Originally Broadcast October 6, 2008
Announcer: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about this center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. And now The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.
Mr. Morales: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.
Global trends and rapidly evolving societal needs continue to post critical national science challenges. It is the use of natural resources on the global scale, which has the potential to impact the nation's ability to sustain its economy, national security, quality of life, and natural environment.
The U.S. Geological Survey has reputation as a leader in natural science monitoring, assessing, and research. It also plays a vital role in the federal response to many resource challenges facing this nation. With us this morning to discuss his efforts in this area is Robert Doyle, deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Good morning, Robert.
Mr. Doyle: Good morning.
Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Kunal Suryavanshi, associate partner in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.
Good morning, Kunal.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Good morning, Al.
Mr. Morales: Bob, let's start off by learning a bit more about the U.S. Geological Survey, or the USGS. Can you take a few minutes to tell us a little bit about its history, its evolution, and the current mission today?
Mr. Doyle: USGS is a science agency for the Department of Interior. We have a long, proud tradition, and well-earned reputation of providing objective and credible science and information products. Our origins date back to 1879 when we were chartered by Congress to classify the public lands and to examine geologic structures and mineral resources on the federal domain. And over the next 130 intervening years, we have become the leading with science agency in the nation.
And we are the primary source of data on nation surface and groundwater resources, important information for water managers, and emergency responders. We produce authoritative assessments of energy and minerals, both on land and offshore; you may be familiar with their recent report on unconventional oil and gas off the coast -- in Alaska and in the Arctic.
We issue hazard warnings for earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and we also conduct research on wildlife diseases and ecosystem services. And we serve as the premier civilian mapping agency, noted also for our range of products, as topographic maps.
We have tremendous strength in terms of our integrated sciences. We have modeling capabilities and we have our long-term monitoring networks that we're able to bring to bear to address some of the natural resource issues that are facing this country. We provide important science information and products to policymakers and resource managers in the department that demonstrate our relevancy to their work.
Mr. Morales: So that's a very broad mission. Could you give us a sense of the scale at the USGS in terms of how it's organized, size of its overall budget perhaps number of employees, and how you're dispersed across the country?
Mr. Doyle: Sure. We have approximately 8,500 employees -- 1, 800 located at our headquarters in Reston, Virginia, and 7,200 employees that are located in our field offices across the nation. We have an office in every state. Our budget is about $1.4 billion, 400 of which monies that we receive from cooperators and other folks that we do work on their behalf.
As a science organization, we are located near colleges and universities where we have an opportunity to take -- have mutual benefit to share resources with students, professors, and the physical laboratories. We use approximately 250 emeritus scientists. These are people who have retired from the agency but wish to continue to do their science work, to share their institutional knowledge and expertise with the scientists who work -- continue to work at the agency.
And we utilize about 2,500 volunteers, sort of, citizen scientists, and we have about -- anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 contractors and they work for us to help complement our career workforce.
Mr. Morales: So Bob, with this broad overview of the organization, could you tell us a bit more about your specific role as deputy director and what are your specific responsibilities and duties?
Mr. Doyle: Well, our primary role is to focus on internal operations, make sure the buses run, so to speak. Try to make sure that the things are running efficiently and effectively and there we have a system of accountability to ensure that our goals and objectives are accomplished.
Mr. Suryavanshi: So with respect to these responsibilities and duties what would you say are your three most significant challenges that you have faced in your position and how have you addressed these challenges?
Mr. Doyle: I would say the biggest challenges I had was when I first came aboard about 4 years ago was to restore physical integrity to the financial operations. The USGS was in a position where they were unable to get an opinion on their financial statements.
We had some problems in internal operations so my task was to try to restore the credibility to fiscal operations and -- brought in some new people. We made some investments in the financial operations. We hired some new folks. We changed some of our business practices.
We engaged the senior leadership in the organization, engaged the employees to get them to understand and appreciate that financial integrity was their responsibility as much as it was for the administrative folks. And so it was my view that they should be treating administration and financial matters with the same degree of integrity and transparency that they do with their science projects.
Mr. Morales: I understand that you started your federal career back with HUD. Could you tell us a bit about your career and what brought you over to the USGS?
Mr. Doyle: Well, I started with federal service about 35 years ago, GS-13 equal opportunity specialist with the Department of Health and Urban Development, and then over the next 15 years I operated in a number of different positions in the administrative field on budget, finance, and procurement, the human capital, property, and IT.
