DEL. BORDALLO: The legislative hearing by the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans will come to order.
The subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on H.R. 5618, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008. Pursuant to committee rule 4(g), the chairman and the ranking minority member will make opening statements. If any other members have statements I invite you to submit them for the record.
The National Sea Grant College Program is a nationwide network of over 300 university and research institutions, supporting a wide range of applied and basic marine science research education, training, and technical assistance programs that promote the understanding and better utilization of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.
I introduce the National Sea Grant College Program Act amendments of 2008, which is H.R. 5618 to reauthorize the National Sea Grant College Program and implement improvements to the program recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. These include increasing the interaction between the National Sea Grant Office and the individual programs, improving pragmatic performance reviews, and strengthening strategic planning.
The planning process enhancements in the bill also reflect the national priorities contained in the administration's ocean research priorities plan and implementation strategy. As highlighted by the Pew Oceans Commission, and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, more than half the U.S. population lives in coastal communities.
As the need for better information, education, and outreach in these communities has steadily increased, however, sea grant funding has not kept pace. Therefore, the authorized funding levels in H.R. 5618 would increase incrementally from $66 million to $100 million for the period between fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2014.
This is a significant, yet measured improvement over the approximately $57 million that the program has been allocated over recent years. I'm grateful that several colleagues who serve on this subcommittee have cosponsored H.R. 5618, including Mr. Brown, Mr. Faleomavaega, Mr. Abercrombie, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Saxton, and Mr. Gilchrest.
I look forward to working with you and all the members of this subcommittee to reauthorize and strengthen this very important marine science and outreach program.
And as chairwoman, I now recognize Mr. Brown, the ranking Republican member for any statement he may have.
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DEL. BORDALLO: I thank the ranking member, Mr. Brown, and I would now like to recognize our first panel of witnesses.
Our witnesses on this panel include Dr. Rick Spinrad, assistant administrator for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Mr. M. Richard DeVoe, executive director of the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium; Dr. John T. Woeste, Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida; Mr. Bill Dewey, manager, public affairs, at Taylor Shellfish Farms, and Dr. Robert Gagosian, president of the Consortium of Ocean Leadership. I thank you all for being here today.
I will start by recognizing our first witness this morning, Dr. Spinrad, to testify for five minutes.
And I would note for all witnesses that the timing lights on the table will indicate when your time is concluded and we would appreciate your cooperation in complying with the limits that have been set as we have many witnesses to hear from today.
Be assured however, that your full statement will be submitted for the hearing record.
And now, Dr. Spinrad.
MR. SPINRAD: Thank you. Good morning, Madam Chair, Mr. Brown, and staff of the committee. I'm pleased to be here to discuss with you the National Sea Grant College Program.
Today, I'll discuss Sea Grant's vision and mission, what lies ahead for the program, the issues we'd like to see addressed in its upcoming reauthorization, and why this program is important to the nation.
Sea Grant is an integral part of NOAA's mission to understand and predict changes in the earth's environment and to conserve and manage coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources. Sea Grant is a national network comprised of NOAA's National Sea Grant Office, 32 university- based Sea Grant state programs, the National Sea Grant Review Panel, a National Law Center, a National Sea Grant Library, fellowship programs, and hundreds of participating institutions.
Each Sea Grant state program is established through a competitive process and reviewed every four years. By linking university resources and expertise with local communities and user groups, Sea Grant promotes the effective transfer of science-based information in support of decision-making.
In short, Sea Grant takes complex information and shows people how to use it to solve problems. For example, Sea Grant was successful in working with the city of Cleveland, Ohio, to construct artificial reefs in Lake Erie from the rubble of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Estimates now indicate that these reefs attract 12 to 66 times as many fish as the surrounding non-reef areas and produce approximately $1 million of economic benefit annually.
Sea Grant also expands the reach and effectiveness of NOAA and other partners by leveraging additional funds. Sea Grant programs are required to match every $2 of federal funding with $1 of non-federal funds, and many state programs far exceed that match. In 2006, state Sea Grant programs provided $27 million in matching funds for their NOAA awards and stimulated contributions of an additional $62 million from a variety of partners.
