel consumption and increase energy efficiency was completed during the 2011-2012 winter season. This action will allow the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) to continue operations through February 2014 without a refuel.

The United States owns three icebreakers. The Healyis being used in the Arctic, the Polar Seais being decommissioned, and thePolar Star, currently undergoing an extensive refit, will not be available until 2014. 

The U.S. needs icebreakers in Antarctica and the Arctic, to accomplish research, exploration and strategic goals. The Arctic is opening up to more research, exploration, and navigation because of the changing ice sheet, the promise of Arctic resources and the opportunity for efficient ship passage. The U.S. maintains the largest research enterprise in Antarctica, but has no heavy duty icebreaker to support the people or infrastructure.

USGCRP Finalizes Strategic Plan for 2012-2021 (04/12)
As required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), the United States Global Change Research Program has released its strategic plan and guiding document for the next decade. “The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021” is structured around four strategic goals: advance science, inform decisions, conduct sustained assessments, and communicate and educate. The plan was developed by federal scientists based on the advice of the National Academies and public comments.

The plan encourages the program, made up by 13 government agencies, to continue leveraging federal investments through national and international partnerships and requires the inclusion of other parts of the federal government to ensure a strong interdisciplinary focus for the next decade.

President Obama Nominates Burke for DOI Assistant Secretary (02/12)
President Obama has nominated Marcilynn Burke as the Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. 

Burke has been acting as Assistant Secretary since July 2011 when Wilma Lewis vacated the position on a presidential nomination to become a judge in the District Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  As Assistant Secretary, Burke will be responsible for oversight of energy development of public lands and waters with additional oversight of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.  Burke previously served as the BLM’s Deputy Director for Programs and Policy.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar praised the nomination saying, “Her common sense approach to solving problems is just the type of leadership our nation needs and it is why she has earned the respect of such a wide range of people with whom she has worked over her career.”

USDA Releases Resource, Education, and Economics Action Plan (02/12)
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) Resource, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area has released an action plan to identify and outline focused efforts in core agricultural research areas to establish a shared vision for USDA research across the department. REE is made up of the Agricultural Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Economic Research Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

The plan is organized around seven goals: local and global food supply and security; responding to climate and energy needs; sustainable use of natural resources; nutrition and childhood obesity; food safety; education and science literacy; and rural prosperity/rural-urban interdependence. For each of the goals, the action plan defines REE’s role and lists strategies and “actionable items” that it should undertake to reach those goals. Each actionable item is then assigned to one or more of the agencies within REE.

Senate ENR Committee Moves Four Energy Bills and a Nomination (12/11)
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed four energy bills and approved a nomination in December. Arun Majumdar, current director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacant position of Undersecretary of Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE) and approved by the committee on December 15. Majumdar’s nomination must now be approved by the full Senate.

After Majumdar’s nomination, the committee voted on and passed the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011 (S. 1108), the Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act of 2011 (S. 1142), the Geothermal Production Expansion Act of 2011 (S. 1149), and the Department of Energy Administrative Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1160). Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) bill, S. 1108, would establish a program in DOE to provide competitive grants to local governments that have adopted best practices for solar permitting and sets a goal to install solar energy systems on at least 10 million U.S. properties by 2021. The Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act, sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), would direct the DOE to create a direct loan program for geothermal wells in high risk or unexplored areas through the establishment of a Geothermal Investment Fund. The legislation further promotes the development of geothermal energy by directing DOE to conduct research and development (R&D) on geothermal heat pumps and to provide loans to install geothermal heat pumps designed to service large populations. Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) bill, S. 1149, would increase the availability of federal geothermal resources by amending the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 (30 U.S.C. 23) to allow adjacent lands of a previously granted lease to be made available for a noncompetitive lease at fair market value. Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) co-sponsored S. 1160 to require the Secretary of Energy to submit an annual report to Congress detailing DOE’s five fiscal year report of the department’s anticipated expenditures and proposed appropriations. The measure eases DOE’s ability to appoint “highly qualified scientists, engineers, or critical technical personnel…in the event of a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need for particular positions.”  

NSF Awards Antarctic Contract to Lockheed Martin (12/11)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on December 28 that it had awarded a multi-year $2 billion contract to Lockheed Martin for logistical support for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP). Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions Division will be responsible for designing and implementing a cost-effective infrastructure for managing USAP’s three year-round research stations, two research vessels, medical facilities, construction projects, and remote sites in and around Antarctica. The contract begins April 1, 2012 and will last 4.5 years but may be extended for as long as 8.5 more years.

The USAP has maintained a U.S. presence in Antarctica since 1956 and NSF is America’s lead agency for the Antarctic Treaty signed by the United States and 12 other original countries in 1959.The treaty sets Antarctica aside as a scientific research preserve, bans military activity, and establishes freedom of scientific investigation.

NOAA Releases Scientific Integrity Policy (12/11)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) becomes the latest of federal agencies to release its scientific integrity policy after a White House memorandum from March 2009 directed all agencies to write a policy “to ensure the integrity of the scientific process.” NOAA announced on December 7 that it has completed and made publicly available Administrative Order 202-735D on scientific integrity. The order states that “Transparency, traceability, and integrity are…core values of [NOAA] and the reason for issuing this Order.” According to the order, NOAA scientists are permitted to “speak freely to the media and public about scientific and technical matters based on their work” and are encouraged to present their work at scientific meetings, serve on editorial boards, publish their work, and actively participate in scientific societies. Furthermore, NOAA scientists will be provided regular integrity and ethics training. As research scientists, NOAA employees are expected to be “honest in all aspects of scientific effort; accountable in the conduct of research and interpretation of research results; professional, courteous, and fair in working with others…; and good stewards of research on behalf of others.” The NOAA Research Council will be responsible for the oversight and communication of the policy.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has received and made publicly available final or draft policies from the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Salazar Announces Replacement for BSEE Director Bromwich (11/11)
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in November that Rear Admiral James Watson will take over leadership of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on December 1, 2011 as Director Michael Bromwich leaves the Department of the Interior (DOI). Brought in to lead the reorganization of the Minerals Management Service in June 2010, Bromwich served as the director of the former Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, and Regulation (BOEMRE) until it was split into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and BSEE on October 1, 2011. He then took over leadership of BSEE for two months. Rear Admiral Watson comes to BSEE from the Coast Guard where he served as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the all-of-government response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

NSF Seeks New Management of SAFOD (11/11)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has written a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) regarding the future of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), a research facility that ceased drilling operations about three years ago shortly after its installation in September 2008.

SAFOD is one of three components of EarthScope, a multipurpose geophysical and geological network supported by the Division of Earth Sciences at NSF. The SAFOD observatory is devoted to understanding the physical and chemical processes of large plate boundaries through the collection of seismic and physical data along the San Andreas Fault.

Shortly after the observatory’s closure, an independent SAFOD Engineering Subcommittee appointed by NSF’s Advisory Committee for Geosciences, published a report that suggested a number of potential causes for the shutdown as well as recommendations for future drilling attempts. In July 2011 the EarthScope Steering Committee presented to NSF a letter summarizing the importance of SAFOD. Now NSF has distributed a similar DCL, agreeing that SAFOD is vital for understanding earthquake mechanisms. NSF’s colleagues include UNAVCO, USGS, the EarthScope Steering Committee, and the SAFOD Advisory Committee.