And so after 15 years at HUD, I decided to take a position with the Department of Interior and I served in the executive capacity within Interior with the bureau -- first with the Bureau Mines, and then later worked with the Bureau of Land Management, and now, I'm currently working with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Mr. Morales: That's great. So Bob, as you, sort of, reflect back on the 35 years of federal service and the various departments and bureaus that you've worked for, how have these experiences prepared you for your current leadership role and how has it shaped your management approach and your leadership style?
Mr. Doyle: Well, I would have to say that I having worked through all the major administrative functional areas, gave me a good appreciation of the governance process that exists within government, across government, within the department, and that knowledge is very helpful in trying to craft strategies for getting things done.
I have had opportunities to take on some very challenging and difficult assignments, taught me how to make some tough decisions. When you serve as the deputy of any agency you have to be willing to say "No." And I've also, you know, worked in a variety of leadership positions at other agencies where you are forced to establish your priorities. You have to learn to where to focus your energies.
Mr. Morales: What is the U.S. Geological Survey science strategy? We will ask Robert Doyle, the deputy director of the USGS to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Doyle, deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Also joining in our studios from IBM is Kunal Suryavanshi.
Bob, I understand that in 2007, the USGS developed a science strategy, outlining the major natural science issues facing the nation in the next decade. Could you elaborate on this science strategy, and its implications specifically, to what extent does the new strategy better address complex environmental challenges through a systems-based approach?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the new strategy outlines areas where natural sciences can be -- make a substantial contribution to the well-being of the nation. It's a 10-year forward look for the bureau and it gives us some indication of future direction in growth; put together a team of scientists and ask them to do a rigorous assessment of our current science goals and priorities and to identify global trends and national priorities.
And we also asked them to formulate a plan that would build on the existing strengths of the agencies and to challenge us to better integrate the full breadth and depth of our science and our information capabilities.
So the focus of this strategy falls into six thematic areas; climate variability and change, which helps us clarify the record in assessing the consequences; a water census, for quantifying, forecasting and securing fresh water for America's future; energy and minerals, provide scientific foundation for resource security, environmental health, economic vitality and land management. Also have hazards risk and resiliency assessment program ensuring for us a long-term health and wealth for the nation.
Human health is also identified as a theme where we are challenged to develop a system and a process that identifies environmental risks to public health in America. And the final thing deals with the understanding of the ecosystems, and predict an ecosystems change to ensure that the nation's economic and environmental future is secure.
These are thematic areas that represent complex, multi-scale challenges, challenges to which the USGS is uniquely positioned to apply the fundamental understanding of natural processes related to geology, hydrology, biology and geography in a variety of comprehensive, coherent systems approach for addressing these challenges.
Mr. Morales: So the first five, I think, I understand a bit but the last one, ecosystems -- could you tell us a little more what is an ecosystem and why have you focused on understanding these?
Mr. Doyle: Well, ecosystems are viewed as the life support system for us. An ecosystem provides important services for sustaining human life, including fresh air, fresh water, soils, carbon sequestration, and pollinators for crops to name a few.
Ecosystems are generally self-sustaining. However, they can reach a certain threshold beyond which it is unable to repair itself. So USGS, with its multidisciplinary science, is in a unique position to provide a holistic view and a sound understanding of the ecosystems and ecological processes so that wise management can prevent crossing those thresholds.
Mapping, monitoring, modeling and understanding ecosystems is important for informing resource managers in their challenge of balancing land use and land change issues within human needs.
Mr. Morales: So going back to the first one on climate, we are beginning to see how the climate seems to influence every aspect of our life here on earth. Could you elaborate on USGS' effort to deepen and expand the climate science research? Specifically, how is USGS contributing to the global discussion on climate change and how are you supporting decision makers in this area?
Mr. Doyle: Well USGS scientists have spent decades conducting research and collecting information on climate change and its effect on ecosystems and its implication for resource managers.
The Department of the Interior is responsible for management of one in every five acres of land in this country. They have a significant interest on how climate change influences, it's just too much of responsibilities.
As climate predictions are made, USGS scientists can use their understanding of how ecosystems function, to predict how ecosystems will change in a response, allowing resource managers to develop adoption or mitigation strategies for protecting wildlife such as ducks that rely on water or food produced by the ecosystem.
This year, the USGS is engaged in developing a Climate-Effects Network that will serve as a early warning system for resource managers and policy makers, so that they can identify problems before they become chronic or costly.
