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President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2018 Released — With Deep Cuts To Ocean And Geoscience Programs

As the clock struck 11 on Capitol Hill yesterday morning, thousands of people hit “refresh” on their computers, eagerly waiting for the first glimpse of A New Foundation For American Greatness, the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Request. For those seeking federal investment in areas such as scientific research, education, environmental conservation, infrastructure, public health, law enforcement, and even aspects of national security, they were sorely disappointed.

The House Education And Workforce Committee met to discuss upgrades to a decade-old education law. (Credit: Mithril Cloud/ Wikimedia Commons)

Getting Technical With Education Law

With technological advancement occurring at ever-increasing speed, it seems surprising that a law meant to better align career and technical education (CTE) programs with students in need of new skills and employers in need of qualified workers hasn’t been updated in more than a decade. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved by voice vote a bipartisan update to this law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R.2353). Discussion around the bill echoed that of the recent National Science Board quarterly meeting, which highlighted the shifting demographics of the STEM workforce, which includes ocean engineers and marine scientists.

Fish swim around a decommissioned oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico acting as an artificial reef. (Credit: BOEM)

One Man’s Trash Is Some Fish’s Treasure

Iron isn’t just good for your bones and growth – it’s good for the ocean, too. That’s what advocates of the “Rigs-to-Reefs” program, which converts decommissioned oil rigs into artificial marine habitat, claim. But what if that iron is also steeped in a toxic substance like oil waste products? In a Wednesday hearing, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources heard a variety of views on the program’s benefits to the natural ecosystem, taxpayers, and oil companies.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the country's only operational heavy icebreaker. (Credit: USCG)

U.S. Presence In The Arctic – Armed Icebreakers?

“U.S. presence in the Arctic is necessary for more than just power projection; it’s a matter of national security,” Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2) proclaimed during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, Homeland Security Subcommittee. If only doing were as easy as saying – even accessing the remote region requires a heavy icebreaker that can ram through at least 20 feet of ice.

Fishing boats in Labuanbajo, Flores, Indonesia. (Credit: wikicommons)

Blowing Up Ships (For The Fish)

How does someone without a high school diploma become a Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, responsible for one of the largest portfolios in their country’s government? It seems an unlikely scenario, but that is exactly where Minister Susi Pudjiastuti of Indonesia finds herself. Yet, she has been extraordinarily successful at re-establishing Indonesian sovereignty over their waters and has been responsible for unprecedented recovery of its fisheries.

More and more college graduates spend time earning their degree through a community college or technical institution. (Credit: Pixabay)

Building A New STEM Workforce

Nearly half of U.S. college graduates spent time on community and technical college campuses. The skilled technical workforce – those outside four-year institutions who use science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in their jobs – consists of approximately 16 million individuals, and it is estimated by next year, 35 percent of the STEM workforce will have sub-baccalaureate degrees. During the quarterly meeting of the 24-member National Science Board (NSB), which establishes overall priorities for the National Science Foundation (NSF), one topic of discussion centered around a draft work plan on how the agency can reach students outside the traditional four-year college institutions to develop the shifting STEM workforce.

Scientists attend community workshop on ocean observing. (Credit: Jun Wei Fan/Flickr)

Advancing Ocean Observations

The 10th community workshop, “Road to Ocean Obs ’19: FOO-ward Progress,” was attended by scientists who receive funding to monitor ocean climate trends, as well as provided a venue for the government and academic community to review programmatic progress, plans, and goals for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (which includes the Ocean Observing and Monitoring Division). Speakers at the three-day event assessed requirements, identified challenges, and fostered coordination between stakeholders and observational programs, and workshop delegates assessed current data usage by stakeholders.

The STEM Education Coalition discussed the current climate of STEM education for K-12 students. (Credit: opensource.com/Flickr)

STEM Education 101

As science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are a part of everything we do, making a STEM-literate society critically important. Last week, the STEM Education Coalition, in conjunction with nearly a dozen other organizations and associations, held a briefing, “STEM 101: Major Policy Issues for the 115th Congress.” Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology were the congressional hosts.

Homes in Tuckerton, New Jersey, were flooded after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)

Designing Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s Coasts

Even elementary students know a D+ is barely above failing. Unfortunately, that is the grade the American Society of Civil Engineers gave to U.S. infrastructure this year. This indicates our roads and highways and drinking and wastewater systems are in trouble, particularly along coastlines where they face rising seas, storm surges, and extreme weather events. Senators Tom Carper (DE, Ranking Member on Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI, Co-Chair of Senate Oceans Caucus) understand these threats well in their home states, and on an appropriately stormy day, they hosted a roundtable with coastal experts to discuss these issues and the aid and mitigation role the federal government can play.