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time needed to produce a solicitation document and improve the quality of contract documents.
USGS Leads the Way
In September 1987, the Department of the Interior announced the selection of an "off-the-shelf standardized financial management system to be used across the department, culminating more than a year of work led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The nearly $5 million, 10-year contract will allow the Department of the Interior to consolidate ten existing accounting and payment systems into one efficient system. The decision to seek this improvement was made after an extensive study of Interior financial systems found that most were labor-intensive and expensive, used outmoded technology, and lacked compatibility.
The Department chose the USGS to lead the acquisition effort because of its own existing centralized financial management system, its expertise in telecommunications, its experience with servicing widely varying requirements over geographically dispersed operations, and its proven track record in major ADP procurements and automation of administrative activities. USGS staff were deeply involved in the Department's review of its existing systems, assisting in the basic data collection and subsequent analysis of findings and consultants' recommendations. The Survey was also instrumental in developing and evaluating alternative approaches once the decision was made to improve financial operations on a department-wide basis. Choices ranged from modifying an existing bureau system, to starting a new and major inhouse systems development effort, to turning to the private sector. The recommendation of the Survey-led team of bureau representatives was to investigate the availability of commercially available software designed for Federal Government accounting and payment operations. This team also developed detailed operating characteristics and requirements for a departmental system that could meet the needs of both large and small bureaus and carried out the market survey.
The Department of the Interior decided to procure a single departmentwide accounting system based on commercially available technology in December 1986. The USGS was designated to carry out the procurement. The resulting request for proposals, developed during early 1987, required potential contractors to undergo a rigorous 24-hour operational capabilities test to demonstrate that their systems could meet Interior's requirements; this was one of the most comprehensive evaluation efforts ever conducted for such a system in the Federal Government.
The contract for the Department of the Interior financial management system was awarded, ahead of schedule, to American Management Systems, Inc. The USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation were the first Interior bureaus to begin implementing the new system in October 1987. The Survey is providing assistance to other Interior bureaus as they convert to the new system over a 2-year period. In addition to software, the contract provides for documentation; training of more than 1,000 accountants, technicians, and managers nationwide; maintenance and updates of the software over the system's 10-year life; and 47,000 hours of technical support services.
With this successful contract award, the Department of the Interior has taken an important step toward its goals of improving the efficiency of financial management operations, reducing the number of accounting systems, standardizing the processing of accounting data and payments, and reducing the cost of financial management operations within the Department.
Volunteer for Science Program—Taking Pride by Taking Part
Over 300 volunteers contributed more than 62,000 hours of their time to the U.S. Geological Survey during fiscal year 1987. Some of these volunteers are retired USGS employees who wish to continue their association with the USGS and its programs. Other volunteers are teachers who spend their sabbaticals or summers with the USGS and contribute to scientific research. College students pursuing degrees in the earth sciences and other professional fields broaden their knowledge and experience as they work side by side with USGS personnel. While satisfying their curiosity about career possibilities, high-school students
give valuable aid to scientists and administrators. Other community members volunteer their time and talents because of their interest in public service and in the earthscience mission of the USGS. The Volunteer for Science Program is a companion program to the national Take Pride in America public awareness campaign that encourages citizens to help take care of the public resources through volunteer efforts. After a modest beginning in 1986 with 55 volunteers, the program, by 1987, had quadrupled in size.
The program is of mutual benefit to the USGS and to the volunteers. Some volunteers welcome access to the equipment and technology and the opportunity for field work because they love earth science. Students have been able to develop USGS work projects in cooperation with academic institutions that have provided college credit in their pursuit of a degree. The benefits derived by the USGS are even more obvious. The volunteers have been involved in such major USGS projects as the Mineral Resources Appraisal Project, the Glacier National Park Project, the radon project, and the Arctic Alaska Project. They have also performed project support assignments involving such duties as recording rainfall measurements, field mapping, constructing streamflow gaging stations, and preparing scientific reports.
In the first annual special volunteer awards ceremony at the National Center in August 1987, the Director presented Special Award Certificates to 60 volunteers
who have worked on project assignments at the national headquarters of the USGS. Similar ceremonies of recognition will be held in major USGS field locations.