Well, the debate and the discussions of climate change that occur have many dimensions to it. Our focus has more been on the effects and we will be trying to develop adoption and mitigation strategies that can be used by our resource managers so that we can preserve and protect the resources on our land.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Now Bob, it's my understanding that energy and mineral resources are the backbone of human food supplies, economies and national security. Would you tell us about the USGS' efforts to broaden its energy and mineral resource research? Specifically, what are the key strategic areas that this agency will focus over the next decade in energy and mineral resource research and how will that benefit the United States and resource management?
Mr. Doyle: The U.S. is the largest user of mineral commodities and energy resources in the world. And our economy and our standard of living depend on them. Because many of these resources are imported from trading partners around the world, it's important for us to understand the domestic and global supplies, distribution, use, and their future needs.
As directed by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, over the past four years, the USGS has been studying the resource potential of oil and gas on public lands. In our research plans, where we will be looking at alternative energy sources, we're looking at things like thermal energy, oil shale, wind energy, solar energy -- lot of alternatives besides the petroleum based oil and gas that we have today.
USGS research will be broadened to contribute to the national discussion of our future natural resource security, environmental effects of resource development, economic strength of the nation and management of national resources on public lands.
Mr. Suryavanshi: It's my understanding that domestic geothermal resources have the potential to provide significant amounts of clean, renewable, and reliable energy to the United States. Could you tell us about the USGS' assessment of these conventional, moderate and high temperature geothermal resources and if you can add, what are some of the major technical challenges for increased geothermal development?
Mr. Doyle: Well, without question the nation's energy demands will continue to grow. It is estimated that the United States will need to increase its electric power generating capacity 40 percent to 50 percent over the next 20 years. Geothermal energy is an alternative source available to partially satisfy this increase in demand.
We are currently conducting assessment of moderate and high temperature resources on public lands and the report is due later this year. This will be the first comprehensive assessment in 30 years regarding geothermal resources.
However, since 1979 the technology for power production increased dramatically. For example, the expansion of temperature range of geothermal systems capable of electric power generation makes low and moderate temperature systems more viable. And then, there's enhanced geothermal systems and techniques that create an opportunity to expand existing geothermal reservoirs and capabilities through hydrographic fracturing and other advanced techniques.
We are working collaboratively in our efforts with the Department of Energy, Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies along with the national labs, universities, state and local agencies and even the geothermal industry.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Bob, recent events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and natural fires have resulted in hundreds of deaths, disruption to commerce and destruction of homes and critical infrastructure.
Now, I understand that a core element of the USGS mission is to provide scientific information in order to minimize the loss of life and damage to property from these natural disasters.
Could you tell us about your National Hazards, Risk, and Resilience Assessment Program and your efforts to develop a national risk monitoring program?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the natural environment continues to pose risks to society. USGS has a long and respected history of providing relevant and timely information for responding to hazard events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and so forth. We have an extensive network of sensors to model, forecast and detect natural hazard events. We work in collaboration with partners around the world as part of the Global Seismic Network with colleagues, universities as part of the Advanced System Seismic Network and a new National Volcanic Early Warning System.
Science and technology can play an important role in developing a disaster resilient program. National science and technology committee has a subcommittee working on disaster reduction and they have identified six grand challenges for the future: To provide hazard and disaster information where and when it's needed, to understand natural processes that produce hazards, develop strategies and technologies to reduce the impact of extreme events, to reduce the vulnerability of infrastructures, develop standardized methods for communities to measure and assess disasters and to promote risk-wise behavior.
Now, we are currently working with the state of California and the Department of Human Services, the state and local entities, to set up a plan -- planning exercise that will culminate in a November earthquake drill entitled the "Great Shakeout". USGS science and information products will significantly inform the exercise.
One of the objectives of the exercise is to translate regional disasters to a local level using a 7.8 earthquake as a triggering mechanism. We expect to have about 5 million citizens participate in the process and, in fact, we have about 2 million people already signed over the Internet.
The exercise also includes the discussion with Canada and Mexico, to explore cross-border implications and opportunities. And then we plan to have an international conference to be held in Los Angeles, for other mega cities participants to learn more from the exercise.
>Mr. Morales: So Bob, you mentioned networks and sensors, could you tell me a little bit more about what some of the key monitoring networks are and what might you be doing to enhance these networks and expand their capabilities?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the networks provide for us the ability to predict and characterize a hazard and provide information for response and recovery efforts. And USGS operates several critical hazard monitoring networks. Our key monitoring networks include the Global Seismic Network, the Advanced Network for Seismic Systems, Stream Gauges, geomagnetic observatory laboratories and satellites. The Global Seismic Network will be expanded to about a 150 stations worldwide, enabling USGS to report on recent earthquakes such as in China, within minutes.