Over the past two years, we have responded aggressively to the recommendations of the 2006 National Research Council Report on Sea Grant, which the chair alluded to. For example, Sea Grant is developing a more coordinated strategic plan for the next five years, which addresses issues affecting coastal regions locally as well as nationally, such as coastal hazards and development.
In the future, Sea Grant will also play a critical role in identifying local needs for climate research and information, and will help deliver climate tools and products to coastal decision makers. In addition, the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, stipulated that Sea Grant should be consulted in the development of a course for newly appointed regional fisheries management council members.
Through a new regional planning process, Sea Grant is also aiding in the transition to ecosystem-based management. NOAA is supportive of efforts to reauthorize the National Sea Grant College Program Act. Currently the administration is preparing a bill to authorize the program ---reauthorize --- and we'll propose several changes for the next reauthorization.
First, we'd like to advance Sea Grant's capacity for regional and national leadership. The Ocean Action Plan, which the chair alluded to, including the Ocean Research Priorities Plan, which I can say I was proud to be a coauthor of, recognize that many of our nation's most compelling ocean and coastal issues are most effectively addressed regionally. They have established regional collaboration as a priority. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy also highlighted Sea Grant's potential for carrying out regional science and information tasks.
Second, we'd like to enhance NOAA's oversight of Sea Grant. The need for a stronger national Sea Grant office was noted in the National Research Council report, which recommended steps be taken to ensure sufficient human and fiscal resources are available to promote robust interaction among the National Sea Grant Office and state programs. A reauthorization bill that would enhance NOAA's ability to administer, lead, and provide guidance to Sea Grant would serve to address the concerns identified in the council's report.
Third, we would like to see the National Sea Grant Review Panel transformed into a national advisory board. Over the past 30 years, the role of the panel has necessarily evolved in harmony with the increasing influence and effectiveness of Sea Grant. The panel is no longer needed to review funding or fellowship applications, nor the designation of new Sea Grant colleges, which now rarely happens.
Consistent with the recommendations of the National Research Council, the report states that the duties of this body should be more focused on providing strategic advice regarding the national program as well as providing assessment of the overall effectiveness of the program. A reauthorization bill should reflect these changes to the review panel and allow them to better address current program needs.
In closing, let me say that Sea Grant is effectively addressing the right problems as defined by constituent input and NOAA's missions. Sea Grant's ability to leverage resources and address issues in partnership with other entities is unique in government. I look forward to working with you to ensure that the National Sea Grant College Program continues to generate practical solutions to real problems in real places.
Thank you and I'm happy to answer any questions from the committee.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you, Dr. Spinrad.
As committee chair, I would like to welcome and thank the distinguished gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Kildee, and do you have an opening statement or anything you want to say?
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DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you, thank you very much.
And now, Dr. DeVoe, it is a pleasure to welcome you before the subcommittee --- or Mr. DeVoe, right? (Laughs.) You are now recognized to testify for five minutes, and did you bring this little package to me?
MR. DEVOE: (Off mike.)
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much. This is ---
MR. DEVOE: (Off mike.)
DEL. BORDALLO: Well, I --- yes, I understand it. It's a fastener to help keep your roof on during a super-typhoon, right? Guam needs this. Thank you. You may proceed.
MR. DEVOE: (Off mike. Good morning, Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Brown, the subcommittee and staff --- (off mike) --- thank you very much for your kind words, much appreciate it.
My name is Rick DeVoe; I am executive director of the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. Today, I appear on behalf of the Sea Grant Association in my capacity as chair of its external relations committee, and to offer our perspective on H.R. 5618.
It's my pleasure to represent my colleagues throughout the Sea Grant network and I want to acknowledge your leadership and this subcommittee's long history of support for the National Sea Grant College Program.
The Sea Grant Association represents the combined capabilities of over 300 university and research institutions in the National Sea Grant College Program.
SGA enables these institutions to coordinate their activities, prioritize action at the regional and national levels, and to offer a unified voice on critical coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes issues.
Just as our nation's Land Grant institutions have revolutionized agriculture, so too are the Sea Grant Colleges steering our nation towards the productive and sustainable use of our coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes resources through integrated and competitive programs of scientific research, education and training, and technical assistance.
