November 17, 2017

 

The Honorable John Thune, Chairman
The Honorable Bill Nelson, Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
SD-512, Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Thune, Senator Nelson and Committee Members:

On behalf of the American Sportfishing Association, I would like to express our support for the nomination of Mr. Barry Myers to be the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, more commonly referred to as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

ASA represents over 800 recreational fishing businesses from tackle and apparel manufacturers to angling and conservation groups.  NOAA is an agency with which we have substantial involvement and interest.  Among the activities the agency provides are fisheries data and science, nautical charts and accurate weather and ocean forecasts.  A well-managed and responsive NOAA is important to our industry, conservation, and the angling community.  Approximately 11 million Americans are saltwater anglers, many of who fish in the EEZ or for stocks for which NOAA has lead management authority.  U.S. recreational fishing in salt water is responsible for creating over $63 billion in annual economic activity, and approximately 439 thousand American jobs.

Those 11 million American anglers and countless communities depend on NOAA to conduct sound science, accurately count and forecast fisheries populations and trends, and provide service.  It is important to have timely environmental information that is responsive to constituent needs.  It is important to have a NOAA that designs, builds and operates environmental observing systems within cost and schedule—a requirement that has proven elusive far too often in the past.  Our industry needs a NOAA that is transparent, and welcomes citizen/customer input and feedback.  Finally, in an era of tight budgetary constraints, it is important to have a NOAA that is run efficiently, innovates and focuses on improving products and output.

As an individual with significant entrepreneurial and management experience, Barry Myers has the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to lead and direct an agency with an annual budget of almost $6 billion and which employs approximately 12,000 people and supports countless contractors and grantees across the nation.  Mr. Myers is a manager who has the talent to take five NOAA line offices and get them to operate as one unified agency.  He has the private sector track record that proves he understands technology modernization, lowering the cost of doing business, and making products and services responsive to the marketplace.  He has significant experience in transitioning research into operations and service, and stewardship.  Frankly, this is an area in which NOAA could improve under his leadership.  For example, NOAA fisheries science and research is too often divorced from the needs of Fisheries Service Regional Directors and Fishery Management Councils.  Data needed to manage recreationally important fisheries is often accorded low priority and unavailable.  As an example of the need to bring innovation into the agency, the agency’s current system for estimating angler harvest relies on residential telephone surveys and is moving to “snail mail” instead of taking advantage of the revolution in mobile technology, long after the nation has moved on.  Mr. Myers experience shows that he understands how to modernize science and services through using smart phones and electronic data.   NOAA’s atmospheric programs fully employ and integrate measurements and data from many non-NOAA sources several times a day in the running of supercomputer models and issuing forecasts.  Yet, with NOAA fisheries science, the agency continues to resist using data from fishermen, cooperative observers and universities.  It insists on using its own data, but then states that independent data from NOAA Fisheries Vessels are not available, because ship time is unfunded.  Again, Mr. Myers’ experience shows that he understands that data quality standards can be created that allow the use of measurements from many non-Federal sources.

Some groups have told the Committee that Mr. Myers nomination is unacceptable because he lacks a doctorate in science.  Like many leaders in American industry, he instead holds a business degree, a Juris Doctor degree, and has substantial real world experience in managing a P&L statement and in making changes in products and services to compete effectively in the marketplace.  In fact, Mr. Myers led and grew an environmental technology company that employs many employees who have the same academic degrees as NOAA scientists.  He has substantial experience working with NOAA as a customer and partner, and has been recognized by the American Meteorological Society.   The issue shouldn’t be whether Mr. Myers has the specialized knowledge to design and engineer a microwave sounder for NOAA’s next generation of polar-orbiting satellites, or is he trained in calculating maximum sustainable yield for summer flounder.  The qualification issue should be does he understand as a leader the value of such systems and data and what difference they make in NOAA products, whether to the accuracy of a weather forecast or in determining sustainable fishing levels.

We believe that Barry Myers is well qualified to lead NOAA.  He is the type of leader who will seek to modernize programs and question continuing to do business the old-fashioned way, just because that is how it has always been done.  He deserves the Committee’s support.

 

With warm regards, I am

 

Sincerely,

 
 

Vice President, Government Affairs
American Sportfishing Association