Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources

Appendix B. Agency Contributions to Environmental and Natural Resource Research and Development

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The USDA's responsibility is to ensure a safe, healthy, abundant, and affordable food and fiber supply for the United States, while sustaining and enhancing the natural resource base. USDA research supports U.S. food, fiber, and forestry industries, which account for over 20% of the gross domestic product. Over the last decade, the department has faced challenges in the areas of water quality, biodiversity, and pest and disease control, which have required new approaches to food production and renewable natural resource management. In response to these changing needs, opportunities have surfaced in new uses for agricultural and forestry products, biofuels and biomass energy, and recycling technologies.

Contribution to the Committee on Environment and
Natural Resources (CENR) Interagency Research and
Development (R&D)

The USDA global change program focuses on understanding atmosphere/biosphere gas and energy exchange, altered carbon storage, the effects of increased incidence of fire, insect and disease disturbance in forest ecosystems resulting from global change, and the response of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to physical and chemical changes in the atmosphere. Support is provided to establish and operate a national monitoring network to obtain baseline ultraviolet-B radiation information at ground level. Research on alternatives to methyl bromide will pursue nonchemical alternatives to replace this important agricultural fumigant determined to deplete stratospheric ozone.

Research supporting biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics will increase our knowledge of how community composition, and structure relate to function and sustainability. Research in this area overlaps substantially with resource use and management. Ecosystem research addresses how a biological community and its environment interact with land use, and what practices are best for forest, range, crop and aquatic ecosystems. USDA research supports real-time policy and management decisions on threatened and endangered species, notably in the Pacific Northwest.

In the area of toxic substance/wastes, the USDA conducts research into alternatives to chemical pesticides such as crop rotations, residue, and waste management. This is part of the USDA's larger Integrated Pest Management initiative to develop environmentally benign methods to control pests and reduce pesticide risks. In addition, water resources research is designed to make better in situ use of precipitation, increase the effectiveness of water use in irrigation, minimize the adverse effects of irrigation on water quality and quantity, and improve watershed management systems and reduce nonpoint source pollution from the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Primarily in support of the extensive USDA technical assistance program, its research program in soil quality, maintenance, tillage, and erosion prediction and control provides world leadership. Air quality research emphasizes monitoring acid deposition as part of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program and developing technologies to reduce and control airborne particles from soil and fires. Fire safety and management research contributes to reducing natural disasters.

USDA's economic research program aids our understanding of the social and economic tradeoffs of natural resource management across all of the CENR issue areas.

The USDA has established networks with universities, government, and industry for jointly conducting research, transferring new technologies, disseminating information, and monitoring the environment with the aid of our extensive agricultural and forestry research and extension system, as well as the nonresearch efforts of the National Forest System, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Consolidated Farm Service Agency, and the National Agricultural Library.

U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has the primary mission to promote U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards across a broad spectrum of activities covered by all subcommittees of the CENR. NIST supports industry through strong laboratory research, grassroots assistance to small and medium-sized companies to adopt new technologies, and rigorously competitive cost-shared awards for development of high-risk technologies with significant commercial potential. Through efforts to promote development, commercialization, and use of environmental technologies, NIST is ideally poised to help U.S. industry make the transition to green technologies and promote sustainable development..

Through its Building and Fire Research Laboratory, NIST conducts research on the life cycle quality of constructed facilities. This contributes to NIST's mission through helping U.S. industry strengthen its international competitiveness and public safety through performance prediction and measurement of technologies and technical advances that improve life cycle quality. Research areas inlcude structural, mechanical, and environmental engineering, fire science and fire safety engineering, building materials, and computer-integrated and automated construction practices.

Contributions to the CENR Interagency R&D

Air Quality, Toxic Substances. NIST maintains the National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank which stores hundreds of frozen tissue samples (e.g. human livers, fish, oysters, sea coast sediment, whale blubber) to be used for observing long-term pollution and global health trends by monitoring levels of pesticides, PCBs and over 30 trace elements. NIST also develops analytical procedures and standard reference materials for the analysis of asbestos, lead, atmospheric pollutants, soils, radon, radioactive wastes, biodegradable plastics, and other environmental contaminants. Research also focuses on the development of data, measurement and test methods, and modeling techniques to determine the performance of the building envelope and its insulation systems; the release, movement, and absorption of indoor air pollutants; the performance of building mechanical and electrical equipment; and the quality of the indoor air environment.

