Fifty Years of Ocean Discovery
RADM PAUL G. GAFFNEY II
Chief of Naval Research
I am very pleased to be with you for this special occasion, and confess to finding myself feeling a bit humbled as I look around this room and see the depth of oceanographic expertise in the audience and on this panel. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) share a long history together, and I am honored to be able to help celebrate and congratulate NSF's contribution to our understanding of the oceans, and to share with you some thoughts about the future of ocean discovery.
Before I get started, however, some good news. We now have a signed appropriations bill, and for the first time in many years, the Office of Naval Research gets an up-swing in basic research. Our goal for the future is $400 million, and the recent increases give us some cause for measured optimism.
I want personally to thank the entire science and technology community for your involvement over the last few years to help us make this happen—when you tell the story, it's credible (sometimes even charming). It would not have taken place without your engagement and efforts. What a difference a year can make! Last year we were wondering where the floor might be... now we can plan a strategy for continued modest growth to restore hope, take prudent risks, and provide for a future as strong as our past. So it is a pleasure to bring some good news to this gathering, and to thank you for the support that helped produce it.
As I contemplated my remarks to you this afternoon, my thoughts turned to the essence of what we are celebrating. We are essentially celebrating a vision. That vision was born more than 50 years ago at the end of World War II, which showed that our nation could not afford to be without a strong, robust basic research program... a program that tums predominantly to universities for the substance of that research. It was a vision that has proven critical not only to our national security, but to the overall economic and social well-being of this country.
Both ONR and NSF were born of that vision—and now we are neighbors. Because we were the two first U.S. government agencies dedicated to supporting basic research, we have each had the pleasure of watching and helping one another mature and make our marks. (Since contributions that go unremarked don't get made into marks, permit me to ask you to mark this—two of this year's Nobel laureates were supported by ONR—professor Walter Kohn, who won a Nobel in Chemistry; and Professor Daniel Tsui, who won a Nobel in Physics. I don't have to tell this audience the role the NSF has also played in supporting Nobel-quality research. I think "Father Vannevar" would be proud of his two offspring.)
Since ONR was founded in 1946, we have shared with NSF a leadership role in ocean science. For us that leadership is critical, because ocean science is a core science, it is a Naval science, and it is one we choose not because we like it, because it is interesting, or because it is our charter. We choose it because we need it—this maritime nation needs it and our Naval Service needs to understand it.
Prior to the mid-1960s, ONR was the only major founder of ocean research. Since then, NSF's ocean research program has made its own mark, as has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)... and oceanography has become a substantial part of your portfolio in part because the national priorities for ocean research have grown. And why not? This is the world's greatest nation and it is a nation virtually surrounded by water and dependent on water.
ONR retains the leadership role in some areas—areas such as ocean acoustics that are critical to our national security needs—but NSF has assumed responsibility for other areas of broader national importance such as global climate change research and polar science. This is as it should be for siblings who are responsible for the overall health of the research field.
This division of responsibility has proven to be a successful arrangement for both of us... and: I believe, has ensured a strong and healthy community. As a matter of fact, this year, we examined our ocean acoustics investment
very carefully and as a result are reinvigorating the program with additional resources that restore funding levels to those of a few years ago. We will also provide a few special programs to ensure that we have a sufficient pipeline of students, post-docs, and young faculty to address future acoustic issues, and we hope to send more acoustical research to sea! (Isn't that a novel idea!) I look forward to collaborating with NSF here as well.
Together, we have made a significant impact on ocean sciences. For example, long-term investments in the studies of ocean thermal, chemical, and acoustical properties, and bottom topography ultimately helped submariners process and assess the many noise sources in the sea, and enabled them to discriminate undersea threats. This capability was one of many that helped end the Cold War.
That research investment also led to a significant improvement in understanding ocean dynamics and the processes that control how the ocean responds to atmospheric forcing and internal changes in ocean structure.
Together, we have shared in the development and improvements in manned vehicles such as Alvin and remotely operated vehicles such as Jason that have allowed us to "look" at 98 percent of the ocean floor, and to discover (another novel concept . . . is discovery science?) new geological features and life forms.
Together, we have provided the oceanographic community with the tools they need to do their work. ONR has built a first-class armada of ships for global research in both shallow and deep waters . . . while NSF's normal role in the partnership is a major supporter of these national assets to address leading national ocean science challenges. We are working closely here as we take advantage of the good news about our funding to make sure we optimize both science and these assets for the good of the nation over the long-term. Together, we have undertaken significant work with these tools—the Arabian Sea process study, for example—and will continue to advance the state of the ocean sciences.
In the polar areas, NSF is clearly the leader—and we salute you. I had a chance to personally thank Joe Bordogna last month for NSF's major support of SCICEX (Scientific Ice Expeditions) research, while the Navy provided a unique platform of opportunity.
I think we should be very proud of our accomplishments—they form a strong foundation for the work we will do in the next millennium.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is expensive to do work in the oceans, we must cooperate—if not in shared funding, then at least in planning. No overlap is affordable. And what is really exciting is knowing there is so much we haven't even imagined yet!
This year was the International Year of the Ocean—a celebration that has placed ocean science both on the national and international agendas. Hurricanes, droughts, floods, coastal erosion, El Niños, La Niñas, and national security problems during the last few years have also brought home why it is imperative that we understand the oceans. Secretary of the Navy Dalton has taken the opportunity afforded by the International Year of the Ocean to remind not only the public, but also the Navy itself, of the importance of understanding the oceans, and how they affect our lives.
In closing, I believe that we are in a time of rich opportunity for research in ocean science. (No, "rich" is not right .·. . it is imperative that we understand the ocean now, broadly; it is the most American of all sciences as we are the world's greatest maritime nation.)
So permit me to offer a vision for the future of our partnership in ocean observing and exploration that may prepare us to move into areas yet unimagined. The vision is one of a maritime nation whose well-being is seen against the broader background of this planet's waters. Let us regard the future of research with alert and open minds prepared for fresh insights, and take care that we not lose our vision. In the future, there will be a place for ocean science in the interest of national security . . . and there will be a place for ocean science in the interest of national need. Let's go forth together and do great things.