Craig McLean, the acting chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on Monday lamented what he said was insufficient funding for the agency to achieve its mandate.
NOAA is a $12 billion agency trapped in a $5 and a half billion budget, McLean said Monday in testimony before the House Science Committees Subcommittee on the Environment. When I compare [the agency budget] to all of the obligations we have when I stack all of those authorizations up and what were supposed to be doing, we just cant afford to do them all.
We dont work in isolation, were not a solo act as a federal agency, he added. To fill gaps we need more resources than we have available.
McLean made the remarks during a hearing on a national oceanshot, or an acceleration of oceanic technology and science comparable to the U.S. landing on the moon. In her own opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillGOP lawmakers request briefing on Democrats’ claims of ‘suspicious’ Capitol tours before Jan. 6Lawmakers question NCAA over ‘disparate treatment’ at women’s championshipsNJ lawmakers ask Gannett to stop ‘union-busting’ efforts at 3 state newspapersMORE (D-N.J.) also addressed the funding obstacles in the process, as well as lack of diversity in the field.
Ocean science is the least diverse of all STEM fields, with Black students representing less than two percent of graduates. A March 2021 House Science Committee Majority Staff report found that less than four percent of NOAA scientists are Black, and only 1.3 percent are Black women, she said.
McLean said the funding required to map the world ocean would be about $3 billion, or the rough approximate cost of a Mars mission, compared to the current level and scale of spending on mapping, which is between $50 and $80 million.
There is no pot of money but at the interagency level were looking at prioritizing what may arise, he said, citing cooperation between agencies like the NOAA, NASA and the National Science Foundation. Now is a good time for us to be making investments at the federal level to find some pot of money to fund, which could easily be distributed through the National Ocean Partnership Program we have the vehicles, we have the methods, we can do this.