And then in Afghanistan -- with the rebuilding that's occurred there has enabled us to restore an active site for the network to provide a critical coverage in a disaster prone area. We are also expanding our Advanced Network for Seismic Stations, with additional sensors and additional locations. We are upgrading the software to greatly improve our earthquake notification, especially within at-risk urban areas. And we are speaking to partners to improve the quality of regional networks, for example, with California Tech, the University of Nevada, and St. Louis University.
And we are developing a National Volcanic Early Warning System to adequately monitor all high risk volcanoes in the United States, to alert communities at risk as well as aviation at risk to the ash cloud formation. And we also have on the drawing boards a launch of Landsat 8 replace aging fleet of satellites, Landsat 5 and Landsat 7. I'll mention the Landsat 5 has been up and running for about 25 years and Landsat 7 is on its 10th year, and both are well beyond their projected life.
Mr. Morales: Now Bob, you talk about networks and partners but just to clarify and you mentioned some universities, partners can also include other governments around the world?
Mr. Doyle: Yes. So, a lot of the networks are really a collaborative effort that it is a good example of countries reaching together, working together to benefit the world as a whole. And so, we have members in the Global Seismic Network from countries in Iran, in China, here in the United States and Europe, all of us is certainly concerned about the hazards that are generated by earthquakes and all are interested in sharing information across countries so that we can all learn and understand the national -- natural phenomena of earthquakes and try to better advance understanding of that event.
Mr. Morales: I understand that over 75 percent of the declared federal disasters are related to flooding. And certainly we are in the middle of hurricane season and that's top-of-mind to a lot of folks, and obviously we saw a flooding hit the Midwest very hard this year.
Could you tell us about USGS' floods response efforts in this past year, and what are some of the lessons learned during this past, this past year?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the USGS plays an important role in providing real-time information to flood responders. As you said, this past year the Midwest was hit particularly hard by winds and torrential rains. We have a stream gauging network that provides valuable real time data to the national weather organization who forecast potential flood areas. The network consists of over 7,000 gauges and we have dedicated staff to install temporary gauges where coverage is needed during the hazard event.
We also have historical river data that proves to be invaluable to understand the implications of increased volume of water, to better deal -- and the implications for communities in an ecological environment. Recent preparations for Gustav and Hannah, we've had extensive communications and coordination with assigned centers in the affected areas, identifying where additional sensors in the network needed to be added so that while we have 7,000 sensors in permanent locations depending on the hazard and where it occurs, we also have mobile units, and we also have temporary sensors that we put in place to provide us some information.
And I should mention that a lot of this information is telemitted and available, real-time over the Internet. And so, for example, if anybody wanted to see the readings on a particular gauge all they needed to do is go to USGS, www.usgs, and look at our water watch website, and they'll be to see the volume of water and the tide that's occurred in a particular time and be able to see how that measurement compares to historical records and so they get a sense of how high there the water levels are, and how fast the water is flowing. The National Weather Service is extremely reliant on that information because they're the ones responsible for making forecast for a flooding, but they greatly rely on some of the basic data that our scientists provide to them.
Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. How is the U.S. Geological Survey using innovative technology to succeed? We will ask Robert Doyle, deputy director of the USGS to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Doyle, deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Kunal Suryavanshi.
Bob I read about how the U.S. health spending is projected to continue to rise reaching almost 20 percent of the GDP by 2015. We talked about how the environment is one of the major determinants of human health. But can you tell us a bit more about USGS' role in environmental health research specifically monitoring the effects of the environment and wildlife on human health?
Mr. Doyle: Environmental health affects to citizens are increasing. The U.S. proposes to provide scientific and monitoring information essential for helping the nation to identify existing and emerging environmental ecosystem health threats. USGS is engage with a broad spectrum of partners in environmental health research. We characterize exposure to potential contaminants and pathogen in air, dust, soil, and other earth materials.
Monitoring and understanding vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, disease that are transmitted between animals and people such as Avian Flu and West Nile virus. We also characterize exposure to chemicals and pathogens in drinking water, food, and recreational waters. And we work with EPA and state, local water authorities to identify and understand the sources and impacts.
Mr. Morales: So along same lines let me transition a bit to water. According to a 2003 U.S. GAO report it said the nation lacked an adequate picture of water-availability at the national, regional, and local level.