Environmental Technology. NIST supports research to help identify and evaluate environmentally safe replacements for ozone-depleting substances for their performance in new and existing equipment. In addition, NIST research is focused on the development of building materials ranging from environmentally benign paints, to fire resistant materials, to those with minimal vapor emissions, to those that make maximal use of recycled or waste materials.

Natural Disaster Reduction. NIST performs problem-focused research and development to improve practices, standards, and codes for new and existing buildings and lifelines to reduce loss from earthquakes, extreme winds, and fire. Research is also targeted at the development of methods to predict the behavior of fire and smoke to enable high performance of fire detection and suppression systems. NIST research also aims to identify failure mechanisms and to establish criteria to ensure structural safety.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The NOAA's mission includes two equally important components: (1) promoting global environmental stewardship to conserve and wisely manage the nation's marine and coastal resources and (2) describing, monitoring, and predicting changes in the earth's environment to ensure sustainable economic opportunities.

Contribution to the CENR Interagency R&D

The NOAA is responsible for long-term monitoring of the oceans and atmosphere and provides both satellite and in situ observations, data, and information necessary to understand the earth system, assess changes to that system, and predict future changes. The NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites provide continuous, long-term, quality environmental observations of the high seas, upper and lower atmosphere, and land areas to sustain major science programs involving global monitoring, sustainable development, climate change, coastal and marine resources, and natural disasters. NOAA data and observations will comprise a significant component of the U.S. contribution to an international global observing system, for which the CENR Task Force provides the U.S. Secretariat.

The NOAA forecasts and predicts the future state of the atmosphere, focusing its air quality research on gaining a fundamental understanding of the atmospheric processes that must be characterized for credible and useful predictions. The primary air quality issues that NOAA addresses are surface-level ozone, acidic deposition, and visibility. The NOAA addresses two important research aspects of global change climate change and ozone depletion. The NOAA has a significant role in operational observation, research, prediction, and information management efforts for the national global change effort. The NOAA's social and economic sciences research focuses on the human dimensions of global change and the relationship of near-term climate forecasts and their impact on the economy. The NOAA provides forecasts and warnings of various natural hazards related to the atmosphere and ocean, focusing research on understanding the underlying environmental processes and predictive methodologies of natural hazards. The NOAA provides river and flood and hydrological forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property. Research is geared to advanced water quantity forecasting.

The NOAA conducts an active program of monitoring and scientific research to assess the status of the nation's renewable marine resource base and their attendant uses. The NOAA pursues a multidisciplinary approach to enhance the ability of scientists and managers to identify, understand, and manage anthropogenic impacts to coastal and marine ecosystems against a background of natural system variability. NOAA's social and economic sciences research focuses on the social and economic impacts of fisheries management and damage assessment methodologies.

The NOAA supports a balanced research program on coastal and marine observations, modeling, assessment, ecosystem prediction, and information management. Ongoing research includes remote sensing, modeling of oceanic and nearshore processes, developing key indicators of coastal and marine ecosystem health, the effects of cumulative impacts on coastal and marine environments, and environmental valuation and human dimensions research.

The NOAA is responsible for research on and management of marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. Research in this area includes surveying and monitoring the abundance of and trends in marine biota, measuring and evaluating the impacts of pollution, exotic species, and habitat degradation on marine biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and understanding and generating models to simulate large-scale marine ecosystems. The NOAA's role extends to the restoration of degraded ecosystems and establishment and management of marine and estuarine sanctuaries and reserves.

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)

As with all other aspects of DOD's R&D, environmental and natural resource research programs are focused in the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on National Security and contributory to the CENR.

The department invests resources in environmental and natural resources R&D to meet its responsibility to the nation to clean up its facilities; move toward forces and infrastructure that are nonpolluting; husband the lands and resources under its control; and to be compliant with federal, state, local, and international regulations. In addition, the Department's operational needs lead to investments in R&D to understand and predict the state of the operating environment (i.e., weather, oceanography, terrain) and its effects upon people, platforms, sensors, and weapon systems. Knowledge of these environmental effects leads directly to tactical and strategic military advantage, which can significantly alter the outcome of conflict. These programs are critical contributors to the CENR.

