Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Obama transition considering USGS-NOAA merger

My sources tell me that one of the Obama transition teams is reviewing the proposal to merge the USGS and NOAA.

I blogged about this back in July when a group of distinguished Earth scientists and science policy leaders proposed the merger in an op-ed piece in Science.

Update (4:50 pm): There's been a lot more online debate about this in the climate blogging community. Here are some links. The first one has extensive history and links to other sources.

Consolidation of Science Agencies: An Ongoing Debate

Attn Obama: Earth science agency merger

Change for America:A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President
Chapter on: The U.S. Space Program: Restoring Preeminence in Space Science and Exploration, by Neal Lane and George Abbey: "Consideration also should be given to the suggestion that NOAA and USGS be combined to form a new Earth Systems Science Agency."


  1. I HOPE NOT!

    Can anyone else remember the Bureau of Mines? A merger preserves only the worst of both organizations at a time when we need the best they can both provide.

    IF IT AIN'T BROKE.....

    Jim Hansink
    Wodinville, WA

  2. Jim, the Bureau of Mines was not merged but rather simply eliminated as part of the Contract with America plan when the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994. USGS was also on the list of agencies to be disbanded but enough of us weighed in, that they backed down. The mining industry took a neutral to negative attitude towards BoM, which sealed their fate.

    Talking with senior leaders in the National Mining Association in recent years, they realize that the Bureau provided significant benefits that they would like to see reinstated.

    The perception that BoM and USGS were merged comes from the fact that a couple of data-gathering functions in the Bureau were preserved and transferred to USGS.

    So, I don't think it's accurate to compare that event with what's being proposed now.

    Given that, you raise a serious concern about the impact of merging agencies. USGS is still digesting it's Biological Division and trying to integrate it with the other 'traditional' Survey functions.

  3. You can't spell Bureaucrat without the word Burea :|

  4. This proposal has been in the OMB files since the Ash Commission report under the Nixon Administration The superficial logic of merging science into one agency, natural resources into another and trade and commerce into a third is appealing on the surface, but only if you believe that the agencies have limited connections to other parts of the government. NOAA is in Commerce because the Weather Service (and the Weather Bureau before that) were there, and that was because the importance of weather forecasting was in its connection to the public - business and agriculture, regional safety. These connections are why NOAA gets funded, not because of an interest in pure science. Furthermore, NOAA has responsibilities in ocean management and conservation that differ significantly from the interior department. If NOAA is merged into Interior, those aspects will wither and die, and NOAA's value will be greatly reduced. In addition, NOAA has other connections within the commerce department. Science and innovation (through the national Institute for Standards and Technology) and technical innovation (through the Technology Administration and the Patent Office) are in Commerce and I know that it is possible within the department to build synergy between these areas.

    Overall, I think moving NOAA to join USGS would be nice for scientists but bad for the oceans. Better to use the connections where it is to apply ocean science to public interests than to isolate ocean scientists off in their own little section of the government.

  5. Anonymous12:10 PM

    The above is true. NOAA has no interest in land issues. Those issues that would include Climate Change and Hydrology and Earth Resource intensive forecasts and warnings (its not all just science folks), needs to be moved out of the NOAA agency into Interior.