The DCL from NSF acknowledges its search for a new awardee to manage and operate the redefined facility, shifting management away from UNAVCO. The letter invites proposals until July 2012 for principal investigator-driven experiments using the SAFOD borehole. NSF will be taking a staged approach to its new long-term observatory at SAFOD, beginning with a workshop on borehole observatories for earthquake and fault physics studies.

Arun Majumdar Nominated for Undersecretary of Energy at DOE (11/11)
President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Arun Majumdar to serve as Undersecretary of Energy and Environment at the Department of Energy. If confirmed by the Senate, Majumdar will oversee the Office of Fossil Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the Office of Legacy Management, the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science & Technology, the Office of Environmental Management, and the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. Majumdar currently serves as the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) and previously served as deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under then Director Steven Chu.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nomination on Majumdar on December 8, 2011 in Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 366.

Salazar Plans to Move Mining Office into BLM (10/11)
On October 26, 2011 Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar issued a Secretarial Order that will incorporate the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This effort seeks to further strengthen the bureaus’ mining regulations and abandoned mine land reclamation programs. The order will become effective on December 2, 2011 following consultation with the White House Office of Management and Budget, employees, and related congressional committees with responsibilities over these functions. According to the Order, Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes must work with OSM and BLM to develop a schedule, by March 1, 2012, to improve strategies in four primary areas: administrative support functions, environmental restoration of abandoned mine lands, fee collections, and the regulation, inspection and enforcement and state program oversight.

NSF Search for Assistant Director for the Geosciences (10/11)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a search for an Assistant Director for Geosciences (GEO), to be appointed in July of 2012. The new Assistant Director for GEO will be replacing Tim Killeen who has served in the position since July of 2008. The Assistant Director manages the GEO Directorate comprised of three divisions: Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Ocean Sciences. The Assistant Director provides leadership and guidance to multiple international and interagency programs in the geosciences. The ideal candidate will possess “outstanding leadership qualifications, a deep sense of scholarship, a grasp of the issues facing research and education in the geosciences, and the ability to serve effectively as a key member of the NSF policy and management team.” NSF is especially interested in identifying women, members of minority groups, and persons with disabilities for consideration. Recommendations, applications, and supporting materials should be sent to the AD/GEO Search Committee.

John Bryson Sworn in as 37th Secretary of Commerce (10/11)
On October 20, 2011 the Senate confirmed John Bryson to be the next Secretary of Commerce. As part of his post, he will oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke left in August to serve as Ambassador to China. Although Bryson was nominated in May, his confirmation was put on hold by a group of senators who would not move any nominees until the administration and Congress had completed three free-trade agreements. Those agreements were approved on October 13 and Bryson was confirmed a week later by a 74-26 vote. 

NOAA Requests Comments on OAR Five-Year Strategic Plan (10/11)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is NOAA’s primary research office and is seeking public comments on its draft five-year strategic plan.

BOEMRE Replaced by BSEE and BOEM (09/11)
On October 1, the new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) replaced the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE). BOEMRE was put in place as part of an overhaul of the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. The well blowout and resulting spill highlighted problems with resource management, leasing, revenue collection, and safety and environmental oversight managed by one agency. The new reorganization separates the former roles of MMS into three independent agencies within the Department of the Interior. The third agency, the Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR), has already been established and is responsible for the collection and disbursement of royalties, fines, bonuses, penalties, and assessments for onshore and offshore energy production.  Michael Bromwich, who had directed BOEMRE since its inception, will lead BSEE and Tommy Beaudreau will lead BOEM.

Chairman Doc Hastings of the House Committee on Natural Resources has proposed an alternative form of reorganization which would separate the former MMS into the Bureau of Ocean Energy - responsible for planning, leasing, and environmental studies; the Ocean Energy Safety Service - responsible for permitting, safety, and inspection; and an Office of Natural Resources Revenue - responsible for collecting all royalties and revenues for onshore and offshore energy production.

USGS Hydrologist Awarded 2011 Federal Employee of the Year (09/11)
Paul Hsieh, a USGS hydrologist involved with the containment of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, has been awarded the 2011 Federal Employee of the Year Award. At the request of USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Hsieh and his team helped to determine the integrity of the well once the containment cap was placed on the damaged well to stop the oil and gas leak.  Leaving the cap on could have potentially resulted in an uncontrollable oil leak from the subsurface if pressures were too high and the cap was forced off, while removing the cap would have allowed the oil to continue flowing rapidly from the well. Hsieh determined that the cap and well integrity were fine so no further action was needed.

Hsieh used his keen and creative intellect to perform calculations that ultimately led him to conclude that the well integrity was ok after the containment cap was placed on top to stop the escape of more oil and gas. “Paul performed in the heat of the moment using this incredibly complex, detailed model,” said McNutt. “It not only fit the pressure data and the shape of the curve as the pressure rose, but also showed that the shape of the rise in pressure was consistent with the integrity of the well. That was the deciding factor.” Hsieh also helped to determine that more than 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilt during the the 86 day disaster. Hsieh is the first Department of the Interior employee to be named the Federal Employee of the Year, and is also the first earth scientist to receive this honor.

NSF Will Restructure Ocean Drilling Program (08/11)
In a letter addressed to the ocean drilling community, National Science Foundation (NSF) Assistant Director for Geosciences Tim Killeen and Division Director for Ocean Sciences David Conover announced that NSF will review the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and consider future options beyond the end of the IODP contract in September 2013. NSF and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology are currently co-lead agencies of IODP. Through contributing and associate member nations and consortia, IODP operates three drilling ships including JOIDES Resolution (JR) which will be operated independently by the United States under the proposed operating model. The new operating plan is intended to lower costs and generate new sources of revenue to allow JR to conduct more research than it could as part of IODP.

NSF Gets Russian Icebreaker for Antarctica (08/11)
In order to refuel the McMurdo and South Pole Stations in Antarctica, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a one year contract with the Murmansk Shipping Company in Russia for the use of a diesel-fueled icebreaker. NSF had previously relied on the Swedish icebreaker, Oden, but the Swedish government did not renew its contract this year because they may need Oden in the Baltic Sea where heavy ice disrupted cargo traffic last winter. The Murmansk Shipping Company will provide Vladmir Ignatyuk, a Canadian built icebreaker, to escort 5 million gallons of diesel fuel and other supplies to McMurdo in January and February 2012.

The United States owns three icebreakers. The Healy is being used in the Arctic, the Polar Sea is being decommissioned, and the Polar Star, currently undergoing an extensive refit,will not be available until 2014. Even though the contract with the Murmansk Shipping Company includes an option for additional years, the U.S.’s inability to provide its own icebreakers will be a long-term problem.

The U.S. needs icebreakers in Antarctica and the Arctic, yet it only has one working icebreaker that cannot meet research, exploration or strategic needs at both poles. The Arctic is opening up to research and exploration because of the decreasing ice sheet and the rise of the price of vital commodities such as petroleum. The Healy is servicing a joint U.S.-Canada mission to map part of the continental shelf and seafloor in the Arctic that began on August 22.

