Policy Statments » Letters from the President:

Testimony for Fiscal Year 2005
for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Dr. William H. Schlesinger, President
Ecological Society of America

Appropriations Subcommittee on
the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation's premier scientific society of over 8,000 ecological scientists, is pleased to provide written testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of particular interest to our community are NOAA’s offices of the National Ocean Service (budget request is $72.8 million), the National Marine Fisheries Service (proposed budget is $249.9 million), and the Oceans and Atmospheric Research (budget request is $103.5 million). These programs support intramural and extramural research critical to NOAA’s mission of managing marine and coastal resources to meet the nation’s environmental, economic, and social needs.

NOAA is the only institution that collects and utilizes nationwide atmospheric and oceanic data. Its research on fisheries and coastal processes has become increasingly important as pressures on coastal areas and on fish populations grow. In-house NOAA research is an important element of ecological research and provides stock assessments, basic research on fish species and marine mammals, as well as marine habitats. Without this research NOAA could not meet its obligations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act or the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and our scientific understanding of these topics would be greatly diminished. In addition to its intramural research programs, NOAA funds many important external research endeavors including research focused on algal blooms, toxic contamination of estuaries, coastal habitat loss, non-point source pollution, and fishing gear impacts. These research areas depend upon NOAA for their funding support.

Within the National Ocean Service, three programs fund coastal ecological assessment or research. The Administration requests $72.8 million for the Ocean Assessment Program which funds such monitoring projects as coastal observing systems. This is nearly identical to the FY 2004 budget request, but represents a dramatic drop from the congressionally appropriated amount in FY2004. ESA appreciates past congressional support of this monitoring program and encourages support beyond the Administration's request. The Oceanic and Coastal Research program, which conducts research on marine toxins and their impacts on human and animal health, is proposed to receive $10.5 million in FY2005. ESA supports this proposed funding to maintain the high level of science this unit produces. However, we are concerned that the budget request for the Coastal Ocean Science program is $6 million less than the amount proposed by the President for fiscal year 2004. This program supports research on pfisteria, hypoxia and coastal nutrient loading—all areas which warrant attention.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provides the science necessary for management of the nation's fisheries resources. The Administration is requesting $249.9 million for NMFS Science and Technology programs for FY 2005. The Ecological Society of America supports the increases proposed for areas within this program, including expanding stock assessments, climate regimes and ecosystem productivity, and fisheries oceanography.

The Administration’s proposed FY2005 budget for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research through the Oceans and Atmospheric Research office, calls for a significant decrease in this valuable program. In particular, we are concerned about a proposed reduction to the National Sea Grant Program, which supports research, education, and extension projects to help the U.S. better manage its coastal resources. In addition, the National Undersea Research Program, which places scientists under the sea to conduct research, would fall by $1 million under the President’s proposal. If this decrease were to go into effect, it would cut underwater ecosystem science projects—which support coastal and ocean resource management—by 20 percent. ESA is supportive of these programs and we hope that Congress can address some of these decreases.

NOAA's research programs provide the nation with valuable understanding of the workings of the oceans and atmosphere. NOAA has greatly advanced the field of ecological science through both its in house science programs and its commitment to funding external research. The Ecological Society of America thanks Congress for its past strong support of these programs and asks for its support in ensuring that NOAA retains its ability to manage the nation’s coastal and marine resources.