Lamont Weekly Report, February 25, 2011

We are watching the federal budget process very closely. As you probably know, the federal agencies that provide the bulk of our extramural funding have been operating under a Continuing Resolution absent passage of the FY11 appropriations bills last September. The existing CR set spending at FY10 levels, and must be renewed by next Friday. The CR renewal bill (H.R. 1) was passed in the House of Representatives early last Saturday, and will probably be changed in the Senate. Among the features of H.R. 1 that we are monitoring are the funding levels for the science agencies in the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2011. Several amendments to the bill clearly are targeted at reducing spending on programs important to our work. This political gamesmanship is highly unpredictable, to say the least.

To complicate matters, the Administration submitted its budget request for FY12 on February 14th (a week late). This is the starting point for a House budget resolution, comprising about twenty separate "top-line" spending caps, which then get filtered through numerous committees and subcommittees to be distributed among the different departments,
agencies and programs. This then moves to the Senate where more committees essentially repeat the debate. Ideally, the process would result in appropriations bills completed and signed by the start of FY12 on October 1st. The President's request looks good for GEO programs in NSF, but we have issues with the requested funding for NOAA, the USGS,
and several other agencies important to the science we do. The complication is that the President's request will be considered in the midst of the debate over the CR for the remainder of this fiscal year, and will be subjected to the various, and ferocious, political winds.

I want to state unequivocally that we - this office, the heads of our other units, and other university officials - intend to argue for, and defend as necessary, the important research done here and by our peers in the Earth Sciences. Basic research traditionally has had bipartisan support in Congress, but I am fully aware that this environment is different. We have many contacts, but I ask you to let me know if you have any information that could be helpful in marshaling these
arguments. Our professional associations, particularly the AGU, AIP, Ocean Leadership and the AAAS, send out updates as information becomes publically available. These are useful resources if you want to stay informed. Since fact-based discussions are the most useful, I intend to keep you updated as this process unfolds. And, since part of my job
description is to pretend not to be naive, I will be working with the Associate Directors, Administration and others on contingency plans.

Now, on to more serious matters.

Hold Friday, March 18th, 3PM-to-? open. We will be celebrating Taro Takahashi's 80th birthday in grand style (a combination of beer, wine, iconic speeches, and zen minimalism). You should have received an e-mail invitation last week. If you didn't, go poke at your neighbor's computer or get your name added to the "everyone" lists before you
miss more good stuff.

I'm working out a procedure with Edie and the DA's for getting efficient points of contact for workshop support (bus and cafeteria capacity, for example). The point is to (1) streamline meeting support for conveners, and (2) avoid over-saturation of our ancillary services.

I am very pleased that Geoff Abers has agreed to serve as Associate Director for SGT, starting immediately. Geoff has just finished a term as head of the Margins Science Office at Lamont, and he was casting about for other opportunities to use up his spare time. One of Geoff's best attributes is that he has both real and perceived wisdom. Seriously, Geoff's willingness to do this is good for SGT and Lamont, and I am personally grateful.

I will try to keep you informed about progress on the search for a new director. Keep an eye out in these weekly reports for:

DIRECTOR SEARCH UPDATE: The first official meeting of the Lamont Director Search Committee will be Thursday, March 3, on the Morningside Campus. The Provost, Claude Steele, will speak with the committee about objectives and process. We will begin the task of setting up a search web site early next week.

Next week, I will continue the round of divisional meetings to field questions about Lamont or the search, participate in several conference calls, hold several meetings related to the search, and attend a meeting of the IRI management board. On Friday, we will be hosting Linda Gunderson, from the USGS, who will be delivering the annual Diversity
Lecture at the colloquium.

My moment of zen: watching a four-foot icicle outside my office drip away into nothingness... actually, it left a pretty big puddle.