NASA Worries about Space Station and Lunar Sites (08/11)
On August 24, an unmanned Russian rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) failed to reach orbit and crashed in a Siberian forest. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently signed a contract with the Russian Space Agency to use these rockets, made by Soyuz, after the American shuttle fleet was retired in July. The Russian Space Agency said it could delay all manned flights on the Soyuz rockets if the cause for this month’s failure is not determined soon. More astronauts are scheduled to go to the ISS in September and December of 2011. Fortunately, the current roster of researchers on ISS is not short on resources due to Atlantis’ last flight, STS-135. Atlantis brought 11,600 pounds of supplies to the space station and removed 5,700 pounds of materials to be returned to Earth. 

While the Russian and American governments are concerned with connecting with ISS, many private teams are attempting to land on the moon’s surface as soon as next year. Funded in part by Google and the X Prize Foundation, the private entrepreneurs racing to the moon requested guidelines from NASA about how to protect historical sites from several Apollo missions. NASA’s recommendations include approaching Apollo landing sites and artifacts at a tangent to avoid spraying dust and rocket exhaust onto historical equipment. NASA included in the list of recommendations several requests for the explorers to collect and photograph other items left behind by the Apollo missions. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty says the moon is “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty” and therefore the NASA recommendations are nonbinding.

Federal Agencies Submit Scientific Integrity Documents (08/11)
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced that all agencies have submitted some form of a scientific integrity document before the August 5 deadline. The Department of the Interior (DOI) was the first to finalize their scientific integrity policies and make it available in January. Originating from a 2009 Presidential memorandum directing agencies to develop policies to ensure research is transparent and apolitical, the reports have received criticism from nonprofit watchdog organizations for their differing levels of availability and for the length of time it took to develop them. As of early September 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce, and the National Science Foundation have made their drafts or final versions publicly available.

Chairman Hastings Circulates MMS Reorganization Draft (07/11)
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (D-WA) is circulating a discussion draft of legislation to reorganize the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three different agencies. The bill would essentially redefine the Obama Administration’s reorganization plans for MMS which are currently underway. Hastings’ bill would separate MMS into the Bureau of Ocean Energy, responsible for planning, leasing, and environmental studies and the Ocean Energy Safety Service, responsible for permitting, safety, and inspection. These two agencies would be overseen by a new Assistant Secretary of Ocean Energy and Safety. The existing Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget would oversee the new Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) which would be responsible for collecting all royalties and revenues for onshore and offshore energy production. The two Assistant Secretaries would report to a new Under Secretary for Energy, Lands and Minerals which would oversee all offshore and onshore energy production.  The Obama Administration’s reorganization plans split the current Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Hastings’ proposal for an Office of Natural Resources Revenue shares similar responsibilities and a name to the agency already implemented by the Obama Administration.

Included in Hastings’ draft is the establishment of a National Offshore Energy Health and Safety Academy to train government inspectors and a stipulation that all inspectors have at least three years experience in the oil and gas field and a relevant academic background. The bill would create an Outer Continental Shelf Energy Safety Advisory Board to provide the Secretary of the Interior with technical advice on safe offshore energy exploration, development, and production.

NASA Completes Last Space Shuttle Run (07/11)
The space shuttle Atlantis took one final trip into low Earth orbit and hooked up with the International Space Station in July 2011. The 135th flight of the shuttle (STS-135) ended the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) 30-year shuttle program.  Atlantis brought 11,600 pounds of supplies to the space station and removed 5,700 pounds of materials to be returned to Earth. 

The shuttle program included six orbiters: Columbia (28 missions), Challenger (10 missions), Discovery (39 missions), Atlantis (33 missions), Endeavour (25 missions) and Enterprise (test vehicle on display at Dulles Airport).  Challenger and crew were lost about 73 seconds after liftoff in an explosion on January 28, 1986 and Columbia and crew were lost about 16 minutes before landing in an explosion on January 16, 2003. In fiscal year 2010, the average cost to prepare and launch a shuttle mission was $775 million and the cost to build Endeavour was $1.7 billion in 1991. The total cost of the program was $113.7 billion (not adjusted for inflation). The program never met its objective of routine and inexpensive flights, but it accomplished many other objectives.

The shuttles carried more than three million pounds of cargo, mostly made up by 50 satellites and the major pieces of the International Space Station, into space. Interplanetary craft, Magellan, Galileo and Ulysses were launched from shuttles and astrophysical observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, Gamma Ray Observatory, Diffuse X-ray Spectrometer and Chandra X-Ray Observatory were deployed from shuttle bays. Shuttles docked with the Russian Mir Space Station and with the International Space Station bringing cargo and crew. Hundreds of experiments were conducted on the orbiters and crews serviced and repaired many satellites. Not to be forgotten are the thousands of photographs and Earth observations completed by the crew members. NASA counts about 100 technology spinoffs from the shuttle program including artificial hearts, land mine detectors, green lubricants, home and automotive insulation, and video stabilization software.

Discovery will retire to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Enterprise will move to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, Endeavour will retire to the California Science Center in Los Angeles and Atlantis will remain at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida. Members of the Texas delegation in Congress have requested that a shuttle be retired in or loaned to Texas, probably at the Johnson Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Houston, but NASA has so far not altered their plans.

NSF Has No Icebreakers For Antarctica Research Bases (07/11)
Each year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) uses icebreakers to barrel through miles of ice to access and restock the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica during the summer months of December and January. For the 2011-2012 season, NSF may not be able to get to McMurdo because there are no available icebreakers. For the past five years, NSF has been leasing the Swedish icebreaker, Oden, to transport supplies to McMurdo. Sweden did not renew its contract with NSF this year because they may need the Oden in the Baltic Sea where heavy ice disrupted cargo traffic last winter.

The United States has three icebreakers. The Polar Sea is being decommissioned, the Polar Star is being repaired and the Healy is being used in the Arctic. In a hearing in July before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp did not rule out the possibility that Healy could come to the rescue. If no solution is found in time, McMurdo and the South Pole station would have to ration their fuel, which is used for power, water, flight operations, and field camps, until at least January 2013.

Congress transferred the responsibility for the three icebreakers to NSF from the Coast Guard a few years ago, but there have been requests to transfer the responsibility back to the Coast Guard, to build a new fleet for Arctic and Antarctic use, and to decommission the remaining ships as new ships become available. With the opening of the Arctic to greater navigation, exploration and development and the need for continued work in Antarctica, the U.S. cannot afford to have limited navigation capabilities.

NRC Issues Safety Report and Yucca Mountain License Evaluation (07/11)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been busy reviewing nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant failures in Japan and closing out work on the Yucca Mountain license application.

On July 12, a Near-Term Task Force set-up by the NRC, reviewed the NRC’s processes and procedures in light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant failures in Japan.  The task force report, Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century, recommends clarifying the regulatory framework, ensuring protection, enhancing mitigation, strengthening emergency preparedness and improving the efficiency of NRC programs.  In particular, the task force recommends that plants reevaluate and upgrade as needed the design-basis seismic and flooding protection of each reactor and consider ways to mitigate seismically-induced fires and floods.

On July 21, the NRC published the first of three technical evaluation reports about their review of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository license application. NRC plans to publish two more technical reports and then close out the license application process by September 30, 2011. Congress has not changed the law naming Yucca Mountain as the primary high-level nuclear waste geologic repository and the House went as far as to provide funding for continued work on the Yucca Mountain license application in the fiscal year 2012 Energy appropriations bill even though the Obama Administration has requested terminating all funding for Yucca Mountain. The fall could be a critical time for decisions on Yucca Mountain.

