Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources
Scientific research and technological development are critical for enhancing environmental quality, improving our nation's economy,
and protecting the health of our citizens. The most challenging environmental issues facing society today range from local to regional
and global, including sustainably using and managing our natural resources; maintaining biological diversity; maintaining a safe water
resource; improving air quality; reducing exposure to toxic substances; limiting hazards from natural disasters (e.g., geological and
weather-related hazards), understanding climate change, and minimizing ozone depletion.
Addressing these complex issues requires integration of the social and natural sciences as well as increased emphasis on areas such as
developing science policy tools to improve risk assessment, and new, more cost-effective environmental technologies.
This interagency plan focuses the federal R&D dollars on our most pressing societal needs. Significant changes in the way the federal
government plans and supports environmental and natural resources research and development are under way. This Administration
- Reinvented R&D in the federal government by creating the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to
establish clear national goals for Federal science and technology investments. The NSTC, through the Committee on Environment
and Natural Resources (CENR), is coordinating interagency programs among 12 agencies and is focusing environmental and natural
resource R&D on those questions that most directly impact our health and our economy.
- Replaced traditional single-issue, single-agency, single-discipline problem solving with a coordinated, multiagency,
interdisciplinary approach that brings together natural and social scientists, economists, engineers, and policymakers. The CENR
provides clear leadership through its subcommittee structure for strategic planning, coordination, and prioritization of research and
assessment objectives across all federal agencies.
R&D priorities have been developed in concert with a wide range of stakeholders from academia, industry, other private sector
groups, and state and local governments. By taking full advantage of this nation's enormous scientific and technological resources,
critical gaps in our understanding of important environmental issues can be identified and filled and the key issues of the future
The CENR is strengthening the overall federal R&D program through:
- increasing emphasis on competitive awards and on peer and merit review for federally funded R&D;
- improving the links between research and policy, ensuring that research programs are anticipatory to prevent, not just mitigate,
- taking a leadership role in international scientific efforts by leveraging our research through international agreements and
- developing performance standards to evaluate research program effectiveness.
As a result of the process of developing strategic and implementation plans for the CENR, the following areas of research have been
identified for enhanced emphasis in the research and budget planning cycles of the CENR federal agencies with environment and
natural resources research:
- Ecosystem research--to promote the efficient use of natural resources while sustaining ecosystem integrity for future
- Observations and data management--to ensure that the necessary measurements are made efficiently and that the data are
widely available to all stakeholders in easily usable forms.
- Socioeconomic dimensions of environmental change--to understand the underlying human influences on the
environment and the potential responses of society to change.
- Environmental technology--to protect the environment while stimulating economic growth and capturing emerging
- Science policy tools--to improve integrated assessment and risk models so policymakers can make informed decisions on
complex environmental and societal issues.
The information gained from the NSTC process was used to redirect and prioritize resources in FY 1996. Twelve agencies propose
$5.5 billion in environmental funding for 1996, an increase of $187 million, or 3.5%, over the 1995 level. This level of funding
would allow us to place increased emphasis on the five areas identified as high-priority.
Preparing for the Future Through Science and Technology: An Agenda for Environmental and Natural Resource Research is
a progress report on the first stages of this evolving, multiagency, interdisciplinary journey to reinvent how federal science agencies
do business to enhance environmental quality and economic growth.
Some Examples of How Investment in R&D Pays Off:
- We are saving lives through improved predictions of severe storms based on meteorological observations and models, as well as
through better early warning systems.
- We are strengthening the economy by stimulating new areas in biotechnology and by commercializing new technologies in
- We are protecting the health of our citizens by reducing exposure to toxic substances in air and water, and by preventing
dangerous levels of ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth's surface by controlling chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons.
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