“The United States faces unprecedented environmental and economic challenges in the decades ahead.
Foremost among them will be climate change, sea-level rise, altered weather patterns, declines in freshwater availability and quality and loss of biodiversity.”
So says a group composed of the heads of both NOAA and USGS in a recent issue of Science. NOAA, covering the atmospheric and oceanic realms, has a budget of approximately 4 billion employing 12000 employees, while USGS, in charge of the earthen and freshwater realms, is sitting at 1 billion with 8500 employees. Though NASA oversees everything but Earth, it does have a 1.5 billion space-based Earth observation program. It seems to me the main thrust for their call to consolidation is
“The synergies among our research and monitoring programs, both space- and ground-based, are not being exploited effectively because they are not planned and implemented in an integrated fashion. Our problems include inadequate organizational structure, ineffective interagency collaboration, declines in funding, and blurred authority for program planning and implementation.”
The authors propose that by combining NOAA and USGS into an Earth Systems Science Agency (ESSA?), many of these problems will be circumvented and less resources will be squandered, projects will be better defined and more efficient, and communication will be streamlined. ESSA will have no direct regulatory responsibilities.
What do you think? I know several of our readers work for USGS and NOAA. Do “new agencies often arise in response to a sudden or compelling national need”, as suggested by the editorial’s authors? It seems like the government is a broken entity, but would the transformation hinder progress for too long a time while ESSA gets its feet wet? Personally, I am all for streamlining and see the creation of ESSA as a good thing. Being a larger entity gives them more bargaining power at the funding table. Many institutions are moving into an Earth Systems view of research, recognizing the interconnectedness, or ecology, of the planet.