Republicans Express Concerns with Mission-Driven Approach to Research

Washington D.C. - The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today held a hearing to review the Administration’s FY12 budget request proposal to reorganize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a Climate Service.

“My objection to this proposal has been the concern that the focus to create a climate service will severely harm vital research at NOAA by transferring resources away from fundamental science to mission-oriented research and service-driven products,” said Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX).  “More than half the resources of NOAA’s research enterprise would be moved into a climate service. This proposal appears to contradict the notion that fundamental research must not be driven by operational demands.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee who chaired a portion of today’s hearing, echoed Hall’s concerns, and further questioned whether NOAA’s Climate Services plans would veer away from science and into advocacy.  “On the topic of climate change, there's already evidence that the climate service could become a source of sensationalistic exaggeration, instead of science,” Harris said, referencing non-peer reviewed articles published in a NOAA-funded “ClimateWatch Magazine” on the NOAA Climate Services website.

NOAA announced its intent to create a climate service in early 2010, but today’s hearing is the first time Congress has had the opportunity to fully examine the implications of transitioning several hundred million dollars of fundamental research into an operations-focused climate office. The proposal would constitute the largest reorganization of NOAA since its establishment in 1970. NOAA proposes to spend $346 million on the new Climate Service in FY12.

After a budget hearing on March 10th, 2011 the Committee sent a series of questions for the record, some of which asked about the Climate Service proposal in order to provide the Committee further information. Over  three months later, NOAA has yet to provide responses. Chairman Hall noted “It is very difficult for the Committee to conduct proper oversight of agencies if they are delinquent – or at best evasive – in responding to Member inquiries.”

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will continue to explore the implications of this proposal.

The following witnesses testified before the Committee:

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Mr. Robert Winokur, Deputy Oceanographer, U.S. Department of the Navy