Could you tell us a bit about USGS' efforts in this area specifically around the water census which you mentioned earlier and modernizing the stream gauges?
Mr. Doyle: The 21st century brings a new set of water resource challenges for us. Water shortages and water use conflicts have been more common place across the nation -- for irrigation crops, expanding cities, and communities, for energy production, and for environmental health, and species protection under the law.
The last comprehensive water census was concluded in 1978 and much has changed since that time. For our fiscal year 2009 we have proposed, begin in 10-year effort to undertake a water census that informs managers and policymaker as to what is available, where it is located, and what condition it's in.
Knowing our nation's water assets and rates of use on an ongoing basis is crucial to effective water management. So our initiative is a 10-year study of water-flow, storage and use. We also plan to conduct regional studies comparing storages and flows with prior conditions.
We will be collaborating with state and local governments in selected water studies and aquifers as to increase use of new technology in water planning and management. We will be cooperating with states and local entities to improve characterization of the nation's aquifers and we hope to modernize nations 7300 strain gauges and upgrade the technology, to support real-time data reporting, to provide more timely information for better water management, and to stabilize long-term network by reestablishing critical gauges that have been discontinued in the past 2 years.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Now that's a great information, Bob. As you know, innovative and continually evolving technologies have the potential to transform not just science methods, but even the questions that science can ask.
Could you tell us about a few new and evolving technologies that are particularly relevant to the earth sciences? For example, what is the Geographic Information System and how is that critical for integrating the many kinds of data across disciplines?
Mr. Doyle: Well, let me pick up on the Geographic Information System as one. GIS is an information system that integrates data elements in a geographically referenced way. That is its links to a location or a place on earth and it's a framework for understanding the world and applying geographic knowledge to solving problem, guiding management actions and it gives us the ability to visually relate multiple data sets within a geographic contexts as with a map displaying transportation routes, structures, terrains, rives, and streams and elevation. It's valued as a relational tool. It helps us to visualize and see the interaction of data, the cause and effects of actions in one area and how it affects the areas of the system.
There's a whole host of other new technologies out there that we are anxiously looking at and expecting to take advantage of their capabilities -- molecular genetics, nanotechnology, geomicrobiology, molecular technology, environmental census, particularly wireless census, land imaging -- just a whole range of new technologies out there that have an opportunity to really influence the earth sciences and how we do business.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Along similar lines, could you tell us about the National Map 3.0? How does it provide nationally consistent geospatial framework and also what are the key national geospatial initiatives currently underway?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the national map is our vision to the future -- 3.0 is our vision to the future. Our expectation is that we would have a map that is not dynamic rather than static. That we'll have real-time data represented in the map and so that as land changes occur and that information is made available, it is automatically incorporated into the national map.
Then we have streamflow information connected to real-time data reports and so that if the rivers increase in height and flow faster that information gets accurately represented in the map the day that it occurs. And so it's a real time nature that is envisioned as part of the national map.
We also would look up an opportunity to make 3D graphics, an integral part of the map part of the map and that we would give the user of the map the ability to customize, to be able to go screen and pick out a polygon and create their own map and add changes to that map and to do what-if scenarios and change the elevations on the map, to change some of the transportation routes in some of the structures.
Our kids today are experienced with the technology that gives them the ability to do things onscreen and to imagine and to think about things that aren't -- and to ask question why can't it be this way. This would give us the ability to make the map dynamic and allow people to play with it and to imagine and to configure it differently than what it is.
Mr. Suryavanshi: So it acts as modeling or a predictive tool also?
Mr. Doyle: Absolutely. In fact it -- even now the National Map 1.0 is really instrumental in helping to provide the geographic contexts for lot of our studies. It enabled us to see the ecosystems and see the changes that are taken place on the ecosystems and then be able to make some projections about some of the changes that it might be occurring and how they would be represented on the map.
Mr. Suryavanshi: Just changing the topic slightly, Bob. We heard a lot about collaborations and partnerships both across government and with organizations outside the government. What kinds of partnerships are you developing to improve operations or outcomes at USGS?
Mr. Suryavanshi: Just changing the topic slightly, Bob. We heard a lot about collaborations and partnerships both across government and with organizations outside the government. What kinds of partnerships are you developing to improve operations or outcomes at USGS?
Mr. Doyle: Well, indeed on of the strengths that the USGS possess is the network of partner and collaborators available to draw on. The complexities and many of the issues that we face as a nation require that collective and coordinated efforts of participants, national, international, federal, state, local, NGOs and the commercial sectors as well.
