The charge to the committee included a request to consider whether existing documents set an appropriate course for the future. To this end the committee was provided with a number of documents, including
Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) Bylaws
Public Law 110-380-Aug. 17, 1990, Title V. Prince William Sound Provisions
Oil Pollution and Technology Plan for the Arctic and Sub-Arctic, September 1995
Business Plan OSRI April 1999
OSRI Annual Work Plan FY00
OSRI Annual Work Plan FY01
OSRI Annual Work Plan FY02
Neither the OSRI bylaws nor the enabling legislation (Public Law 110-380-Aug. 17, 1990) includes a requirement for a strategic plan for OSRI or guidance for review and implementation of a strategic plan. The 1995 Oil Pollution and Technology Plan for the Arctic and Sub-Arctic is the de facto initial strategic plan for OSRI. Subsequent OSRI annual work plans are actually tactical planning documents. The overall objectives of the OSRI program are restated with variations and changes in emphasis in each plan. The linkage between the 1995 strategic plan and the annual tactical plans is often vague and it is difficult to track the evolution of strategic planning for the overall OSRI program.
The 1999 business plan contains a section called “Strategic Vision” that provides the rationale and justification for the focus of the program on “physical and biological prediction,” the Nowcast/Forecast (NC/FC) program. Weakness in physical and biological prediction tools is portrayed as a major limitation to improving oil pollution prevention and response. The entire OSRI program, including education programs and technology development, is meant to focus on this strategic vision.
The committee considered available OSRI annual reports 1997-1999, 1999, and 2000 and the OSRI FY02 Technology Coordinator’s Report to assist in assessing whether the strategic plans were being implemented. The director identified a series of workshop reports used for planning purposes:
Thomas and Cox (2000), AMOP, “A Nowcast/Forecast System for PWS;”
Robertson and DeCola (2001), Proceedings of the “PWS Meteorological Workshop;” and
Dickens (2002), “Oil and Ice R&D Priorities.”
As can be seen from the documents provided, OSRI planning is based on a range of documents including specific planning documents, annual plans, and workshop reports. In general, these documents review and restate the implementing legislation and the OSRI mission and goals. The first long-range (10 years) planning document outlines the plan for implementing OSRI and identifying the objectives of OSRI as
The goal of OSRI’s research and development is to identify technologies (hardware, software and procedures) that reduce the risk of an oil spill, and risk of damage to the environment. (OSRI, 1995)
This is to be accomplished by a three pronged approach: (1) reducing the risk of oil spills—prevention; (2) reducing the risk of damage after a spill—response research; and (3) assessment of the ecosystems along the transportation route—ecosystem assessment. The report then goes on to provide a list of recommendations that set priorities based on gaps in information: Forty-seven recommendations are made. Overall, the document is well written and provides adequate guidance for implementing the OSRI mandate.
The larger question, in addition to the adequacy of planning documents, is whether the plan is being implemented and whether progress is being made toward the stated goals. It appears that the annual plans are intended to answer these questions. The oldest work plan provided to the committee was a short business plan dated April 1999. An initial business plan was developed in 1997 and this is when the 40/40/20 percent fund
distribution goal was established. The annual plans summarize the background information on the formation and goals of OSRI. Little explanation for the changes in emphasis or goals was found in the documents provided. The 1995 Oil Pollution and Technology Plan for the Arctic and Sub-Arctic is not mentioned. Part of the 1999 business plan is a section entitled “A Strategic Vision,” and this outlines a new set of goals, approaches, and objectives. The strong emphasis on predictive ecology is set forth as a principle in these documents. Over time, the annual plans become primarily a listing of funded programs with little cross-program synthesis or explanation of how each plan addresses the mission and goals of OSRI.
The next type of document is entitled the Technology Coordinator’s Report (2002) and is called a status report to the OSRI Advisory Board. This report reviews the finances and then provides a program-by-program summary fact sheet. The fact sheet includes a summary of the program including budget and partners/cost share, a timeline, end users, relationship to OSRI mission, details of proposal award process, and any updates. NC/FC is defined as the principle development effort of OSRI. While a section is included on relevance to the OSRI mission, the connections are not explicit in most cases and relevance is often justified on nonmission criteria. For example, certain projects are identified “to aid in tactical operations related to oil spill containment and mitigation.” This report is a useful compilation of information regarding OSRI-funded activities. The report could be improved by more discussion on how the projects fit together into a coordinated program of research and technology development.
There has been an evolution in the type and content of planning documents since the creation of OSRI. In general, the documents have been improving in quality and provide useful information to oversight groups. In particular, the technology coordinator report is helpful in providing a comprehensive picture of what OSRI does. These reports could be improved by adding a synthesis chapter tying the projects together into an overall vision.
There is a need for a revised strategic plan. The strategic plan should be used to inform decisions regarding all OSRI actions. The question to be asked is: How does each activity relate to the OSRI mission? This is essential to ensure that sound and consistent decisions are made over a period of years. Strict adherence to mission will provide a sense of fairness and equity even when difficult and controversial decisions must be made. Arbitrariness will be inferred if the strategic relevance and justification of decisions is not made clear. This can only occur within the context of an explicit, clear, and detailed strategic plan that guides the daily operations of OSRI.
According to the strategic vision statement in the 1999 business plan, all OSRI programs are intended to help improve our ability to predict marine ecosystem changes and the centerpiece of the OSRI program is the NC/FC program. However, it is unclear in most cases how many of the projects sponsored by OSRI contribute to this strategic goal. The acoustic monitoring of fish and zooplankton populations is providing valuable ecological data; however, it is unclear how the snapshot of herring, pollock, and zooplankton distributions and abundance during a short time period each year and in a confined geographic area of Prince William Sound (compared to the geographic range of the populations being monitored) can be used as input to the Nowcast/Forecast and OSCAR model systems. The Copper River Delta ecology program is good science but how will the results fit into he overall OSRI program? A strategic plan should clearly identify the linkages among all program elements. It also should be updated periodically to help refocus the program as new data or requirements dictate.
As OSRI plans its future activities, it must take steps to tie its planning into what other research organizations are doing, or at minimum plan its activities with more awareness of what other organizations are doing. Environment Canada, for example, has six committees that plan and review research, and these meet annually each December to plan future work and establish connections with other groups. As many as 35 other agencies in North America and Europe are represented. Similarly the American Petroleum Institute (API) has a Spill Advisory Group that looks at API research and includes representatives of about 10 organizations. Both of these are opportunities for OSRI to tie its program planning into existing coordination efforts.