|GCRIO Home Library 1994 Statement of Dr. Robert T. Watson (OSTP) & Dr. D. James Baker (NOAA) before the Committee on Science, Space and Technology U. S. House of Representatives, May 4, 1994||| Search|
Updated 8 February, 2004
Statement of Dr. Robert
T. Watson (OSTP) & Dr. D. James Baker (NOAA) before the
Committee on Science, Space and Technology U. S. House of Representatives
Dr. Robert T. Watson
Dr. D. James Baker
Committee on Science, Space and Technology
May 4, 1994
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
My name is Robert Watson and I am the Associate Director for Environment in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. I would like to introduce my colleague, Dr. James Baker, Under-Secretary for Commerce and NOAA Administrator. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with you this morning to discuss the Administration's views on federal environment and natural resources R&D. We welcome the interest of Congress in this very important issue and acknowledge the long-standing leadership of the Chairman, Congressman Brown. We are here today, to tell you that the Administration is fully committed to working with Congress to improve federal environment and natural resources R&D programs. During this testimony, Dr. Baker and I will discuss the questions outlined in your letter to us of April 19, 1994.
There has been a dramatic increase in world population and industrial activities during the last century, and human activities are affecting the environment at all geographical scales from local to regional to global. The range of environmental issues is diverse and encompasses local, regional and global issues such as pesticides and toxic substances, hazardous and solid waste disposal, water quality and quantity, urban and rural air pollution, resource use and management, loss of wetlands, soil erosion, degradation of aquatic and terrestrial ecological systems, desertification, deforestation, marine pollution, natural disasters, loss of biological diversity, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change. These issues are interrelated and are no longer the sole concern of the scientific community and environmentalists. Their importance is now well recognized by the private sector and governments around the world. Sound national and international environmental policies must be based on a solid foundation of scientific, technical, and economic understanding of the relevant facts. This understanding will allow us to meet a number of key Administration and Congressional priorities:
Given the increasing complexity, scope and linking of local, regional and global environmental issues facing our nation and globe, significant changes are needed in the federal environment and natural resources R & D system. The classical single agency, single scientific discipline approach to problem solving needs to be transcended by a coordinated multi-agency interdisciplinary approach. The problems will only be understood by bringing together natural and social scientists, economists, engineers and policymakers.
There has been significant criticism of the structure of the federal environmental Research and Development (R & D) system, and its relationship to environmental policy formulation. This criticism has been articulated in a number of major reports, including:
While the reports identified a number of similar problems they proposed very different solutions, ranging from: (i) expanded scope of agency programs; (ii) improved coordination and significant cultural changes within the existing agency structure; (iii) a reorganization of the current agency structure; and (iv) the creation of a new institute: "the National Institute for the Environment".
The major issues raised by these reports include:
In general, the Administration believes that these criticisms are based in fact and must be addressed. Consequently, it has already enacted a number of major changes to rectify these apparent weaknesses in the environmental R & D structure and in the links between science and policy. At present the Administration believes that there is no compelling reason for a fundamental restructuring of the research agencies or to create any new entities given the changes it has already initiated. These changes need to be given an opportunity to work before taking further steps.
The Administration has taken the following steps:
The following section briefly describes Administration actions to specifically address the major issues raised by the reports.
Creating federal leadership for environment and natural resources R&D
Through all the steps listed above, the Administration has demonstrated its leadership and commitment to a strong, integrated and comprehensive federal program of environmental R & D.
In particular, the CENR is leading the effort to coordinate all federal environment and natural resource research and development activities, and improve the links between the scientific and policy components of the executive branch. A unique aspect of the CENR is that subcommittees are organized by key environmental policy areas, global change, biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics, resource use and management, water resources and coastal and marine environments, air quality, toxic substances and solid and hazardous waste, and natural disasters. This subcommittee structure was created recognizing that coordinated, interdisciplinary, multi-agency, R&D efforts are required to effectively respond to complicated environmental problems.
The strength of the CENR, and its subcommittees, is that it has active participation from all relevant agencies and offices of the White House, including OSTP and OMB during all phases of the budget process (Appendix I lists the chairs, co-chairs and vice chairs of the CENR and its sub-committees). The CENR is not a top-down decision- making entity of the White House; if it were, it would fail. The CENR will work because there is buy-in at all levels of the agencies from program managers and from agency heads. R&D priorities must, and will, explicitly take into account Administration priorities, environmental statutes, and international Conventions. Agency agendas that are consistent with the priorities of the interagency process are likely to have highest priority in the budget process. The challenge is to increase the total amount of resources available to environmental and natural resources R&D and to identify areas of lower priority or where unnecessary redundancies exist. This identification is being done by agencies working with the CENR subcommittees.