Our extensive network of partners enables us to extend our knowledge and expertise and our capabilities. Some of the more significant partnerships that we have been engaged in, our partnership network in hazards arena is a good illustration to work in collaboration with other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, NOAA, the National Weather Service, state and local government's, colleges and universities.
Hazard events such as Katrina and Southern California fires, Midwest floods demonstrate the importance of working together, the share of information, coordinate activities, and to capitalize on respective resources and capabilities to best avoid and minimize the loss of life and property.
We have numerous partnerships with the Department of Interior Land Management agencies such as Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureaus of Land Management, where we provide important science information and products that inform every source management polices and practices as with the strategic habitant conservation efforts or with energy development on public lands.
Bureaus of Land Management is involved, the Fish and Wildlife Service is involved and the State Fish & Game for the State of Wyoming, we have NGOs, we have a National Nature Reserve is involved and we have the University of Wyoming also involved. So it's a tremendous collaborative effort where a lot of participants who have an interest in what's going on, and ultimately if the plan is going to work, it needs the support of the local people -- trying to look at the issue in Wyoming on landscape scale basis, we have individuals site specific oil wells, but it really has an impact on the larger ecosystem.
And so this is our efforts to try to look at things on a larger scale and to engage partners to join us in that effort and to share of information across organizational lines at the federal, state, and local level.
Mr. Morales: That's great. So Bob, I want to go back to your science strategy and talk a little bit about human capital. With the broad mission and program that you've described, how do you envision USGS' human capital needs evolving over the next couple of years? And specifically, what are doing to attract to maintain a high quality of technical and professional workforce to meet some of these future challenges?
Mr. Doyle: Well, the rate of attrition associated with the much touted baby-boomer bubble hasn't burst us but it certainly has seeped a bit. And what we having been seeing over time is that rather than having abrupt high rate attrition, that people have been slowly leaving the workforce.
So it is a challenge for us in terms to trying to replace the institutional knowledge and the expertise, but it is also an opportunity for us. An opportunity with the science strategy that would be -- take us in new directs, requiring new skills and new capabilities. And so the attrition gives us the opportunity to hire those capabilities to pursue those new directions.
Now a critical aspect to realizing our science goals is an effective human capital strategy for recruiting, develop, and retaining, and managing a highly skilled, flexible, motivated, and diverse workforce. Our major concerning challenge is maintaining the institutional memory as the workforce retires.
We have above 40 percent of our workforce eligible over the next 5 years. But our workforce planning is an integral part of our 5-year program planning process. In 2004 we developed a comprehensive suite of workforce planning tools and guidelines for evaluating both current and future workforce needs.
We currently make extensive use of the student -career-education program, which has proven to be a good source for future employees. And we also maintain an active postdoctoral program both internally within the survey called the Mendenhall Doctoral Program and we also take advantage of the National Academy of Sciences', mentoring program. I think for us to maintain and attract highly qualified talent, I think the answer is in creating a rewarding working environment where employees are valued.
Faster challenges, and interesting, and meaningful work and afford the employees an opportunity to excel, to be recognized, and to be rewarded, to give the employees the freedom to experiment and the latitude to fail -- one that is capitalized on the flexible workplace route that OPM has put in place over the last 3 or 4 years.
Flexi-place, telecommute, work-week alternatives, job sharing et cetera -- and it's important for us also as a science agency to invest in technology and equipment in the creative development of our employees.
I think, if we do all of that and I think we will set ourselves to be able to continue to attract and retain the talent that we will need to carry out the science strategy that we have before us.
Mr. Morales: Now you mentioned knowledge management, and in the last year we have seen that many federal agencies and communities have launched their own versions of Wikipedia or are using blogs.
Could you talk about efforts within USGS to leverage these new societal networking ideas and technologies and how can these tools support your mission and operations?
Mr. Doyle: USGS employees have been strong proponents of social networks and other new technologies that facilitate communication within and across our organization.
Our new generations of employees bring with them a familiarity and a comfort level with electronic information sharing. They have incorporated all of this into there daily life with family and friends. And so introducing these new technologies in the workplaces has been logically and welcomed addition to our communication tools.
Podcasts are frequently used and integrated into our websites. They enable us to reach a new audience in new ways -- they are new, popular way to communicate with the public. And I would invite you both to take advantage of accessing our website, USGS, www.usgs and to click on some of the latest podcasts that we have and that would include the hurricane activities that is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico as well as some thought about the great Shakeout exercise that will be occurring in California in November.