I want to start by providing an example from my home state, South Carolina, on how the Sea Grant program has significantly contributed towards a sustainable environment and economy.
The nail that you have held up was invented by a former graduate student at Clemson University, who worked on the development of that nail with Sea Grant support. That nail, which is now produced by Stanley Works, holds roof on homes two-and-a-half times better than regular nails do.
The invention which is known as the HurriQuake Nail was voted the 2006 grand award winner for The Innovation of the Year by the national magazine, Popular Science. We have a copy of that --- this publication here if you're interested in having a copy.
That simple example just underscores the unrealized potential that Sea Grant possesses throughout the nation, and provides the context for comments on H.R. 5618.
The SGA strongly endorses the intent and many of the proposed changes contained within H.R. 5618 and we pledge to do our part to help towards the bill's enactment. We support the adjustments offered in H.R. 5618 regarding program evaluation. These changes will allow the Sea Grant network to be more strategic and responsive in addressing critical issues while enhancing program performance and accountability.
We are pleased with and support the bill's increased emphasis on regional collaboration. We are particularly pleased to see that the bill provides enhanced flexibility in the allocation and overall management of resources within the program which will allow for both program stability and responsiveness. And we strongly support the linkage of a Sea Grant planning and priority-setting process to the interagency ocean priorities, research priorities plan that has been referenced already today.
However, we are concerned that the authorization levels contained in H.R. 5618 represent a significant reduction of more than 33 percent compared to Sea Grant's current authorization levels.
Funding for Sea Grant has not kept pace with the extraordinary growth in coastal population development and the resulting increase in demands for Sea Grant program services by our coastal constituents to it.
At the FY09 level proposed by the administration, the Sea Grant program would be asked to operate at its lower level in its 42-year history in 2007 dollars.
Sea Grant's appropriations are over 20 percent below the buying power of its 1980 level. We have seen staff reduction on the order of 25 percent in some Sea Grant college programs. We are funding only about 12 percent of the research and outreach proposals we receive. We believe we could fund twice as many projects and we'd still have to leave many excellent proposals unfunded.
These declining trends are not helpful to a program that is required to match its federal support with state and non-federal funding. When the federal share declines, so too does our ability to leverage non-federal resources.
In sum, we feel that these declining trends and appropriations would be exacerbated by a parallel reduction in Sea Grant's authorization levels. Thus, the Sea Grant Association respectfully requests that the National Sea Grant College Program be reauthorized at levels that would grow to $125 million by the year 2014.
With this, Sea Grant will be better positioned to address a number of critical issues, current and emerging, facing our nation, the regions and states and coastal communities. Including coastal hazard resiliency, to address challenges we face at the regional, state, and local levels with the global warming, sea level rise, the increased number and intensity of coastal storms, and shoreline change and erosion with sustainable coastal development; to provide science- based information to support science and local policy formulation, development plans, and management approaches; to address land use, coastal ecosystem interactions.
Health of coastal ecosystems; to further understand and develop approaches that address ecosystem base management, wetlands loss, invasive species and resource protection and restoration efforts, and sustainable and safe seafood; to develop new techniques and approaches to minimize over-fishing while restoring the economic vitality of our fishing industry; address disease and contamination problems especially with seafood imports, and support a sustainable domestic aquaculture industry.
To conclude, Madam Chairwoman and members of the subcommittee, the Sea Grant Association has a vision for the Sea Grant program to become NOAA's primary university-based research, education, and technical assistance program in support of marine resource, use, management, and conservation.
We believe that H.R. 5618 moves Sea Grant in that direction. We are supportive of the bill in many ways and will work in support of its enactment. It is important, however, that Sea Grant be provided with the resources it needs to meet the ever-increasing challenges that lie ahead.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you today, and I'll be glad to answer any questions you may have.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much, Mr. DeVoe, for your helpful comments.
And now, I would like to recognize, Dr. Woeste, and I'm looking forward to your testimony.
MR. WOESTE: Thank you very much. Good morning, Madam Chairwoman. Ranking Member Brown, members of the committee, I serve as vice-chair of the National Sea Grant Review Panel, a federal advisory committee.
