The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

White House Releases First-Ever National Plan for Civil Earth Observations 

Civil Earth observationLast week, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) released its first-ever National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. The National Plan represents the White House's "blueprint for maximizing the value of observations collected by Federal agencies of the Earth's land surfaces, oceans and atmosphere." Because the U.S. government invests roughly $3.5 billion in civil Earth observations and data every year, investments which ultimately add $30 billion to the U.S. economy each year, the White House argues it is "critical that [investments] are deployed in ways that are efficient, effective, and immediately useful."

"The National Plan defines a new framework for constructing a balanced portfolio of Earth observations and observing systems. This framework classifies Earth-observation activities according to two broad categories, 'sustained' and 'experimental' based on the duration of the anticipated Federal commitment:

  • Sustained observations are defined as measurements taken routinely that Federal agencies are committed to monitoring on an ongoing basis, generally for seven years or more. […]
  • Experimental observations are defined as measurements taken for a limited observing period, general seven years or less, that Federal agencies are committed to monitoring for research and development purposes."

Based on these new categories, the National Plan outlines the following (rank-ordered) priorities for future civil Earth observations:

  1. "Continuity of sustained observations for public services
  2. Continuity of sustained observations for Earth-system research
  3. Continued investment in experimental observations
  4. Planned improvements to sustained observation networks and surveys for all observation categories
  5. Continuity of, and improvements to, a rigorous assessment and prioritization process."