The structure of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is shown in Figure 1. The objectives of the committee include:
Environmental issue subcommittees
Program content of each issue subcommittee
Each subcommittee has established its own working group structure, and has developed a balanced, comprehensive R & D program that covers the following aspects of the issue:
Strengthening links between research and policy
The Administration recognizes that for the past decade or more the link between the scientific and policy formulation agencies has been too weak. Consequently, the Administration has taken some initial steps to significantly improve the integration of environmental research with policymaking and resource use management decisions:
The risk assessment subcommittee will examine a range of scientific and technical issues in the risk assessment and risk management area. Its work will complement the broader policy- oriented efforts of the interagency working group on risk, which is examining issues related to the interface of risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis and the appropriate use of these tools in setting regulatory priorities. The subcommittee will examine such issues as comparability across agencies in undertaking risk assessments, ways to better integrate socioeconomic considerations into risk analyses, approaches to advancing the assessment of ecological and non cancer risks, and possible mechanisms to undertake comparative risk analyses.
Developing a comprehensive national environmental research plan
The Administration is committed to formulating an environment and natural resources R &D strategy through the CENR. The charge to the CENR is to design a balanced environmental R & D program that is:
The CENR has been structured with respect to both scope and membership so that it can develop and implement, in concert with non-federal partners, a comprehensive environment and natural resources R & D strategy. The CENR has already taken a number of steps toward developing this strategy.
New approach for assessing state of knowledgeThe Administration is committed to strengthening the manner in which the federal government performs assessments, particularly integrated assessments, which provide a bridge for a two-way dialogue between policymakers and scientists. The policymakers need to articulate the challenges they face in pursuing a particular environmental objective, while the scientists must convey to the policymaker a sense of the degree of understanding of the environmental problem; the physical, biological, and socioeconomic issues that underlie it; and alternative approaches to responding, mitigating, or adapting to it.
At present there are adequate mechanisms, under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), for performing credible international scientific and technical assessments of ozone depletion, climate change, and loss of biological diversity. However, there is a lack of adequate flexible mechanism(s) to conduct credible national environmental assessments, involving all stakeholders.
The CENR is currently developing a set of principles that should be used, and mechanisms that could be used, to conduct credible scientific and technical assessments. The principles that should be applied, independent of the mechanism employed, will likely include the involvement of all stakeholders, as appropriate and an independent peer-review process. The mechanism chosen would depend upon a number of factors, including the scope and audience of the assessment, and the deadline for completion of the assessment. The CENR will develop a credible flexible approach for conducting environmental assessments.
In addition to legislatively mandated environmental assessments conducted by individual agencies, assessments could, and should, be conducted by: (a) subcommittees of the CENR; (b) the White House science-policy assessment group, co-chaired by OSTP, CEA, and OEP; and (c) the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine, depending upon the scope of the assessment under consideration. The Administration has begun work on (a) and (b), and has started a dialogue with the NAS/NAE/IOM with respect to option (c).
We believe the combination of these three new mechanisms for performing assessments across a wide variety of environmental issues will fully utilize the strengths of the academic community and the federal agencies, together with other key stakeholders, while being responsive to policymakers needs without requiring the creation of any new agencies or institutions. We briefly elaborate on each of the three mechanisms below:
(a) Subcommittees of the CENR: Each environmental subcommittee of the CENR will have an assessment capability that will, as appropriate:
(b) White House Science-Policy-Assessment Group: To complement these issue oriented assessment working groups the Administration has created a senior-level interagency group, co- chaired by members from the OSTP, CEA, and OEP. This science- policy entity will complement the capabilities of the agencies and CENR subcommittees by:
(c) NAS/NAE/IOM Complex: The CENR are working with the NAS/NAE/IOM to find new ways to enhance their traditional role in conducting assessments of the current state of knowledge. In particular, we are exploring new partnerships that will enhance the capabilities of the Academy complex to be responsive to the needs of the federal government in performing environmental assessments. The Academy process would be highly flexible and able to involve all stakeholders, as appropriate, (including the assets of the Academy complex, the academic community, industry, and environmental organizations) in the preparation and review of the assessments. The Academy would be able to conduct short- or long-term assessments that are either narrow or broad in scope, and could include reviews of assessments performed by agencies or subcommittees of the CENR.