BOEMRE Increases Maximum Civil Penalty Amounts (07/11)
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced on June 29, 2011 that the maximum penalty for violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act would increase from $35,000 to $40,000 per day and the penalty for violation of the Oil Pollution Act would increase from $25,000 to $30,000 per day. These increases adjust for inflation, but the Obama Administration and BOEMRE are urging Congress to pass legislation allowing the maximum penalty rates to be higher. BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich has called the fines “a trivial nuisance rather than an effective deterrent” in regulating offshore oil and gas activities.

NOAA Releases Most Recent 30 Year Climate Normals (07/11)
On July 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced the latest 30-year Normals of climatic variables such as temperature, precipitation, and snowfall. The results include data compiled from over 7,500 locations across the United States. Every state’s average annual maximum and minimum temperature increased while the average temperature of the U.S. from 1981 to 2010 increased by about a half degree Fahrenheit from the 1971 to 2000 period. This past decade was particularly hot, with an average temperature about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the 1970s.

Western States and NOAA Release MOU to Improve Climate Services (07/11)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), comprised of 19 Western states and three Pacific Islands, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assist in the development and distribution of climate change information “to support the adaptation priorities and resource management decisions of WGA members.” WGA and NOAA will be creating working groups to facilitate new services including disaster risk reduction, seasonal outlooks, and early warning and rapid response information. In addition to NOAA’s forecasting capabilities, this alliance will receive climate change information from other federal agencies, such as the Council on Environmental Quality.

Department of Commerce Release Report on STEM Related Careers (07/11)
The Department of Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration released “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” a report that outlines U.S. employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This report offers an inside look at workers who are propelling America forward with “new ideas, new companies, and new industries.” The report found that over the past 10 years, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs and STEM employees earned 26 percent more than non-STEM workers. President Obama has made STEM education a priority in ensuring U.S. competitiveness.

U.S. Department of Education Releases College Cost Data (07/11)
On June 30, 2011 the U.S. Department of Education released College Affordability and Transparency Lists as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-315).  Separate lists rank the public and private institutions with the highest and lowest costs as well as the highest percentage increase in costs.  The institutions where prices are rising the fastest will be required to report why costs have gone up and how they plan to address rising prices. These reports will be available online.  The College Affordability and Transparency Center web site includes information on admissions, retention and graduation rates, and financial aid.

Leadership Shakeup at DOE, EPA, and State Department (07/11)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 8, 2011 announced Nicholas DiPasquale as the new Director of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. DiPasquale has served as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, PA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the State University of New York and a master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Policy from Washington University in St. Louis.

President Obama nominated Charles McConnell to be the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. McConnell is the Chief Operating Officer in the Office of Fossil Energy and has served as Vice President of Carbon Management at Battelle Energy Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and a master’s of business administration in Finance from Cleveland State University.

E. William “Bill” Colglazier has been selected to be the new Science and Technology Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Colglazier is a recent retired executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Research Council. Before working at NAS, he was a physics professor, directed the Energy, Environment, and Resources Center at the University of Tennessee, and worked at Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard. He was an American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Science Fellow in Congressman George Brown’s office. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from California Institute of Technology.

NASA IG Blames Launch Delays on “Outside Factors” (06/11)
The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) was conceived to monitor climate systems and to replace several National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellites that are nearing the end of their life cycle. NPOESS has been significantly delayed and recently reorganized into the NASA- NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS).

The NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) was conceived to fill the gap in observations that delays to JPSS has created. The original launch date of NPP was 2006; however, the latest estimate is for a launch date is October 2011. Such delays have already increased project costs by $304 million for a total estimated cost of $864 million. Further delays could jeopardize the continuity of climate and weather data and increase the project cost by another $35 million.  The additional $35 million would be needed to maintain the Delta II rocket system beyond October 2011. NPP is suppose to be the last satellite launch for the Delta II system before it is retired.

NASA’s Inspector General (IG) has released a report auditing the management and progress of the project.  The IG concludes, “NPP has been adversely impacted by factors outside of NASA’s control.” Launch delays were due to late delivery of instruments for the satellite by the Integrated Program Office (IPO). The IG therefore concludes that NASA management has been effective. In fact, management of the project on behalf of NASA has been proactive in mitigating the impact of the late delivery. The IG attributed NASA’s increased project costs to the “no exchange of funds” in the Final Implementation Agreement and questioned NASA officials for not seeking revision in order for the IPO to incur the extra costs. However, “NASA officials said that including language to make partners liable for the cost of delays would be contrary to the collaborative intent of the agreement and could result in a partner’s refusal to participate.” Additionally, NASA officials stated that efforts to amend the agreement would have resulted in further delays.

NSF’s Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Releases Science Plan for 2013-2023 (06/11)
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Integrated Ocean Drilling Program released its Science Plan for 2013-2023 for the International Ocean Discovery Program. This plan is to direct multidisciplinary and international cooperation in scientific ocean drilling. This program is designed to focus on climate and ocean change, subseafloor biosphere exploration, lithosphere and deep Earth processes, and earthquake, tsunami, and landslide processes.

NOAA's State of the Climate 2010 Report Released (06/11)
On June 27, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released State of the Climate in 2010, an annual report that concludes that 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record. The peer-reviewed report was prepared in coordination with the American Meteorological Society and tracks the temperature of the upper and lower atmosphere, humidity, sea ice, precipitation, and 36 other climate indicators. While important climate oscillations such as El Nino and the Arctic Oscillation contributed to many of the world’s significant 2010 weather events, a comprehensive analysis of climate indicator data sets shows a continuation of the long-term warming trend scientists have seen for the past 50 years.

NOAA Releases Draft on Scientific Integrity (06/11)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their science integrity policy draft, to comply with President Obama’s 2009 executive order that requires agencies to ensure scientific integrity. NOAA's policy covers hiring practices and scientific misconduct and encourages scientists to publish their findings and discuss their research with media. The Union of Concerned Scientists praised NOAA’s draft for raising the bar on scientific integrity policies and for the policy’s coverage of employees and contractors involved in scientific activities. To date, NOAA and the Department of the Interior are the only two agencies to have posted their full policies online.

Cora Marrett Appointed Deputy Director of National Science Foundation (06/11)
Cora Marrett was sworn in as the twelfth Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) on June 22, 2011.  She was nominated for the position by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate.  Marrett has two decades of federal and university leadership experience, having held various positions within NSF and academia.  She holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

NSF Releases Strategic Plan through 2016 (05/11)
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released its strategic plan for 2011 through 2016 in May. Titled “Empowering the Nation through Discovery and Innovation,” the plan builds on previous strategic plans and refines and refocuses NSF’s vision statement and strategic goals. At the core of the plan are three strategic goals that NSF hopes to achieve through smaller steps listed in the document. The three overarching goals are to transform the frontiers of science, innovate for society, and to perform as a model organization.

DOE Releases Strategic Plan for 2011 (05/11)
While defending its $30 billion fiscal year 2012 budget request on Capitol Hill in May, the Department of Energy also released its 2011 strategic plan. The strategic plan is not meant to be seen as a national energy policy but as a strategy focused on the capabilities and goals of the department. The document lists four broad goals and then defines them by a series of smaller goals. The large initiatives are to catalyze the timely and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies, maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering, enhance nuclear security, and establish an operational and adaptable management framework. Geoscientists will be essential in helping the department find ways to reduce the risk and cost of carbon sequestration and geothermal energy, two large steps in transforming the nation’s energy into clean energy technologies.

