WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Science and Technology today heard from a panel of expert witnesses who warned that U.S. earth-monitoring capabilities are at risk in the coming decade.  The hearing was organized to examine the findings of the first ever National Academies decadal survey on earth science, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond.

“This is a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX).  “These satellite instruments provide essential weather forecasting capabilities, as well as data to help predict drought patterns and hurricane activity.  Accurate, timely weather forecasting and storm tracking are vital information to all Americans. 

“While we may not be able to implement all of the recommendations in this report, given today’s budget climate, these recommendations will help guide Congress in making program decisions within the budgetary framework.”

The National Academies decadal survey states that the Nation’s system of environmental satellites is “at risk of collapse.”  The report goes on to say that the current state of “budgetary constraints and programmatic difficulties at NASA and NOAA have greatly exacerbated this concern.  At a time of unprecedented need, the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray.”

Jim Geringer, Director of Policy and Public Sector Strategy at the Environmental Systems Research Institute spoke of how earth observations are also vital to American competitiveness.  “Our commitment today to technology and greater knowledge of the Earth would allow us to better protect life and property and create unprecedented opportunities to promote economic vitality.”  Geringer continued, “The right instruments and information systems enable our ability to make forecasts that help anticipate outbreaks of infectious disease, ensure adequate water availability and quality, or increase agricultural productivity.”

Also testifying at today’s hearing were Dr. Richard Anthes, President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and Dr. Berrien Moore, Professor and Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.