Contribution to the CENR Interagency R&D

DOD invests in R&D through Service and Defense Agency programs, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. The investment in environmental quality is balanced among installation restoration and remediation, technologies for compliance with regulations, pollution prevention technologies, methodologies for conservation of natural and cultural resources, as well as alternate and renewable energy technologies. In characterizing and predicting the operating environment, the department invests in R&D in meteorology, oceanography, terrestrial sciences, ionospheric and space effects, global environmental change, and remote sensing of the environment.

R&D within the department is executed in response to mission-relevant requirements. Because of the wide variety of installations owned and operated by the department coupled with the necessity for us to be able to deploy our forces worldwide, the department invests in all aspects of environmental and natural resources R&D. There are DOD R&D programs that contribute to each of the CENR subcommittees with the largest investment contributing to the area of toxic substances and solid and hazardous waste research.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE is entrusted to contribute to the welfare of the nation by providing the technical information and the scientific and educational foundation for the technology, policy, and institutional leadership necessary to achieve efficiency in energy use, diversity in energy sources, a more productive and competitive economy, improved environmental quality, and a secure national defense.

Contribution to the CENR Interagency R&D

DOE has multiple missions, each of which uniquely contributes to the R&D portfolio for CENR. These mission areas include energy resources, environmental quality, science and technology, national security, and crosscutting programs in industrial competitiveness.

DOE conducts extensive applied R&D and maintains a dedicated national laboratory to support R&D in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. This program is targeted at achieving diversity and efficiency in energy use and efficiency in its generation of a more secure national economy. At the heart of some of the department's programs is the concept of sustainable development. Many of the these programs are linked under a conceptual framework that supports pollution avoidance, rather than the traditional end-of-the-pipe controls for industrial processes.

DOE supports substantial R&D in the area of environmental cleanup and remediation technologies. Because of the department's enormous cleanup mission, DOE is sponsoring some of the most advanced R&D nationally and internationally to determine safer, cheaper, faster, and more effective ways to clean up contaminated environments and to reduce or prevent the emission of environmental pollutants. Technology leveraging with the private sector results in cost-shared risk through dollar leveraging. The result is innovative technology systems to be transferred to the private sector for commercialization.

DOE programs in science and technology include significant contributions to global change research. Research into the underlying phenomena, ranging from sophisticated modeling of global climate to extensive field programs to gather data on critical processes, are all part of the department's efforts in this area. Advanced sensors are being developed to further the accuracy and precision of key climatic measurements. These activities are conducted in response to DOE's need for assessing the environmental consequences of energy production and use. Additionally, the department conducts significant research into local air quality and air pollution phenomenon, providing a basic science perspective into urban air pollution issues, as well as providing analytical tools that support the prediction and mitigation of consequences from natural disasters.

The national security mission within the department is home to several contributing elements to the CENR portfolio, notably the large program for dual-use technologies that constitute the Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing Program, and separate, dedicated programs designed to conduct R&D pollution prevention technologies for use at DOE facilities and to encourage their transfer to the private sector.

Finally, the department's crosscutting programs in industrial competitiveness include specific activities to help research and develop clean, sustainable industries of the future, all based on the sustainable principles of energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and industrial ecology.

Department of Health and Human Services

National Institutes of Health

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has the primary responsibility at the National Institutes of Health for environmental research. Other institutes, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Eye Institute (NEI), and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) support environmental health studies related to cancer, eye diseases, and immune system disorders.

The Public Health Service Act directs the NIEHS to support research on the health effects of environmental agents. NIEHS research programs are broad and include research on drugs, pesticides, chemicals used in the home or workplace, electric and magnetic fields, radon, and prevention and intervention efforts. In addition, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act directs the NIEHS to support multidisciplinary research grants to determine the health and environmental effects and possible routes of exposure of toxic waste and to develop technologies for destroying or containing toxic waste. The NIEHS communications strategy encompasses training, education, technology transfer, community outreach, and most importantly, dissemination of findings from its research programs.