Leadership Changes at Commerce, USDA (05/11)
After announcing that Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce, will be the next ambassador to China, President Obama has selected John Bryson to lead the department. Bryson was the chief executive officer at Edison Electric Company, cofounded the National Resources Defense Council and served on a United Nation’s advisory group on energy and climate change.

Kathryn D. Sullivan has been appointed by President Barack Obama to be the assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sullivan returns to NOAA to direct work in areas of satellites, ocean observation, space weather, water, integrated mapping services, and climate science and services. She has previously served as an astronaut, an oceanographer for the U.S. Navy, a member of the National Science Board, and as chief scientist at NOAA.

After directing the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) since its inception, Roger Beachy resigned in May to return to Washington University in St. Louis. Beachy was appointed by President Obama to run the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service which transformed into NIFA in 2010. As part of the United States Department of Agriculture, NIFA provides grants to researchers studying ways of making American agriculture more productive and environmentally sustainable.  Chavondra Jacobs-Young will serve as acting director.

BOEMRE to Recruit Environmental Scientists (03/11)
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has begun a nationwide recruiting effort to attract the nation’s top environmental scientists for positions at the agency responsible for offshore energy development. Director Michael Bromwich will visit 12 colleges and universities throughout April and early May to seek candidates for positions relating to environmental studies, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and environmental compliance. “These aggressive recruitment efforts underscore our seriousness about environmental issues and reflect our emphasis on science in decision-making,” Bromwich explained. See the press release for more information.

DOE Releases Quadrennial Technology Review Framing Document (03/11)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has begun a Quadrennial Technology Review (DOE-QTR) of its energy technology policies and programs and has made its DOE-QTR Framing Document available for public comment. The DOE-QTR is part of the government-wide Quadrennial Energy Review as recommended by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The framing document describes the nation’s energy situation, outlines important future research and development policy decisions and summarizes current DOE energy technologies and technology program goals. Comments will be received until April 15, 2011.

USGS Accepting Comments on Ten Year Strategies for Mission Areas (03/11)
After reorganizing its structure last year, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is creating 10-year strategies for each of its new Mission Areas: Climate and Land Use Change, Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and Minerals, Environmental Health, Natural Hazards, and Water. This process involves gathering input from the public on draft strategy documents and questions that will inform the creation of these documents. Feedback can be offered at

EPA Releases Report on Benefits of Clean Air Act (02/11)
On March 1, 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency released a report on the benefits of the Clean Air Act. The Second Prospective Report looked at the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020. According to this study, the direct benefits from the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments are estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020, a figure that dwarfs the direct costs of implementation ($65 billion).

Report Clears NOAA of Fraud in Climate Email Debacle (02/11)
At the request of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), an outspoken climate change skeptic, Inspector General Todd Zinser of the Department of Commerce conducted a review of stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia to determine if NOAA was guilty of impropriety or fraudulent data manipulation. The Inspector General was to answer whether there was evidence of improper manipulation of data; dismissal of appropriate peer review procedures; or noncompliance of the Information Quality Act (IQA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Finding “no evidence” of any of the aforementioned offenses, the report’s findings are similar to many other conclusions reached by independent investigations into climate data research and stewardship. NOAA still must explain to Zinser and Inhofe why funds were transferred to CRU in 2002 and 2003, though their records show the funds were used to help support workshops to aid the governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam with their climate forecasting abilities. NOAA’s national and global peer-reviewed climate data are available to the public here.

USGS Requesting Comments on Strategy for Climate and Land Use Change (02/11)
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is requesting comments and feedback on its draft report “USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use," released February 9 and available for 60 days. The report is a 10-year strategy for the Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area which is one of six science directions developed by the USGS in 2007. The Mission Areas and related background information can be found on the USGS Science Strategy website.

DOI Will Look at Oil Shale Rules, Water Resources (02/11)
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey announced on February 15 that the BLM will review the current commercial oil shale rules and plans issued in November 2008 under the Bush Administration. If necessary, DOI will update the rules depending on projected water needs in the West, the latest research and technologies, and cost. The review will look specifically at whether royalty rates for oil shale should be established only after more is known about oil shale technologies, whether future applications to lease should include specific resource protection programs, and whether aspects of existing regulation should be clarified.

Abbey stated that BLM, which recently solicited and reviewed nominations for research, development, and deployment (RD&D) leases for oil shale on public lands in Colorado and Utah, remains committed to helping companies take a bench-scale technology to commercial scale. GAO recommended in “Energy-Water Nexus: A Better and Coordinated Understanding of Water Resources Could Help Mitigate the Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development” that the USGS begin an analysis of baseline water resources conditions to increase understanding of how groundwater and surface water are affected by commercial oil shale activities. DOI believes that enough time exists for the review before a “commercially and environmentally viable method for development of oil shale” becomes profitable on a larger scale.

Forest Service Announces Forest Service Planning Draft Rule (02/11)
On February 10, the USDA released its proposed Forest Service Planning Draft Rule. The proposed rule would establish a fresh national framework to develop land management plans for the National Forest System that are more adaptive to stressors such as climate change and would increase public collaboration. No such update has been made on public land management planning procedures since 1982. The goal of the new rule is to create guidelines to protect water and wildlife while contributing to economic and social sustainability. Publication of the draft rule begins a 90 day period ending May 16, 2011 during which the public may comment on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement. Further information may be found at

Supreme Court Backs NASA Background Checks (01/11)
Scientists and engineers challenged the federal government’s right to ask personal questions in background checks for employment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). On January 19, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the government can ask personal questions and the questions are not an invasion of personal privacy. In fact, several justices indicated the constitution does not offer the right to “informational” privacy. The scientists and engineers are contractors who are employed by the California Institute of Technology, which runs JPL for the federal government. Federal employees have been subject to such personal questions for a long time, but federal contractors came under the same background checks starting in 2005.

BOEMRE Splits and DOI Adds Safety Group for Offshore Drilling (01/11)
Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael R. Bromwich and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the restructuring of the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) and discussed the next steps in revamping the nation’s offshore drilling program on January 19, 2011.

Two new bureaus have been created. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will be responsible for resource development, including leasing, and will house a Chief Environmental Officer. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will enforce safety and environmental regulations.

Salazar announced the creation of the Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee within the DOI. It will be made up of representatives from government, industry, academia, national labs and various research organizations and will advise the DOI on research and development relating to drilling safety, spill response and containment and drilling testing technology.

While some policymakers welcomed the added safety regulations and measures to improve enforcement, they say that it must not slow down the permit process and lessen domestic oil production.

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There are several key departments and agencies within the federal government that handle legislation that affects the geoscience community. Below is a list of those departments and independent agencies, followed by more detailed information about each department, geoscience programs and offices within the department, and links to the official websites.

Executive Departments Independent Agencies

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Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture (About)

The primary interests for the geoscience community at the USDA are the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the U.S. Forest Service (FS).