Convening information in nonscientific teams -- using technologies will help us to convey science in non technical terms so that the relevancy of a word can be easily understood by the general public to convey technical topics and essential points in a citizen-friendly science discussions. Our latest statistics on our web show that 1.8 million people have already accessed our sites to take advantage of the podcasts that we've made available.
We also make extensive use blogs which have become and accepted and an effective tool for informally communicating information on a range of issues or for simply sharing observations. It has become a useful tool for rapid dissemination of information, to get a general message out quickly.
We are also using Wikis. We have found them to be invaluable to us to keep our staff informed and up to date on various issues -- and have been very helpful to us in planning process in terms of with 7,300 employees located in our field location across the country with an office in every state -- sometimes it gets difficult to engage them in a process and invite them in and make them feel a part of the process.
But the Wiki technology gives us the ability to solicit comments and we found that to be very effective in some of our planning documents where we invited them to comment on and participant in that process. And so it's simply another way for us to extend their communication tools and to make it easier and more effective for us to get the message out and to increase the understanding across the organization.
Mr. Morales: That's great. Now back on the podcast, I'd just like to also let the listeners know that this very interview will be available on our podcast. So, we can sort of extend the favor there.
What does the future hold for the USGS? We will ask Robert Doyle, deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey to share with us, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to our final segment of The Business of Government Hour. I am your host, Albert Morales. And this morning's conversation is with Robert Doyle, Deputy Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Kunal Suryavanshi.
Bob, as you have noted many of the environmental challenges discussed transcend the national boundaries. So to that end, could you tell us a bit more about how the role that USGS plays in international efforts and issues that seek to develop a global understanding of the earth systems?
Mr. Doyle: The USGS has an active international program in part to provide technical systems to foreign countries and to collaborate with scientists around the world to further acknowledge in understanding of its science. We have many international arrangements with the United Nations, with the group, with observations, with the State Department. We work with a voluntary disaster assistance program. We have projects ongoing now with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We just participated in International Geologic Congress and we are also active in the Circum-Pacific Council.
Indeed, some of the many national and international resource issues transcend jurisdictional boundaries -- issues such as SARS, avian influenza, climate variability, sea level rise, invasive species, drought, volcanic corruptions -- I could go on and on. Collaboration of partnerships are the cornerstone for conducting a wide variety of science and information activities to address these trans-boundary issues.
Let me give a couple of examples here -- I mentioned earlier the Circum-Arctic study that we had undertaken on undiscovered oil and gas for the purpose of assessing what is out there in the Arctic region. And it's part of a larger global study to assess the petroleum basins using standardized and consistent methodology and protocols.
We also have done a study of gas hydrates in 2002. We conducted a gas production test in Mackenzie Delta of the Canadian Arctic, an area of high concentration of gas hydrates. And we conducted by an international consortium of USGS, The Geologic Survey of Canada, Department of Energy, Japan, India, Germany, and Industry Representatives.
We've also done a Global Minerals Resource Assessment. Eight years of cooperative international effort to assess the world's undiscovered non-fuel mineral resources and to develop the methodology for an assessment, new models, and predictive tools for analysis and application of global assessments. We're also very active in International Polar Year Activities and established and operate physical and biological monitoring networks through scientific collaboration within and outside the United States with scientists around the world.
Mr. Suryavanshi: And Bob, I understand that the USGS is participating in an extensive aerial hyperspectral survey of Afghanistan. How can these same advanced techniques be applied to find new and underutilized minerals and resources in our own country?
Mr. Doyle: As part of the U.S. effort to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan, USGS scientists have provided information about the potential energy, minerals, and water resources, important to the development and stability of the Afghanistan economy. A major component of the efforts includes the collaborative effort with NASA and DOD to acquire a hyperspectral infrared imagery of Afghanistan. Hyperspectral imaging allows us to determine the actual composition of rock and minerals at the surface of the earth from a high altitude aircraft traveling a 100 miles an hour.
This technology in data collection process has been an integral part of the USGS Minerals Program for many years. But this is the first time the coverage has been obtained on a national scale. Our work with Afghanistan is also a part of an effort to build capacity in Afghanistan and to train the Afghanistan scientists in the application and use of hyperspectral data.
The Afghanistan experience will allow GS to develop algorithms and data handling techniques to facilitate manipulation of a very large data set. This will allow development of more advanced techniques that can be used to greatly improve resource investigations here in the United States.
