Lamont Weekly Report, May 29, 2009

A week today - Friday June 5th, the Director of NOAA's Climate Program Office, Chet Koblinsky, will give a talk in the Comer 1st floor seminar room at 2:15pm.  There is a lot going on at NOAA right now and we hope to gain some insights from Chet about what the future might hold.

I flew down to DC first thing on Tuesday morning (with Hilary Clinton, no less, on the US Air shuttle) and spent Tuesday and Wednesday working on the Advisory Committee to the  Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) for the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). COL is the prime contractor to NSF for the implementation of this ambitious infrastructure program which (depending on how you count) will be funded over the next decade at a level of more than $700M.  
The first increments of funding (more than $100M) are in place at NSF and it is anticipated that the funds will flow through COL to the implementing organizations as early as this fall - with data from the first systems flowing to the web in the 2012-2013 timeframe.  Tim Cowles (ex OSU) is the COL Program Director for this program and he faces some significant management challenges to meet the very ambitious construction schedule.  The visibility and importance of this program inside the beltway is most effectively illustrated by the fact that the OMB examiner for NSF - Joel Parriot - decided to sit in for half a day (without invitation I might add) to monitor the discussions of the Advisory Committee. It is a sign of the times - OMB reps participating in science advisory committees is new...

Thursday and Friday were consumed by a members meeting and a Trustees meeting for COL. Most interesting among the many presentations were the budget reports from the primary ocean agencies.  Tim Killeen gave the wonderfully positive story from NSF: increases into the core programs to insure success rates of 35 per cent or more; a new Climate
Research Program across NSF (~$190M) with around ~$48M within GEO,  ~ $40M in BIO and ~$60M in OPP, the Program Announcements for which will be drafted this summer and released this fall; ~$200M (already awarded) for a new Alaskan Regional Research Vessel. These are just a few of the highlights.

The ONR report focused upon the plan to continue the current emphasis on the Western Pacific and interestingly, the possibility of re-establishing a 6.1 research program in the Arctic. NASA Earth Sciences has steady increases.  But NOAA is not in good shape - flat funding for OAR and NOS will not be good for Lamont.  Everyone has great expectations from new NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenko but she does not yet have her senior management team in place and it will take time for her to wrestle with this hugely difficult problem.

Besides OOI, the other major program that COL manages is the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.  Again the stimulus funds in NSF are helping this important program with some significant budget issues and it seems that sufficient funds may be available for 12 months of operations in 2010 - although remarkably there is still some ambiguity with this.  Kyoshi Suyehiro from JAMSTEC has taken over leadership of the international planning office in DC for the drilling program -
taken over from ex LDEO Director Manik Talwani who has returned to his academic position at Rice.

So, it was another Friday afternoon at National airport (where I am writing this)  and so far, it looks like I should be home on time.

Have a great weekend,