Many readers of this blog are interested in this topic. Even so, you may have missed David Goldston’s thoughtful contribution to the subject. [I did.] Entitled “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Why NOAA Shouldn’t be moved to the Interior Department,” it’s been around a couple of weeks.
David Goldston is currently director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He worked for two decades on Capitol Hill, culminating with service as Chief of Staff to the House Committee on Science and Technology, under Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R, NY), from 2001-2006. Immediately after leaving the Hill, David served as a visiting lecturer at Harvard and Princeton, as well as a columnist for the journal Nature, for a brief period before joining NRDC. He is well respected around Washington for both his intellect and for his prodigious work ethic.
His post is worth reading in its entirety.
David makes two points that especially resonate:
First, the move appears to be “collateral damage from an unrelated [re-]organization.” That is, it doesn’t seem to be motivated by any positive vision for NOAA and its functions and responsibilities. Rather, in the face of administration efforts to concentrate federal business support functions into a single Cabinet department, NOAA is looking to be something of an untidy outlier in its current home.
Second, by thrusting NOAA into Interior, itself a blend of science and resource management agencies, the Nation runs the risk that important debates about the protection versus the exploitation of marine resources may be hidden from the light of day. David notes this a bit more bluntly: “If NOAA and Interior disagree now, it’s a dispute between two cabinet departments that has to get elevated to the White House to get worked out by third parties. If NOAA is a division of Interior, the Interior Secretary can just shut NOAA up.”
In addition, he observes that the agencies in Interior that share common missions already collaborate well with NOAA; that NOAA partners up not only with elements of Interior but also with the entire gamut of other Departments and independent agencies; and that the proposed move would fail to address one of NOAA’s more serious challenges – the lack of a robust funding for satellites and other observing infrastructure. [There’s more…]
David closes this way: “So, in short, there’s little if anything to be gained by moving NOAA to Interior and much to lose – all from a proposal that wasn’t motivated by anything involving NOAA to begin with. The Administration wasn’t trying to screw up the National Weather Service, or to silence NOAA, or to weaken the federal focus on oceans, or to distort the already precarious balance that keeps environmental issues on the table when fisheries and ocean issues are being decided. It just seems to have stumbled on to a way to do so. This reorganization proposal would have made more sense coming from NOAA’s enemies.”
[Other than that, I wonder how he really feels…]
It’s the weekend. Grab that second cup of coffee, read David’s post from beginning to end, and take some time to ponder the policy implications. Whatever your task and role in helping seven billion people to live wisely and well on the Real World, you’ll be that much more effective come Monday morning.