The NRCS (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) works with conservation districts, watershed groups, and the federal and state agencies having related responsibilities to bring about physical adjustments in land use that will conserve soil and water resources, provide for agricultural production on a sustained basis, and reduce damage by flood and sedimentation. The NRCS, with its dams, debris basins, and planned watersheds, provides technical advice to the agricultural conservation programs, and through these programs, works to minimize pollution. The long-term objectives of the NRCS are to maintain and improve the soil, water, and related resources of the nation's nonpublic lands by reducing excessive soil erosion, improving irrigation efficiencies, improving water management, reducing upstream flood damage, improving range conditions, and improving water quality.

The ARS is the chief scientific agency of the USDA, and has about 1000 research projects in about 100 locations in the United States and five other countries to find solutions to high-priority problems facing the nation's agricultural interests. The scientists work to protect and improve soil, water and other natural resources.

Congress established the Forest Service within the USDA in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the Nation’s benefit. Over time Congress has expanded the Forest Service’s responsibilities to managing national forests for multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Their mandate is to manage resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment. The Forest Service’s Minerals and Geology Management Office has programs in place to facilitate any energy, mineral, or geological activities that take place within national forests. National forests encompass 191 million acres of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies.

About the Secretary
Secretary Vilsack has served in the public sector at nearly every level of government, beginning as mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1987, and then as state senator in 1992. In 1998, he was elected Governor of Iowa, an office he held for two terms. As Governor, he created the Iowa Food Policy Council to advance local food systems, enhance family farm profitability, and combat hunger and malnutrition. He led trade missions to foreign countries to market agricultural products and attended the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to push for expanded agricultural trade negotiations. In addition, he worked to support independent farmers and ranchers by enacting livestock market reform and mandatory price reporting legislation in 1999. He received a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, in 1972 and earned his law degree from Albany Law School in 1975.

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Department of Commerce (DOC)
John Bryson, Secretary of Commerce (About)

The primary interests for the geoscience community in the DOC are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In 1970, NOAA was developed within the DOC by President Nixon to serve a national need "...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources..." Of particular interest to geoscientists is NOAA research conducted through the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), which is the driving force behind NOAA environmental products and services that protect life and property and promote sustainable economic growth.

Founded in 1901, NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the DOC’s Technology Administration. NIST's mission is to develop and promote measurement, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. NIST carries out its mission in four cooperative programs including the NIST Laboratories, the Baldrige National Quality Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Advanced Technology Program. NIST is also the lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).

About the Secretary
Bryson served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison and Edison Mission Group, from 1990 to 2008. At Edison, he led the utility through the California energy crisis. As CEO, he created a competitive power subsidiary, the Mission Group, which expanded across the U.S and was a global leader in the privatization of power plants and electric systems in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and several European countries.Bryson has served as a director on several public, educational and non-profit boards, including The Boeing Company, The Walt Disney Company and has served as an adviser and a director of entrepreneurial and start-up companies including Coda Automotive, Inc. and BrightSource Energy. He was a senior adviser to the global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).Prior to joining the private sector, Bryson served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission and chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board. Before joining Edison, Bryson was a partner in the law firm of Morrison and Foerster. Shortly after earning his J.D. from Yale law school, he and some classmates received a grant from the Ford Foundation to form the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1971.

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Department of Education (ED)
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education (About)

More information to come (including MSP and GAANN).

About the Secretary
Prior to his appointment as Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country. Prior to joining the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan ran the non-profit education foundation Ariel Education Initiative (1992-1998), which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children under the I Have A Dream program. He was part of a team that later started a new public elementary school built around a financial literacy curriculum, the Ariel Community Academy, which today ranks among the top elementary schools in Chicago. Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, majoring in sociology.

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Department of Energy (DOE)
Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy (About)

The DOE programs of interest to the geosciences fall mainly within the Office of Science, Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program within the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

According to the DOE website, the Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S., providing more than 40 percent of total funding. The Office of Science has a vital tradition of funding fundamental research that focuses on critical national challenges and produces important scientific breakthroughs and contributes to our Nation's well-being.

The priorities of the DOE energy programs are to: increase domestic energy production, revolutionize our approach to energy conservation and efficiency; and promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. The Office of Fossil Energy oversees two major fossil fuel efforts: emergency stockpiles of crude oil and heating oil, and research and development of future fossil energy technologies to ensure access to clean, and affordable fuel. With increasing concerns about climate change and finite resources, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is working to provide a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable.

About the Secretary
Before becoming Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu was the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004. Since becoming the director of Lawrence Berkeley in 2004, Chu focused on developing a research portfolio on alternative energy, particularly cellulosic-based biofuels. He was born in St. Louis in 1948 and completed undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics at the University of Rochester and his doctorate in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He worked at Bell Laboratories and later joined the Stanford University faculty. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for his work on the laser cooling and trapping of atoms at Bell and Stanford.

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Department of the Interior (DOI)
Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior (About)

The agencies of interest within the DOI are the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Managment, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the National Park Service.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Created by an act of Congress in 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS website) has evolved over the years, matching its talent and knowledge to the progress of science and technology. According to their website, the USGS serves the Nation as an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. The value of the USGS to the Nation rests on its ability to carry out studies on a national scale and to sustain long-term monitoring and assessment of natural resources. Because it has no regulatory or management mandate, the USGS provides impartial science that serves the needs of our changing world. The diversity of scientific expertise enables the USGS to carry out large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations that build the base of knowledge about the Earth. In turn, decision makers at all levels of government--and citizens in all walks of life--have the information tools they need to address pressing societal issues.

The USGS is the only science agency within the Department of the Interior, it is the primary civilian mapping agency, it is the primary natural hazards monitoring agency for the U.S. and much of the world, it is the primary surface water and ground water monitoring agency with more than 7,000 streamgages throughout the country, it monitors the Earth’s magnetic field in real time, it is involved in lunar and planetary mapping and with the inclusion of the Biological Survey in 1996, the survey now provides the primary data on the nation’s biological resources.

About the Director
Marcia McNutt is a leading geophysicist who most recently concluded a nearly twelve year tenure as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) before becoming the first female director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). She earned her doctorate in Earth Science from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and bachelor degree in physics from Colorado College, Suma Cum Laude. McNutt began working on earthquake prediction at the USGS in Menlo Park, California, as one of her first positions after graduate school before joining the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982. She has also taught at Stanford University and University of California, Santa Cruz. Additionally, she has served as the Chair of the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration under President Clinton and as President of the American Geophysical Union from 2000-2002. McNutt is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM website) is responsible for managing 262 million acres of land (about one-eighth of the land in the United States) and about 300 million additional acres of subsurface mineral resources. The BLM is also responsible, entirely or in part, for wildfire management and suppression, and revegetation, protective fencing, and water development to conserve, enhance, or develop public land resources. The BLM manages a wide variety of resources including: energy and minerals, timber, forage, wild horse and burro populations, fish and wildlife habitat, wilderness areas, and archaeological, paleontological, and historical sites. The BLM also has an active program of soil and watershed management on 175 million acres in the lower 48 States and 86 million acres in Alaska. The BLM receives it mandate to manage the public lands for multiple use while protecting the long-term health of the land from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) (Public Law 94-579).