Today, I'll talk about the role of the National Sea Grant Review Panel and issues relevant to this vibrant program.
Over the past decade, the panel has conducted 59 onsite program reviews making several hundred recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the Sea Grant program, and almost all of those recommendations have been implemented.
The congressionally directed National Research Council report released in 2006 concluded that the program evaluation process established in 1998 has relied and led to improvements to the overall program.
In response to other NRC recommendations, Sea Grant is developing a five-year national strategic plan, and an integrated planning implementation and evaluation system. The new integrated system builds upon an already strong evaluation process, and is highly endorsed by the panel.
There are several issues we would like to see addressed in the new authorization. The NRC expressed concern that the focus on ranking programs was an impediment to the National Sea Grant Office's role of improving individual programs. The panel agrees with the NRC's conclusion.
The ranking component has had the unintended consequence of providing a powerful disincentive for collaboration within the Sea Grant network including the desired regional national level cooperation looking ahead.
The panel strongly believes that Sea Grant programs must continue to be reviewed and rated, removing the ranking line which would not compromise a rigorous rating and performance-based award system. We urge you to remove the statutory provisions for ranking programs.
In addition, despite rigorous reviews and the claimed program impacts, Sea Grant's buying power continues to erode. If this trend continues, the promise and potential of Sea Grant's contributions will all but disappear. Congress got it right in 2002 when it authorized the Sea Grant program at its 2008 of ($)103 million.
Based on our recent panel analysis, Sea Grant will require a ($)190 million appropriation to have the same buying power they've had in 1972. The panel has become very concerned about this downward trend. One impact has been a 30 percent decline in funded research projects over the past decade, despite growing demands for science- based solutions.
Another concern is the 5 percent legislatively mandated administrative cap. The National Sea Grant Office currently has 40 percent fewer staff than in 1991, 29 then, 17.4 currently.
Our analysis shows that a cap increase from 5 to 7 percent as a minimum is necessary for the national office to effectively fulfill its NRC recommended program leadership and coordination roles. Shorting those roles we fear misses the opportunities for meaningful linkage of federal agency resources with partnership efforts, addressing regional and national concerns such as those set forth in the 2007 Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy.
The panel believes Sea Grant is vital to NOAA's mission and to our nation's vitality. This program offers a proven in-the-field structure, engaging the academic capacity of our universities and colleges in generating science-based solutions.
As a nation we face numerous coastal challenges including climate change, sea level rise, fishing declines and coastal growth. The Sea Grant program with a strong record of leveraging resources, adapted public engagement, and committed to developing a diverse, competent work force is well positioned to address these problems. We are grateful for your support of the national Sea Grant College Program.
This concludes my remarks, Madam Chairwoman, and members of the subcommittee. We'll gladly answer any questions and we thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much, Dr. Woeste, for your thoughtful statement.
And I would now like to invite Mr. Dewey to testify, so please go ahead.
MR. DEWEY: Good morning, Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Brown, and members of the subcommittee. I've been involved in farming shellfish in Washington State for 27 years. I manage public affairs for Taylor Shellfish Company full-time and on the weekends and on my vacation, time, I also operate a clam farm of my own.
It's truly an honor to have been selected from the thousands of stakeholders and beneficiaries of the National Sea Grant College Program, as a witness to testify regarding H.R. 5618.
I'd like to share how this program has benefited me personally, Taylor Shellfish Company, and the shellfish community in general and I hope that by sharing these experiences it will underscore the importance of reauthorizing the Sea Grant Program and amendments proposed by H.R. 5618.
Specific to funding, let me say, that my opinion the Sea Grant provides essential services to coastal communities and a great return on your investment. I'm concerned that the proposed funding levels may not be commensurate with the demands that will be placed on the Sea Grant programs.
The reason for my concern is that our coasts are experiencing extraordinary population growth and development. By 2025, the Department of Commerce estimates, 75 percent of the nation's population will live in coastal counties. This intense coastal development is resulting in more and more of our shellfish beds being downgraded due to contamination. It's going to take us substantial investment in a number of programs and the Sea Grant program in particular to address the cumulative effects of this intensive coastal development.