Pleased with the results of the program so far, the USGS has plans not only to increase the number of volunteers but also to broaden the scope of their activities wherever possible. The U.S. Geological Survey is convinced that a quality corps of volunteers can make significant contributions to the earth sciences, while giving the volunteers the satisfaction of serving the public and being part of the Take Pride in America campaign.
Unit Award for
Each year the Department of the Interior presents the Unit Award for Excellence of Service to those bureaus and (or) offices that have either met or exceeded all of its business and economic development program goals. The award for fiscal year 1986 was presented to the Director, U.S. Geological Survey, by Secretary of the Interior Don Hodel in April 1987, for the introduction of new and innovative ideas and techniques in areas related to increased staff training, concerted management attention, and special outreach efforts that resulted in significant progress in contracts awarded to small, disadvantagedand women-owned business concerns.
The 1986 Gas Disaster at Lake Nyos, Cameroon, West Africa
By Michele L Tuttle, John P. Lockwood, and William C. Evans
On August 21, 1986, a sudden release of gas from Lake Nyos in northwestern Cameroon, West Africa (fig. 1), caused the death of 1,700 people. Within days of the event, the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) sent three USGS scientists to investigate the geologic and geochemical aspects of the gas release. They
were accompanied by a medical team and, later, by a team of environmental specialists.
At 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 21, rumbling sounds that lasted 15-20 seconds were heard from Lake Nyos. In a valley below the lake, people in the Nyos village suddenly became unconscious. Only four of the 1,000 people in the village ever awakened. Survivors in areas beyond Nyos village who came out of their homes later reported they felt a warm sensation, smelled the odor of rotten eggs or gunpowder, and then fell unconscious. When they awakened, weak and confused, 6 to 36 hours later, they found family members and their animals dead. Deaths were reported as many as 11 miles north of the lake. Bird and insect life virtually disappeared for at least 48 hours but plant life remained largely unaffected.
Before the gas release, there were no apparent changes in Lake Nyos that might
have forewarned of the event. Afterward, however, the lake level was noted to have dropped about 3 feet, and there was also evidence that water had surged up along the southern lake shore ripping up or flattening vegetation to a height of 80 feet. Water had apparently splashed over a 260foot-high rock promontory on the southwestern side of the lake, and a small volume of water went over a spillway at the northern end of the lake.
By Saturday morning, the lake was calm but was rusty red in color due to a thin surface layer containing iron hydroxide; mats of vegetation that had been ripped up by the wave were floating on the surface (fig. 2). No seismic activity had been recorded at a seismic station 137 miles southwest of the lake. Household goods in the homes surrounding the lake were undisturbed, and rocks remained perched precariously on the cliffs above the lake.
It soon became apparent from field observations that the geologic setting of Lake Nyos held important clues to what had set the stage for the disaster. Lake Nyos occupies a shallow volcanic crater—a "maar" that formed along a volcanic zone that bisects northwestern Cameroon. This "Cameroon Volcanic Line," a northeasttrending zone of crustal weakness, extends
1,000 miles from islands in the Atlantic Ocean, across northwestern Cameroon into northeastern Nigeria. Young basaltic volcanoes with cinder cones and lava flows along the numerous circular maars extend northeastward across Cameroon. Many of the features, including the Lake Nyos maar, are unweathered or little eroded, having erupted, perhaps, in the last several hundred years.
The geology of the region surrounding Lake Nyos attests to the violent formation of the maar and supports the hypothesis that the lake is underlain by a diatreme, a near-vertical pipelike conduit (fig. 3). The diatreme, filled with collapsed rock and permeable volcanic ash, represents the zone where a dike of ascending, gas-rich basaltic magma from the Earth's mantle intersected ground water. The interaction of hot lava with water produced a violent explosion that formed the maar.
Although the chemical and isotopic composition of the gas in Lake Nyos indicates that the gas released on August 21 came from degassing magma, the gas is not volcanic. Volcanic gases contain sulfur and chlorine compounds and are associated with high-temperature, near-surface eruptions of magma. In contrast, the Lake Nyos gas contains extremely low concentrations