About the Director
Robert Abbey has had a 32 year career in resource management, mostly in federal and state agencies. Abbey began his career with the Mississippi State Park system after graduating of the University of Southern Mississippi. He joined the BLM in 1980, holding various positions in Wyoming, Arizona, Washington D.C., Mississippi, Colorado, and Nevada. This included eight years as the Nevada State Director for the BLM where he oversaw a $1.5 billion resource management and environmental project as Chair of the Executive Committee for the implementation of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Since retiring from the BLM in 2005, Abbey has been a western lands and resources consulting partner with Abbey, Stubbs, and Ford, LLC, in addition to serving on the boards of a number of non-profit organizations.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM website) was established in October 2011. BOEM manages the exploration and development of the nation's offshore resources. It seeks to appropriately balance economic development, energy independence, and environmental protection through oil and gas leases, renewable energy development and environmental reviews and studies.

About the Director
Tommy Beaudreau joined the Department of the Interior in June 2010 to help develop and lead the Department’s aggressive reforms of offshore energy management and oversight following the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill, including the reorganization of the former Minerals Management Service. He served as the senior advisor to the director of the former Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, where he played an integral role in designing and implementing the Bureau’s broad reform agenda with respect to the regulation of offshore oil and gas development. Prior to his work at Interior, Mr. Beaudreau was a partner at the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, where his practice focused on, among other things, internal investigations, including reviews of government agencies pursuing reform.  Mr. Beaudreau is a graduate of Yale University and received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE website) was established in October 2011. BSEE's Offshore Regulatory Program develops standards and regulations to enhance operational safety and environmental protection for the exploration and development of offshore oil and natural gas on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). BSEE's Oil Spill Response division is responsible for developing standards and guidelines for offshore operators’ Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP) through internal and external reviews of industry OSRPs to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and coordination of oil spill drill activities. It also plays a critical role in the review and creation of policy, guidance, direction and oversight of activities related to the agency’s oil spill response. BSEE's Environmental Compliance Division provides sustained regulatory oversight that is focused on compliance by operators with all applicable environmental regulations, as well as making sure that operators keep the promises they make at the time they obtain their leases, submit their plans and apply for their permits. The bureau also operates Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, N.J.

About the Director
Prior to his appointment as Bureau Director in October 2011, James Watson served as the U.S. Coast Guard's Director of Prevention Policy for Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship where he was responsible for maritime investigations, quality traveling inspectors, waterways management, boating safety, commercial vessel safety and security, and ports and cargo safety and security. Watson served as the Deputy Commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command in April 2010, and, on June 1, 2010, was designated as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the government-wide response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A 1978 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelors of Science degree in Marine Engineering, Watson also earned two Master of Science degrees from the University of Michigan in 1985, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Naval Architecture. In 2001 he graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces with a master's degree in Strategic Studies.

National Park Service
Established in 1916, the National Park Service (NPS website) has stewardship responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the national park system. According to their website, the system, consisting of 388 separate and distinct units, is recognized globally as a leader in park management and resource preservation. The national park system represents much of the finest the Nation has to offer in terms of scenery, historical and archeological relics, and cultural heritage. Through its varied sites, the National Park Service attempts to explain America's history, interpret its culture, preserve examples of its natural ecosystems, and provide recreational and educational opportunities for U.S. citizens and visitors from all over the world. Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first national park, was created in 1872 through the National Yellowstone Park Act. It was not until August, 1916 that the Congress created the parks service through the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916. The General Authorities Act of 1970 and the Redwoods Act as amended in 1978 united the parks into a National Parks System and reaffirmed the mandates of the organic act throughout the entire system.

About the Director
Jonathan Jarvis’s career with the NPS spans over 33 years and numerous roles. Most recently Jarvis had served as the regional director for the Pacific West Region, overseeing nearly 60 National Park System units. After graduating from the College of William and Mary with a B.S. in Biology in 1975, Jarvis served as a park ranger in numerous parks throughout the next decade. He later served as both Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources and Chief Biologist at North Cascades National Park. Through the 1990’s and up to his appointment as Regional Director, he served as Superintendent of Craters of the Moon National Monument, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Mt. Rainier National Park. Between 1997 and 1998, Jarvis served as President of the George Wright Society, a professional organization promoting science on and management of protected lands. Jarvis will be the first NPS Director with a biology background.

About the Secretary
Before becoming Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar represented the state of Colorado in the Senate for 4 years. He is a fifth generation Coloradan, who grew up on a ranch, farmed for 30 years, operated several small businesses, practiced water and environmental law, and served as the Attorney General for Colorado and as a member of the Governor’s cabinet. He received a political science degree from Colorado College in 1977, and graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981.  He also received honorary doctorates of law from Colorado College in 1993 and the University of Denver in 1999.

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Lisa Jackson, Administrator (About)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by President Richard Nixon’s Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970, an executive order that consolidated the responsibilities of development and enforcement of environmental standards, environmental monitoring, and scientific research to better protect human health and improve the quality of the nation’s air, water, and landscape into one agency. The EPA officially became operational on December 2, 1970, a year in which environmental awareness reached new levels with the first-ever Earth Day and the signing of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). However the EPA lacks an Organic Act by Congress establishing it as a standing federal agency with clearly codified functions and responsibilities. The EPA’s numerous responsibilities are designated by 25 laws and executive orders, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund), the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Energy Policy Act. EPA water quality activities involve promoting state of the art research in water monitoring, clean-up, and purification technologies, development and enforcement of water quality standards, maintaining water quality information and records, and public education regarding protection of watersheds. The Superfund program, established in 1980, is a multi-faceted process with the goal of mitigating the nation’s most hazardous toxic waste sites. The EPA is also heavily involved with climate science and initiatives towards efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote more energy efficient technologies in the marketplace. The EPA is also responsible for publishing the official inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  

About the Administrator
Before becoming EPA’s Administrator, Lisa Jackson served as Chief of Staff to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine.  Prior to that, she was appointed by Governor Corzine to be Commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2006. Jackson joined DEP in 2002, serving as Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement, then Assistant Commissioner for Land Use Management, before becoming Commissioner. Prior to joining DEP, she worked for 16 years as an employee of the U.S. EPA, initially at its headquarters in Washington and later at its regional office in New York City.  Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Charles Bolden, Administrator (About)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 to conduct space and aeronautical research, development, and flight activities for peaceful purposes designed to maintain U.S. preeminence in aeronautics and space. NASA's unique mission of exploration, discovery, and innovation is intended to preserve the U.S. role as both a leader in world aviation and as the pre-eminent space-faring nation. It is NASA's mission to: advance human exploration, use and development of space; advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the Solar System and the Universe; and research, develop, verify and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies. The geoscience community is most interested in the Earth science observations conducted within the recently re-organized Science Mission Directorate: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science and Astrophysics.

NASA receives its mandate from the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2471 et seq).

About the Administrator
Charles Bolden has over 34 years experience in the U.S. Marine Corps and was selected in 1980 to become a NASA astronaut. He went into orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission. Prior to Bolden's nomination for the NASA Administrator's job, he was employed as the Chief Executive Officer of JACKandPANTHER LLC, a small business enterprise providing leadership, military and aerospace consulting, and motivational speaking. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical science from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in system management from the University of Southern California. Bolden's many military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2006. A more complete biography is available here.

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National Science Foundation (NSF)
Subra Suresh, Director (About)

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" NSF serves as the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by American colleges and universities. A key program of interest to the Earth sciences is NSF's Geosciences Directorate.