Washington State still is the largest producer of farm shellfish in the United States. And I don't know this for certain, but I believe Taylor Shellfish Company produces more farmed oysters, clams, and mussels than any other single company in the country. You may be familiar with some of our operations, as we were featured on three recent episodes of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs. That's a badge of honor I know that our employees are quite proud of.
There are a number of reasons why Taylor Shellfish Company and shellfish farming in general has been so successful in Washington State and the Sea Grant Program has clearly been instrumental in that success. As one of the original four Sea Grant colleges designated in 1971, the program at the University of Washington has been a tremendous asset for shellfish growers right from its inception.
In my written testimony I provided some of the key past and current research projects Sea Grant has funded of direct benefit to the shellfish community. In addition to research, Sea Grant communications and outreach also provide a direct and significant impact on Washington's shellfish industry. You have in front of you Washington Sea Grant's publication, "Heaven on the Half Shell." This book is a beautiful testament to our industry. The Sea Grant authors took great care to interview elders and capture history in this beautiful book that might otherwise have been lost.
As far as outreach is concerned, Sea Grant Marine Advisory Services are out in the community working on a variety of issues of importance to shellfish growers such as septic system operation and maintenance, invasive species, stormwater, low impact development and oil spill prevention.
For two decades, Sea Grant Programs in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have sponsored an annual Conference for Shellfish Growers which has a reputation for an agenda which is packed with practical information and is very popular with growers.
In fact, it was at one of these Sea Grant cosponsored conferences some 15 years ago that I was personally inspired by a keynote speaker who spoke on the mechanization of Manila clam farming in France. That presentation was the inspiration for my company, Chuckanut Shellfish and the many inventions on my Manila clam farm in Sandwich Bay.
In the addendum to my testimony I have provided you with photographs of my farm showing rows of clams and the assorted equipment I have adapted or developed to automate production. I get immense gratification from the success of this operation, which to this day I attribute to that inspiration provided by that Sea Grant conference. That inspiration is now having ripple effect as the mechanization I pioneered is being replicated by others in the industry.
Madam Chairwoman and members of the subcommittee, I hope my comments this morning have shed light on the merits of the National Sea Grant College Program and affirmed to you the value of the amendments and reauthorization proposed by H.R. 5618.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today as a representative stakeholder. I would be happy to answer any questions and provide additional information or facts. Thank you.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much, Mr. Dewey. I appreciate your views.
And now our final witness this morning is Dr. Gagosian and it is your turn to testify.
MR. GAGOSIAN: Good morning, Chairwoman Bordallo, Ranking Member Brown, members and staff. I thank you very much for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the National Sea Grant College Program. I'm Dr. Robert Gagosian, president of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.
Ocean Leadership is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit, not-for- profit organization. It represents 95 of the leading public and private ocean research and education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education, and sound ocean policy. The organization also manages ocean research and education programs in areas of scientific ocean drilling, ocean observing, ocean exploration, and ocean partnerships.
The Consortium for Ocean Leadership strongly supports H.R. 5618 about National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008. Within H.R. 5618, we particularly support linking of Sea Grant's strategic planning and the priority setting process to the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy; increasing emphasis on regional collaboration and integrated research, education and extension, and strengthening of the review process consistent with the recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences.
As H.R. 5618 moves through the committee to final passage, Ocean Leadership would like you to consider the following modifications: First, increase Sea Grant's reauthorization level to grow to $125 million over the next three to five years.
Second, request that the National Sea Grant Advisory Board investigate the pros and cons of extending the period for the John Knauss Marine Policy Congressional Fellowship from one to two years.
Third, require that the National Sea Grant Advisory Board advise the secretary and the director about strategies for utilizing the Sea Grant College Program to implement the ORPPIS and its near-term priorities.
Next, to request that the National Sea Grant Advisory Board investigate the development of an international Sea Grant program and fellowship that would promote capacity building and technology transfers to improve global ocean observing, fisheries management, bycatch reduction, habitat conservation, and coastal resiliency.
I'd like to discuss each of these in a little more detail. Sea Grant is a highly-leveraged and effective program whose focus on applied research, education and outreach generates projects that meet local and national needs and provides information useful to coastal businesses, marine industries, government, educators, and the public, as we have heard.