Research strategy that goes beyond near-term regulatory and management needs
The Administration only partly agrees with this criticism. While many of the environmental research programs may be too near- term and policy driven, some of the largest federal R & D programs have a long-term perspective, and some have actually been criticized for being too long-term and not adequately near-term and policy relevant.
One example of a federal research program that has combined excellence in scientific content, coordination with private sector research, and has balanced near-and long-term policy requirements is the federal stratospheric ozone program. The federal research program, which was primarily housed in NASA, NOAA and NSF, provided most of the scientific information that formed the basis for both national and international policy formulation (Vienna Convention, and the Montreal Protocol and its amendments). However, even this program was not adequately balanced to meet the complete needs of the decision makers. While NASA, NOAA and NSF developed a robust program to quantitatively understand the impact of human activities on the abundance and distribution of ozone, agencies responsible for impacts research did not aggressively pursue a program to understand the implications of ozone depletion on human health, ecological and economic systems.
Recently, the U.S. Global Change Research Program has been increasingly criticized for being too long-term and not adequately policy relevant. This program, which is inherently multi-decadal, was originally designed to provide decision makers with the scientific information needed to predict the timing, magnitude and regional patterns of human-induced climate change. However, the Administration fully recognizes that the program must be strengthened in certain areas, i.e., research on: (i) the socioeconomic aspects of environmental changes; (ii) the impacts of, and adaptation to, environmental changes; (iii) the mitigation of environmental changes, and (iv) the development of policy-relevant tools such as end-end integrated models. The President's FY 1995 budget submission to Congress reflects this increased scope of activities.
Approach to redress the imbalance between intramural and extramural R&D by utilizing merit review, peer evaluation and competitive selection in federal R&D projects
The Administration plans increase the involvement of the academic community through merit review, peer-evaluation and the competitive selection of federal R&D projects. In addition, we plan to improve the evaluation procedures and quality of federal R&D efforts. The style of external peer-review may, in some instances, need to be tailored according to agency mission.
The Administration believes that the imbalance between extramural and intramural R&D programs is a significant weakness of our federal environmental R&D system. "Intramural" refers to those R&D programs conducted within a department or agency and its laboratories. Extramural programs are activities supported by the federal government through grants, contracts, cooperative research and development agreements, or other mechanisms. Some agencies have relatively large extramural programs. NASA's Mission to Planet Earth program, for example, is all competitively peer-reviewed and has a large extramural component. Other agency programs are almost entirely intramural. EPA's extramural program includes university-based research (i.e., through grants and cooperative research agreements) and contract research, but the agency has limited funding for competitive grants. This deprives the agency of a mechanism to reach many of the best academic scientists and engineers in the nation. The Administration proposes that all federal agencies take a careful look at the balance between intramural and extramural environmental R&D activities within their agencies with the goal of increasing the involvement of the academic community by competitively awarding most R & D activities, in a manner similar to NSF and NASA. In addition, there may be instances where the quality of the research endeavor may be strengthened by combining the intellectual talent residing in the universities with the institutional capabilities of the federal laboratories, thus improving the overall quality and cost-effectiveness of then Federal research program.
Following procedures put in place by the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, we plan to develop performance standards and foster a process of measuring progress, identifying gaps, and assessing the effectiveness of agency activities. In this management arrangement, meaningful performance measures for major elements of the CENR strategy will be developed and tracked, providing periodic evaluations of both individual projects and the strategy as a whole.
Increased funding for ecological and social sciences, and for finding engineering solutions to environmental problems
The Administration recognizes that there has been insufficient attention to the ecological sciences, the socioeconomic dimensions of environmental problems, and for engineering solutions to environmental problems.
Biological sciences: The ecological sciences are clearly underfunded in comparison to the physical sciences in the study of some environmental issues, e.g., climate change and ozone depletion. In 1993 the FCCSET Subcommittee for Environmental Biology performed an analysis of the federal environmental biology budget and reported an annual expenditure of over $900 million, a level comparable to that spent on the study of the physical and chemical aspects of global change. However, the NRC Corson report noted that 50% of all ecological experiments are performed on plots of less than one meter squared, and only 7% last longer than seven years. This suggests that more long-term, large scale ecological studies need to be performed. Additionally, it is clear that there needs to be an increased emphasis on understanding the interactions among biodiversity, ecosystem dynamics and management, and environmental degradation. The President's FY 1995 budget for the USGCRP, the DOI National Biological Survey, and EPA, through its integrated ecological research program, shows that steps are being taken to enhance comprehensive ecological research.