Contributions to the CENR Interagency R&D

Global Change. The NCI, NEI, NIAMS, and NIEHS support research on the health effects of ultraviolet (UV) and near-UV radiation on the immune system, aging process, and sensitive organs such as the eye and skin, and on methods to reduce these harmful effects. As the most prevalent human carcinogen, UV radiation is an increasingly important public health problem. Melanoma is the most rapidly increasing, potentially fatal cancer in the United States, and the costs of treatment for basal and squamous cell skin cancers, which equal or exceed in numbers all other cancers combined, result in extremely high health care costs. NIEHS also funds research on the health effects of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical replacements.

Air Quality. NIEHS supports research related to the health of indoor and outdoor air pollutants such as acid aerosols, particulates, ozone, radon, and air toxics. The focus is on identifying harmful agents, determining mechanisms by which they produce effects, and developing and evaluating the impact of prevention and intervention strategies.

Water Resources. NIEHS supports research on a wide range of contaminants of our water resources, including agricultural chemicals, heavy metals, dioxin, PCBs, solvents, and seafood-borne toxins. The institute funds five university-based Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Centers to develop fish and other marine animals to serve as biological models for toxicologic research and to study human health problems resulting from contaminated water or seafood.

Toxic Substances. NEIHS supports research, including, for example, basic study in molecular biology that led to the discovery of the breast cancer gene BRCA1 by NIEHS scientists; epidemiology studies; and toxicity and carcinogenicity testing. Research conducted by the NIEHS into the health effects from environmental agents results in the prevention of cancers from benzene, asbestos, and radiation; reproductive problems from DES, caffeine, and environmental estrogens; birth defects from lead, isoretinoin, and mercury; skin diseases from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, and naphthalenes; and neurologic problems from lead, kepone, and solvents.

NIEHS provides 95% of the funding and the day-to-day management of the National Toxicology Program, which coordinates toxicological research and testing activities within the Department of Health and Human Services and provides information about potentially toxic agents to regulatory and research agencies and the public.

Hazardous Wastes and Environmental Technologies. With funds from the Superfund Trust, the NIEHS Superfund Basic Research and Training Program supports multidisciplinary research on the health effects of hazardous substances, on strategies to detect and trace the movement of hazardous substances in the environment, and on technologies to destroy or contain hazardous substances. An important component of the health research is the search for biomarkers of exposure and effect that can identify not only those persons exposed but those most likely to suffer serious effects. Technologies under development include steam injection to remove solvents from soils (tests show one technology to be 60 times more efficient than pump-and-treat methods), bioremediation of azo-dyes and organic chemicals, and supercritical water combustion for toxics that cannot be successfully destroyed in high-temperature incinerators.

Risk Assessment. Although NIEHS does not conduct risk assessments, it provides a major portion of the science base to those agencies that do. All of its research from basic studies of the molecular and genetic basis of environmental illness to epidemiology studies of human populations to toxicologic testing of environmental agents contributes to the development of risk assessments. The understanding of the mechanisms of action of environmental agents made possible by the new tools of molecular biology coupled with state-of-the-art animal testing promise great improvement in the quality of risk assessments.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

The mission of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is to prevent exposure and the adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources.

Contribution to CENR Interagency R&D

ATSDR evaluates data and information on the release of hazardous substances into the environment to assess any current or future impact on public health and to identify studies or actions needed to prevent human health effects. ATSDR conducts health assessments of all waste sites on the National Priorities List and in response to petitions from concerned individuals and organizations. The agency supports epidemiologic, surveillance, and other studies on toxic substances and their effects and maintains a national registry of persons exposed to hazardous substances in the environment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The vision of the CDC is healthy people in a healthy world. Within CDC, the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) works to prevent and control disease, injury, and disability related to the interactions between people and their environment outside the workplace. NCEH responds rapidly to emergencies and disasters, whether the emergency is a natural disaster, a family poisoned by pesticides, or an outbreak of chemically related deaths among children in a foreign country. NCEH responds with epidemiologic, technical, and laboratory assistance.

Contribution to the CENR Interagency R&D

NCEH has ongoing programs to evaluate and prevent adverse effects on human health caused by environmental factors. These programs include studies on the effects of heat stress and air pollution on human health, childhood lead poisoning prevention, birth defects, radiation-dose reconstruction, and the effects of natural disasters on people and strategies for preventing or mitigating them. The NCEH laboratory develops methods for high-quality measurements used in exposure assessments and supports programs to ensure high-quality measurements in laboratories throughout the nation and the world.

National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)