However, at current levels, Sea Grant cannot fund a substantial number of meritorious proposals nor can it expand its roles and responsibilities as recommended by U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
Ocean Leadership believes that the authorization levels contained in H.R. 5618 are insufficient. In the bill, the authorization level for Fiscal Year 09 of $66 million represents a 33 percent reduction of Sea Grant's authorization level of $85 million in current law.
Ocean Leadership recommends that the National Sea Grant program be reauthorized at a level of funding growth to reach $125 million by the year 2014 to enable Sea Grant to support a robust, competitive, merit-based research education, and outreach program.
The John Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship makes vital contributions to ocean policy in the legislative and executive branches of government. More than 650 alumni from this program now hold positions in NOAA, other federal agencies, industry sector, and non-governmental organizations. Ocean Leadership believes that the program would benefit if fellows could have an option to remain for an additional year. This would enable fellows to gain more experience and make important contributions to ocean policy and legislation.
Ocean Leadership recommends that Congress direct the Sea Grant Advisory Board to review the pros and cons of providing the opportunity of extending the term of the Knauss Congressional fellowship from one to two years and provide their recommendations to the Congress.
The federal government's interagency Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy is oriented around six societal themes that focus research on understanding critical ocean processes and applying that understanding toward responsible ocean stewardship. Sea Grant's regional research priorities workshops and synthesis are poised to integrate ORPPIS to better link local needs to national priorities. However, the process for this priority setting using ORPPIS is unclear in a legislation. Congress could clarify the legislation under the section on the National Sea Grant Advisory Board.
Since the Advisory Board is charged with helping the national and state Sea Grant college program devise strategies and identify priorities, Ocean Leadership recommends that the advisory board advise the secretary and the director about strategies for utilizing the Sea Grant College Program to implement the ORPPIS and its near-term priorities.
Both the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the president's Ocean Action Plan reference the benefits of expanding the Sea Grant program internationally. While this would require additional resources, Congress could amend H.R. 5618 to strengthen the international component of Sea Grant by creating an international program and fellowship. The Magnuson-Steven Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act all reference the need for international collaboration and cooperation, capacity building, and technology transfer. With additional Federal investment, this international Sea Grant program and Fellowship could build capacity and promote technology transfers to improve international fisheries by catch reduction and habitat conservation.
Ocean leadership requests that the Congress direct the Sea Grant Advisory Board to invest the creation of an international program and fellowship.
In conclusion, the Sea Grant program is critical to the needs of coastal communities and the efforts of local and national decision- makers, tasked to conserve and manage marine resources. We believe that H.R. 5618 moves the Sea Grant program in the right direction and we support the bill.
Ocean Leadership looks forward to working with you, Madam Chairwoman, and members of staff of the subcommittee to secure the passage of H.R. 5618.
Thank you again, for the opportunity to testify and I'll be glad to address any questions the subcommittee may have.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much, Dr. Gagosian, and I want to commend all the witnesses, they stayed within their five-minute time period. It's very commendable. And I also want to thank Mr. Dewey for the booklet he provided the committee, "Heaven on the Half-Shell," we're busy up here reading it, and also to thank Mr. Dewey on the photos of your farm, the clam farm. Very impressive.
I recognize the ranking member.
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DEL. BORDALLO: No objection, so ordered.
I have a couple of questions here for the witnesses. The first is to Dr. Spinrad. In the last Sea Grant reauthorization bill, Congress called on the National Academy of Sciences to take a look at the review process used in the program and to suggest ways that it might be improved.
Since the National Academy's report, I understand that the Sea Grant National Office review panel and the state Sea Grant programs have taken to heart the academy's recommendations and made changes to improve the program. Dr. Spinrad, would you highlight the actions that NOAA is taking to strengthen the review and evaluation process used in the Sea Grants?
MR. SPINRAD: Thank you, Madam Chair. I think we can provide a detailed enumeration of the specific actions we have taken in response to the NRC report. Let me summarize some of the key activities.