Social sciences: While it is well recognized that environmental change has both anthropogenic and natural components, our understanding of the human dimensions of environmental change will not improve until more resources are committed to studies of this kind. The President's FY 1995 USGCRP budget, within the NSF, reflects an increased emphasis for this type of research.
Engineering: The Administration has already moved aggressively to increase the level of funding for research and development for environmental technologies in several agencies: EPA, DOE, Commerce (NIST). In addition, DoD has been charged with increasing its efforts on dual-use technologies. The President's FY 1995 budget for energy efficiency and renewable energies reflect an increased emphasis on these areas of research, with the total federal budget for environmental technologies exceeding $4 billion.
Increased attention to long-term monitoring, data collection and management, and interpretation.
The Administration agrees that inadequate attention has been paid to monitoring and assessing environmental trends and consequences. Vast quantities of data on environmental quality are generated, but historically there has been insufficient attention to the collection, quality assurance, management and interpretation of data. Thus, data is not readily accessible to investigators within and outside the federal government. In some areas we have instituted major programs to organize data; in other areas, data management is severely lacking. For example, through the EOSDIS program, NASA, working closely with NOAA and other agencies, is organizing remote sensing data.
There is a recognized need for coordinating the monitoring, evaluation, and reporting on these trends. The federal system should improve the tracking and regular reporting on major environmental trends, from climate change, to water quality, to the exposure of individuals to pollutants and the health consequences of exposure. In some areas there is already a significant, but not fully adequate, amount of effort, e.g., (i) the interagency USGCRP, (ii) EPA has recently expanded its activities with respect to environmental statistics and in national monitoring of ecological status and trends, and (iii) EPA has just initiated a program to obtain statistically valid data about the exposure of people to toxic chemicals in the environment, and to assess the exposures of more highly exposed subpopulations (e.g., for consideration of environmental justice issues) or more sensitive populations (e.g., children).
The Administration believes that we can significantly improve our collection and dissemination of data and information by developing an evolutionary and cooperative international environmental monitoring and information system, using civilian and dual-use technologies. This system will support the identification of trends, advancement of scientific understanding, and the development of prediction systems, but will require the successful implementation of an international policy for securing open and stable exchange of environmental data and information. A multi-step strategy is proposed:
The Administration has already embarked on a number of activities that will improve our ability to determine environmental trends: (i) the reorganization of DOI to create the National Biological Survey; (ii) the implementation of the EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program to assess the status and trends of ecological resources and stressors; (iii) the development of a single converged meteorological and environmental monitoring polar-orbiting satellite system; and (iv) the design of the U.S. component of an integrated international ground- and space-based system for long-term systematic observations, including the data management system, of the environment and natural resources.
Improved education and training of people.
The Administration acknowledges the need for improved environmental education and training. Some federal R & D programs, e.g., the USGCRP, have established an educational task group to ensure coordination of USGCRP agency programs that provide multi- disciplinary opportunities at all grade levels (from K-12 through college and graduate and postgraduate school) and informal continuing and public education. This type of coordinated activity is required for other environmental issues. Recently the Administration announced the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), an international project to coordinate the work of children, educators and scientists in monitoring the global environment. One of the high priorities for the NSTC Committee for Education and Training will be to assess how to improve education and training on environmental issues at all levels.
We believe that this Administration has made significant progress toward to dealing with the issues that this Committee and others have legitimately raised. The Administration has mounted a substantial and well-orchestrated effort to conduct environment and natural resources R&D, which is both scientifically sound and policy- relevant. In establishing the CENR, the Administration has created a mechanism to better develop an R&D strategy and coordinate agency efforts. Under the NSTC, the CENR elevates the level of guidance to that of agency leaders, while maintaining and enhancing the quality of agency R&D manager participation. We have already taken a number of significant actions, and will be moving rapidly in the coming months to implement the objectives of the CENR that have been outlined in our testimony today and are summarized below:
We would like to express our gratitude to this Committee for holding this hearing and we value your participation in helping to make our coordinated environment and natural resources R&D efforts more effective.