NSF fulfills its mission by issuing limited-term grants, currently about 10,000 new awards per year with an average duration of three years, to fund specific research proposals that have been judged the most promising by a rigorous and objective merit-review system. Most of these awards go to individuals or small groups of investigators. Others provide funding for research centers, instruments and facilities that allow scientists, engineers and students to work at the frontiers of knowledge. NSF's goal is to support the people, ideas and tools that together make discovery possible.

Equipment that is needed by scientists and engineers but is often too expensive for any individual or group to afford is also funded by NSF. Examples of such major research equipment include EarthScope, giant optical and radio telescopes, Antarctic research sites, high-end computer facilities and ultra-high-speed connections, ships for ocean research, sensitive detectors of very subtle physical phenomena, and gravitational wave observatories.

Another essential element in NSF's mission is support for science and engineering education, from pre-school through graduate school and beyond. The educational programs supported by the Education and Human Resources Directorate is integrated with basic research to help ensure that there will always be plenty of skilled people available to work in new and emerging scientific, engineering and technological fields, and plenty of capable teachers to educate the next generation.

NSF receives its mandate from the National Science Foundation Organic Act of 1950 (42 U.S.C. 1861-75), with additional amendments from the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act and regulations stipulated in the Code of Federal (45 C.F.R. Part VI).

About the Director
Dr. Subra Suresh became director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in October 2010 after more than 30 years as a practicing mechanical engineer. He served as Dean of the Engineering School and Vanneyar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), joining the department as a faculty member in 1993. His most recent research has its groundings in material science and biology, investigation the biomechanics of red blood cells under the influence of diseases such as malaria. Dr. Suresh has campaigned and worked to increase the number of minorities and women in the sciences and brings this hope with him to the NSF. Under his supervision, MIT saw growth in the number of women faculty in engineering. Dr. Suresh holds a bachelors degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras; a master's from Iowa State University; and a doctorate from MIT.

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Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Allison Macfarlane, Chairman (About)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was established as an independent agency by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to provide oversight for the nation’s domestic nuclear power industry. The commission became operational on January 17, 1975, and took over the regulatory work done by the controversial Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was abolished by Congress in 1974. The development and production of nuclear weapons and nuclear power was left to the Department of Energy. The NRC’s regulatory activities include reactor safety oversight, reactor license renewal for existing power plants, licensing of new nuclear facilities, nuclear materials safety oversight, nuclear materials licensing, and both high-level and low-level nuclear waste. In addition to these activities, the NRC also coordinates emergency preparedness programs and response procedures in the event of an incident at a nuclear facility.

Of interest to geoscientists, is the NRC regulation of uranium extraction and nuclear storage faculties. The NRC regulates extraction of uranium if in-situ leaching methods are used at a mining facility (if uranium ore is mined using conventional methods, the operation is regulated by the Department of Interior Office of Surface Mining). Regardless of the extraction method, the NRC provides all oversight once uranium ore reaches a processing mill for development of nuclear fuel. In the licensing process of low- and high-level waste storage facilities, the NRC must define regulations that consider geologic conditions in accordance with EPA site-specific standards. In June 2008, the NRC received an application from the Department of Energy to license the high-level waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The licensing application is still under consideration at the NRC, but is being forwarded through the process mainly as a test of the system after the Obama Administration expressed interest in finding alternatives to Yucca Mountain. 

About the Chairman
Dr. Allison Macfarlane became Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in June 2012. Dr. Macfarlane has had an extensive career in science policy, geology, and nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues. She received a PhD in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, has held fellowships at institutions including Harvard University, Radcliffe College, and Stanford University, and has contributed to numerous National Academy of Sciences panels on nuclear energy. In 2006 MIT Press published her book Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, which discusses nuclear waste disposal at the Yucca Mountain geologic repository. She was nominated to President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future in January 2012, was chair of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and served on the Keystone Center's Energy Board. Dr. Macfarlane previously worked as an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University.

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Smithsonian Institution
G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian (About)

The Smithsonian Institution is unique in the Federal establishment. Established by the Congress in 1846 to carry out the trust included in James Smithson's will, it has been engaged for over 150 years in the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men" in accordance with the donor's instructions. With the expenditure of both private and Federal funds over the years, it has grown into one of the world's great scientific, cultural, and intellectual organizations. It operates magnificent museums, outstanding art galleries, and important research centers. Its collections are among the best in the world, attracting approximately 25 million visitors annually in recent years to its museums, galleries, and zoological park, according to the Smithsonian website. As custodian of the National Collections, the Smithsonian is responsible for more than 140 million art objects, natural history specimens, and artifacts. These collections are displayed for the enjoyment and education of visitors and are available for research by the staff of the Institution and by hundreds of visiting students, scientists, and historians each year. Other significant study efforts draw their data and results directly from terrestrial, marine, and astrophysical observations at various Smithsonian installations. The Smithsonian receives its mandate from the Smithsonian Institution Organic Act of 1846.

About the Secretary
Before his appointment to the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough served as president of the Georgia Institute of Technology for 14 years. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech in 1964 and 1965 and a doctorate in 1969 in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Clough has been a professor at Duke University, Stanford University and Virginia Tech. He served as head of the department of civil engineering and dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, and as provost at the University of Washington. Clough currently serves as a member of the National Science Board and as chair of the National Research Council Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects.

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U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC)
Virgil Sharpton, Chairman (About)

The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) is a federal agency tasked with coordinating federal scientific research efforts in Arctic regions, and making policy recommendations to the President and Congress. Established by the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, the commission has a wide range of duties including: guidance of national policy, priorities, and goals for scientific research in the Arctic, working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement, support, and  coordinate collaboration on research between the federal agencies. USARC is also tasked with providing guidance to the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) in the development of national research projects and to coordinate communication with Arctic residents, international scientists, and local Arctic organizations and institutes to gain the widest spectrum of insight on Arctic research needs. USARC oversees the U.S. polar ice-breaking fleet and tackles climate change issues as they relate to national security and arctic research.

The commission is comprised of seven members appointed by the President, and is located in Arlington, VA and Anchorage, AK. Four members are from academic or research institutions, two from private industry involved in commercial operations in the Arctic, and one member representing the indigenous U.S. citizens in Arctic regions. Major recommendations from the commission regarding Arctic research policy and priorities are published in the biennial report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research.

About the Chairman
Dr. Virgil “Buck” Sharpton was designated by President Obama to serve as the Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission in August 2010 and was originally appointed to the commission in 2008. A President’s Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Sharpton has conducted research in remote sensing and plans to direct the university’s participation in a NASA project to map the surface of Venus. He has also been involved in other projects, including the Geographic Information Network of Alaska and the Pacific Area Climate Monitoring and Analysis Network cyber infrastructure program. Dr. Sharpton earned his B.S. in Geology from Grand Valley State University and his Ph.D. and Sc.M. in Geological Sciences from Brown University.

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Contributed by Linda Rowan and Wilson Bonner, Geoscience Policy staff; Dana Thomas, 2011 AAPG/AGI Spring Intern; Vicki Bierwirth, AIPG/AGI 2011 Summer Intern; Erin Camp, AAPG/AGI Fall 2011 Intern; Krista Rybacki, AIPG/AGI Summer 2012 Intern; and Kathryn Kynett, AAPG/AGI Fall 2012.

Background section includes material from Federal Agency websites.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Geoscience Policy.

Last updated on November 16, 2012


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