This effort in Afghanistan provides a good example of how technology developed by the USGS can be transferred to a distant problem which then feeds back experience to allow the improvement and expansion of a domestic program, for example, applications in Alaska.
This technology is highly accurate and precise and would be especially helpful and flying over the remote areas such as the mountains and wilderness areas of Alaska.
Mr. Morales: So Bob, let me transition to the future of now. Could you give us a sense of some of the key trends that will impact the U.S. Geological Survey in say the next 3 to 5 years?
Mr. Doyle: Well, I would say certainly from a scientific perspective, our science strategy has identified six themes that we think over the next 10 years or more -- provide a good indication of where the future priorities and future focus need to be.
But I would also say that and from the technological standpoint, we see that real-time nature of data demands is going to continue to grow, is going to be an increasing public expectation for current information.
We also see that the public is going to demand free and open access to science data. You maybe aware that the secretary just made a decision recently that the entire archive of Landsat data information that we have been collecting since the 1970s would be made available at no cost over the Internet for the public. And to put that in context, people talked about tetrabytes of data. Now we are talking about petrabytes of data -- there's a tremendous amount of information.
And the challenge will be I think for the -- in the future for all data users is how would we make that information available in a cost-effective way so that people can access it and make use of it. I think that it will have increasing use of modeling and predictive capabilities to better understand the potential impacts of emerging societal issues.
Mr. Morales: So Bob, you certainly have had a very successful career over the past 35 years. As you reflect back on your experiences, what advice might you give to someone out there who perhaps is thinking about a career in public service and perhaps a career in the National Sciences?
Mr. Doyle: Well, based on my experience, I found the public service to still be a noble calling. I found it very satisfying and rewarding personally and a great opportunity for any individual to challenge themselves. The government is a big employer. There are over 2 million jobs in the government. The professions are many. So there's a great opportunity to engage and to be challenged and to have an opportunity to make a difference. And public service affords a rewarding an opportunity to learn more about your government and to get involved n very high levels with responsible work.
So I would encourage any individual out there, that's considering work with the government to think about coming in and sharing and better understanding how the government operates and look for opportunities to make a difference.
Mr. Morales: That's a wonderful advice. Thank you. Bob, unfortunately we have reached end of our time today. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule.
But more importantly Kunal and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across the many roles that you've held across the federal government.
Mr. Doyle: Well, thank you both for the opportunity to share with you stories about the USGS and about its capabilities and its science, history. As an organization the USGS certainly has strong, proud history and tradition to do in quality science and science that's important and meaningful to this nation.
I certainly want to thank all of the employees of the USGS who have worked so hard to maintain that reputation and continued to do a quality work. I'd I like to close with a little story that I want to share with you.
Back in 2006, the USGS was a recipient of an award for the national Partnership for Public Service. They received the Service to American Medal for community service. And it originated out of the events that occurred with Katrina, down in the Gulf of Mexico. And like many federal agencies, the people who live down there and worked down there will remember the communities and they were affected by that national tragedy.
Many of our employees used the boats that we have down there, used the equipment to participate in the searching rescue and activities and you might recall that. During that effort, the - rescue teams were somewhat frustrated in their efforts because the high-water tended to obliterate the street signs, covered the street addresses, destroyed many of the landmarks.
And so the rescue teams that were in there, many of them from out of state, were not familiar with the area and they had the regular maps that they were using to try to locate people who had called in on their cell phones -- people who were in attics that were trapped, people who were on rooftops -- and they gave them street addresses, which didn't help because the normal maps were not functional.
But our cartographers were able to take those maps and convert them to latitude and longitude so that the rescuers were able to get the calls that were coming in on their cell phones and using GPS technology were able to give them a latitude and longitude location. And so the Coastguard and other rescuers were able to key off of that. It's a very small example that I think of how science can help, improve and make a difference, can improve the quality of the life of people.
And I was there that night and receiving the award on behalf of other survey and I remember the eve in the event remarked into my wife saying that I was proud to be a federal servant. Proud to hear people talk about the contribution we made as public servants to make things a little bit better.
And so I think that's symptomatic of the kind of people that we have working at the survey and the kind of work they do and the kind of contributions they can make to improve the lives of people in this country.
Mr. Morales: That's a wonderful story and certainly puts a sharp point to your message around call to service and federal service. Thank you very much.
This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Robert Doyle, Deputy Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. My co-host has been Kunal Suryavanshi, Associate partner in IBM's Federal Civilian in District Practice.
As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.
For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.
Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. And visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs, and get a transcript of today's conversation. Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.
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