Sunday, February 03, 2008

AZGS-ADMMR merger Q&A, part 2

We’ve seen more questions or claims about the proposed merger of AZGS and ADMMR (in bold) with my responses following each one:

ADMMR will fare as poorly as the U.S. Bureau of Mines did when it was merged with the USGS

The U.S. Bureau of Mines was never merged with the USGS. It was eliminated in its entirety by Congress in 1995 as part of Newt Gingrinch’s “Contract with America.” In fact, the USGS was on the original list of federal agencies to get rid of as well.

In the debate over dissolving the Bureau, a handful of its staff and a couple of small programs were salvaged and transferred to the USGS. At the time, I worked with Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah, and Bureau of Mines Director Rhea Graham to try to save the Bureau's research facility in Salt Lake City, but because Congress just wiped out their program, there was little we could do. Most Bureau offices just closed down.

The merger of ADMMR and AZGS is totally different. The goal of the merger is to strengthen the department’s capabilities, not eliminate them. All of ADMMR’s programs and missions will continue as before. ADMMR's Phoenix office will continue to operate as it does today. Resources will continue to keep the mission functioning, although savings are expected as a result of combining operations.

Since the AZGS left the University of Arizona in 1988, it has not carried out the duties of the Bureau of Mineral Technology. Why should we expect they will carry out the ADMMR duties if merged?

The Bureau of Mineral Technology is a University of Arizona organization. The University is responsible for running it. AZGS has no influence or control over its operation, funding, or activities.

AZGS was one of two sections in the former UA Bureau of Geology & Mineral Technology, along with a Branch of Mineral Technology, up until the Survey was split out and made an independent state agency in 1988. The Branch of Mineral Technology remained in the University as the remaining program of the revamped Bureau of Mineral Technology. It continued to exist in the University at least until 2005.

Anyone with concerns about the BMT performance should contact the University of Arizona.

The College of Mining at the University of Arizona lost faculty when it was merged into the College of Science. The same loss of staff will occur if ADMMR is merged into AZGS, despite assurances.

I can’t speak for university priorities or budgeting, but AZGS views ADMMR as forming a flagship program in mining and mineral resources. We believe we can leverage the small amount of state money that the department gets now and allow it to prosper and grow.

Frankly, the AZGS was moved out of the University in 1988 because of competing priorities with support of state service functions such as those provided by the AZGS. This has been a common trend across the country with a number of state geological surveys moving from university to state agency operations.

Now, as an independent agency head, I go directly to the governor's budget office and work directly with the Legislature's budget staff. The same is true for ADMMR.

A problem right now is that because of state revenue falling, all agencies are taking cuts. So, there will likely be budget cuts to ADMMR, just as there will be to AZGS and other state agencies. But the question is whether ADMMR will fare better hanging out on their own, with almost all their budget dependent on state general funds, and so much of it committed to rent, that even small cuts can disproportionately devastate programs and staff.

Because the AZGS is headquartered in Tucson, it won’t pay enough attention to the needs of the ADMMR operations in Phoenix.

We are investing heavily in the Phoenix area as a priority focus area.

AZGS opened our first-ever branch office in Phoenix last spring. We now have 5 geologists working out of that office. We are opening a downtown outreach center/map store shortly. We recognize the Phoenix area as the center of the state’s government, industry, and population. I go to Phoenix constantly and will do much more so as our operations expand.

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