One of the notable actions, in fact, is the development of a rather robust and community-consulted strategic plan for Sea Grant to capture where we would like to see the program go in the future and in fact that plan does capture many of the kinds of recommendations of a strategic nature that we saw from the National Research Council emphasizing healthy ecosystems, emphasizing safe seafood, coastal hazards, as well as sustainable coastal development.
In addition, we have taken specific recommendations regarding the review process very much to heart in our dialogue with the National Sea Grant Review Panel, which Dr. Woeste can certainly attest to, and have applied those review processes rigorously, specifically with regard to the schedule reviews of some of the state college programs that have developed over the last couple of years.
And, in fact, as you will see as a consequence of that, arguably, more rigorous, more focused set of reviews. We've undertaken some structural, specific structural recommendations and definitions of program orientation for at least two of the sea grant college programs.
So I would argue the recent -- those recent two programs that have undergone critical review are testimony to how seriously we are developing that review process in response to both the National Research Council recommendations and the reinvigorated National Sea Grant Review Panel activities. Thank you.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you. Thank you very much. I have another question for you. One of the great qualities of the sea grant program is its ability to support innovative suggestions in the years to come. How will the sea grant national office help sea grant receive the kind of recognition and financial support it needs in order to remain in the vanguard of coastal and ocean research?
MR. SPINRAD: Thank you. There are a couple of elements to your question. One is the innovative -- supporting the innovative work, and the other, of course, is the recognition. I believe that the strategic plan development that I just alluded to is going to be a particularly important component in enhancing the recognition.
I will tell you that, for example, the extensive attention given in the strategic plan development to the administration's Ocean Action Plan and to our nation's Ocean Research Priorities Plan has already put sea grant into a leadership position, and is recognized as a program that is emphasizing this important set of priorities.
With respect to the supporting innovative work, part of my response would be simply to look at the examples that have been cited by the other witnesses of their creativity, whether it's for developing new antitoxins, whether it's for addressing safety from coastal hazards such as improved construction materials.
And then there is a programmatic element that, of course, is included in the existing sea grant program, and that is a percentage of our appropriation by law goes to support the small business innovation research activity. Sea grant has been an active contributor to that.
More than that, more than just paying their due so to speak, sea grant plays a part in defining what the solicitation for small business innovative research proposals might be. So there's a number of programmatic and strategic elements both to the recognition and the innovation.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you very much for the answers to those questions.
And I do have just one more question before I recognize the other members of the committee.
Mr. DeVoe, as you know, the funding and you know we -- I guess we never can have enough. But I heard from several of the witnesses that, you know, it's not adequate even with our raising it. It's been virtually level for the past three years.
So can you describe some of the impacts such freeze has on your ability to deliver research results and technical information to coastal and natural resource managers? And in addition to that, what does that do to a program's ability to attract and retain matching funds?
MR. DEVOE: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. This has been our challenge for sometime now. We, throughout the network, have been accommodating the level funding of sea grant for sometime. It has meant, in real terms, some reductions in staff capability. Sea grant, for to be effective, has to have a sort of a core level of support throughout the nation to provide the services that we do.
It's not just funding of research projects at the universities. But it's taking that information and translating at our -- transforming it into tools, techniques, and helpful products that our constituencies can actually engage and use in their -- in the course of their daily lives.
In my particular situation, I have two positions in extension -- one in coastal hazards and one in environmental quality that I have not been able to refill subsequent to a vacancy, because the resources are not there as they were in the past. The challenge is, as you heard from the review panel, is also being felt at the national sea grant program office level.
The third factor is the fact that we are being asked more and more by our coastal constituencies to provide certain information, support, and services that we are having a hard time meeting those requests because of the limitations in terms of our ability to respond.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you. Thank you very much.
And now the chair recognizes the Ranking Member, Mr. Brown, for any questions he may have.
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DEL. BORDALLO: I think the ranking member is trying to set himself up after Congress -- a new career.
DEL. BORDALLO: And Mr. Dewey, I understand you were married on the clam farm and the guest threw clam seeds instead of rice?
MR. DEWEY: That's right.
MR. DEWEY: This is a special place for my wife and I --
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DEL. BORDALLO: I have a few questions for Dr. Gagosian. First of all, congratulations on recently assuming the presidency of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Could you please give us your vision for how you intend to use ocean leadership to raise the visibility and the support for ocean and coastal interest with the administration and Congress, and how you plan to incorporate sea grant into that vision?
