« PreviousContinue »
A New Look, A New vision
--- --- - T F
In this, my first year as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, I felt it was important to set a visionary course, one that ensures that the USGS is recognized for its excellence in science. By this mean not just the most objective science but science that can be used, science that is relevant, science that is trusted by all users. I am, justifiably I think, proud of the good science—the practical science—that we provide to the Nation.
But I believe that we can do even better. As a bureau of the Federal Government, we are determined that the American taxpayers will realize full value for their investment of tax dollars and for the trust they have placed in both the science and the management of the USGS. I have made both a personal and a professional commitment to developing a dynamic work environment that emphasizes some basic parameters, which I call the 3 C's—coopera
tion, coordination, and communication—and the 2 R's—relevance and responsiveness. With these key ideas as our watchwords, I am convinced that the USGS can be an even more vital, more viable, and more valued organization to the broad public that it Serves. What you will see in the pages of this Yearbook is a reflection of that new vision and a new look. We have arranged articles according to four principal public policy theme areas—Hazards, Resources, Environment, and Information. In identifying these themes, we seek to communicate more effectively how USGS earth science information contributes to public policy issues, to cooperate and coordinate more efficiently among the many scientific disciplines within the bureau, and to provide a melting pot for the incredible diversity of earth science expertise that we embody. Additionally, these themes require us to focus some of our efforts on ensuring that USGS products are relevant and responsive to public concerns. In the same way that the disciplines within the earth sciences overlap and are interconnected, so, too, are the public policy themes that we have selected. They are not mutually exclusive but rather are linked in their inherent need for sound, reliable, and impartial earth science information. As John Muir once said, “When you try to separate anything in nature, you find it is connected to everything else." Although the themes can in some ways stand on their own, they are all dependent on one another. As you will see in the articles in each theme section, many could easily be included in other themes as well. We hope that presenting the ongoing work of the USGS in this new way will help our constituents better understand the rich diversity of the Earth that we study and the challenging task of responding to critical earth science questions that require anSWerS. One of the public's most basic and persistent questions is, “How safe am I from the effects
of natural hazards?" Answering that question is one of the paramount functions of the USGS mission. Whether it is the threat of earthquakes, flooding, landslides, drought, or volcanic eruptions, the USGS is the Nation's primary source of information in addressing the impact of these hazards. We have been working hard through our various natural hazards programs to reduce the huge indirect tax that every citizen must pay to repair and rebuild after the occurrence of natural disasters. This "disaster tax" burden imposed by earthquakes, floods, droughts, landslides, and other such natural events now costs the Nation more than $55 billion dollars each year. We are determined to reduce that tax burden even as it threatens to climb higher as more and more people move into disaster-prone areas and use more of our finite water supply. An excellent example of our efforts to reduce the
senting the ongoing work of the USGS in
help our constituents better understand the rich diversity of the Earth that we study and the challenging task of responding to critical earth science questions that require
disaster tax is the Northridge, Calif., earthquake of January 1994 (see p. 3). The Northridge earthquake, which rocked much of Los Angeles, was comparable in size to the earthquake that devastated Kobe, Japan, just a few months ago. Although significant losses did result in Los Angeles, they were far below the 5,100 deaths and $100 billion in damages suffered in Kobe. The lower losses in the United States came, in part, because of improved building design incorporating knowledge gained directly from USGS earthquake studies. We are usually the source of primary data behind the flood predictions that you hear on TV. The USGS operates a water data network across the Nation that provides flood information to the National Weather Service and other management and disaster agencies. This network and followup studies, such as the Scientific Assessment and Strategy Team (SAST), were vital to monitoring the extensive flooding on the Mississippi River in 1993 and coping with the aftermath (see p. 8, 12). A single example will suffice to show the value of the work perfomed by the SAST-the town of Valmeyer, Ill., was relocated from the floodplain to the uplands. Our partner in these hazard mitigation efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reports that the flood-related information provided by the USGS saved many millions of dollars in rehabilitation
efforts and will save millions of dollars more in future disaster payments. Another question that needs to be answered is "Do we have enough resources—and of good enough quality—to meet current and projected needs?" In the area of energy, we need as a Nation to be looking at the broadest spectrum of potential resources, as the article on the future of energy gases attests (see p. 29). The use of natural resources can lead to additional concerns, such as the recent collapse of a New York salt mine (see p. 38) shows. The same water network that we use to provide streamflow information is also used to make many of the water-quality determinations used by local and State governments. As the Nation's largest collector of water information, the USGS documents the improvement or degradation of water quality over time. Our National Water-Ouality Assessment is the only ongoing and truly national analysis of the quality of the Nation's water. Questions of quality and issues of resource degradation lead us into the realm of the environment and what both natural and human activities are doing to alter the natural environment. From a longterm study of contaminants in the Mississippi River (see p. 52) to establishing a database of mine sites in the U.S.-Mexico border region (see p. 47), the USGS is actively engaged in understanding the conditions and functions of environmental systems and determining the factors that are changing those systems. With this type of understanding, we can often identify effective, cost-efficient methods to clean up or prevent environmental contamination while still developing resource potential. Such an approach is needed to protect not only plants and animals but also, ultimately, human health. At the core of all USGS work and its value to the public is the vast holding of information about the Earth, for which we are the Nation's foremost collector and archivist. As the many articles in the information section of this Yearbook demonstrate, earth science data are essential to an incredible range of resource and environmental issues and concerns. We are on the cutting edge of many new technolo
gies and innovations in how to gather, process, display, and disseminate earth science information, from a multi-resolution land characterization database designed to monitor changes in land cover (see p. 61) to a coastal circulation computer model that uses parallel processing to help with site characterization for a new sewage-treatment plant for the city of Boston (see p. 70). The data and information that the USGS provides are the cornerstone of Countless
The data and information that the USGS provides are the cornerstone of countless decisions that are made every day by policymakers, land planners, and resource man- i.
decisions that are made every day by policymakers, land planners, and resource managers. Much of the work that we do is in partnership with others. We are at work with more than 1,200 State, local, and other Federal agencies in all 50 States to provide the earth science information that touches and serves the lives of every citizen every day. These partnerships produce savings to the taxpayer by avoiding duplicate efforts and by providing consistent science that can be reused tomorrow. Many of these partners have been with us for many years and share with us in the funding of programs and investigations that benefit State and local interest as well as adding to the national interest by providing information for the public good, as our mission mandates. These partnerships allow us constantly to test our science in the real world. Our work is also international in scope, reaching out to many nations with whom we share common concerns and similar geology and hydrology. International cooperation is more than just being a good neighbor. As scientists, we beneimmeasurably from the exchange of information with colleagues in other countries and learn more in the process about the resources, hazards, and environmental issues of our own country. Little is known, for example, about the transport and release of mercury or about the processes that control its fate in the environment. Cooperative mineral resource studies with the U.S. Forest Service in Venezuela are providing USGS scientists with information that will help in developing remediation efforts worldwide (see p. 88). I hope that you will find the new look of the Yearbook and the new vision of the U.S. Geological Survey to be positive changes that ensure we are continuing our commitment to provide "Earth Science in the Public Service."