MR. GAGOSIAN: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. We have, as I mentioned, 95 members in our -- representing academia, industry, and aquaria.
And the idea -- the vision that we have is to try to provide the resources on information, mainly communications, through our communications mechanisms that we have, and to build up a major communications effort not only to the members, but to get that information out to the public.
And I'll give you one example. We manage the program called the "National Ocean Science Bowl." And this is to bring high school students and get them really interested in the science, but mainly through the oceans. I've always felt that oceanography is a contact sport.
And so by getting them excited and encouraged about this, they may then go on not only to have careers, but at least be knowledgeable. And one way we want to expand the information on the ocean to the public is the -- is this year's National Ocean Science Bowl. Nationals are going to be held in Alaska. They are held in every state.
But next year, they're going to be held at the Smithsonian and at the Natural History Museum in the new Ocean Hall. And so the idea is to get a lot of visibility and partner with other organizations like the Smithsonian, to partner with organizations like the Sea Grant Association, the national association, the marine laboratories, and then expand that even further.
And I'm heading out to Denver next week, actually, to talk to people at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, because climate issues of course are not just atmospheric issues or just oceanic issues. They are obviously both merged together. So the idea is to expand and to, if you will, coordinate and facilitate the role in communicating these issues.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you. Thank you very much. I have a couple more questions. You recommended in your testimony, that the sea grant program consider providing Knauss congressional fellows with an opportunity to stay an additional year.
What do you believe are the pros and the cons of this recommendation? And also, the second part is developing a new international program in the course of advancing this legislation turns out to be too complicated at this time. What do you suggest that we do instead those two --
MR. GAGOSIAN: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. On the first one the -- there are a number of students that come to Washington obviously for one year. And one year is a very short period of time for them to learn the processes that occur on the Hill.
And the whole idea here is to have them be educated in policy. However, many of them, as I mentioned in my testimony, stay on. And they would like to be able to learn more in that time period and -- so that they then have an opportunity.
And many of the people on the Hill actually in ocean policy have had an opportunity to be sea grant fellows. So the idea would be if some of the students would like to stay on, that there would be an opportunity for them to do that.
Now, the con is, of course, as you heard from all of the members in the panel, that there are limited resources. And so the idea is do you have -- if you have more resources, do you have more one-year fellowships or do you provide an opportunity for two-year fellowships? That's all we see a balance. And that's why we recommended that the advisory committee look into that.
The other con is that I heard that from a number of the sea grant directors that a problem with the current program is that some of the students when they go back don't finish their degree.
And so I would suggest that the AAAS -- the American Association for the Advancement of Science -- the committee, the advisory committee look into their science policy fellows and look at the different mechanisms that they have for their success. And so then put together a plan that would be appropriate for the sea grant program.
The second question with respect to international -- the issue, of course, is leadership for the United States. If we are going to really observe the ocean, we're going to need to have a capacity building in other countries. And there were many ways that one can do that. But it seems to us that the international program within sea grant if there was one that was -- and that's going to require additional funds, obviously.
But if there was something available that there would be an opportunity -- and that was brought up, as I said in my testimony, by several organizations and several recommendations that there would be an opportunity for people to go to other countries, they would be ambassadors to other countries, but also for other people in other countries to come to this country or to learn there.
And so there would be, if you will, an overlap of knowledge that would -- could be brought by the United States to those particular countries, and to advance the areas that sea grant is interested in.
DEL. BORDALLO: Well, I guess every innovative program is going to cost more. That's one thing. But I do know -- I have a sea grant fellow in my office staff. She's here today, and I think there is about five of them in the room and they're wonderful. I'd like to keep them for more than one year. But of course, again, it's funding and so forth.
But I do want to thank all of you for participating in the hearing today. Members of the subcommittee may have some additional questions for the witnesses, and we will ask you to respond to these in writing. And the hearing record will be held open for 10 days for these responses.
At this time, once again, thank you. And if there is no further business before the subcommittee, the chairwoman thanks the members of the subcommittee and our witnesses.
And the subcommittee stands adjourned.