February 23, 2018

A message from the director of MIT Sea Grant

The ‘President’s Budget’ for fiscal year 2019 was released earlier in February. It is the combined budget from all federal agencies and offices, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is the home agency of Sea Grant. The NOAA budget includes this language:

“Eliminate funding for several lower priority and, in some cases, unauthorized, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant and education programs, including Sea Grant; the National Estuarine Research Reserve System; Coastal Zone Management Grants; the Office of Education; and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. These eliminations would allow NOAA to better target remaining resources to core missions and services.”

Note that one of the NOAA programs that the President’s budget has put forward for elimination is Sea Grant.

If that occurred, it would immediately stop funding for numerous research projects addressing critical issues affecting Massachusetts economy and environment, and immediately stop our critical outreach efforts throughout the state. The same would happen in the other 32 Sea Grant programs around the nation.

This proposed elimination of Sea Grant also happened last year, and it is inconsistent with the tremendous accomplishments of Sea Grant relative to other federally-funded programs. We expect full funding in fiscal year 2018, in large part because of the thousands of letters of support from constituents of 33 state programs and many personal meetings with members of Congress. There is strong bipartisan support for Sea Grant in the US Congress.

If you value the program, you can help. The President’s Budget is a recommendation – Congress is the body that takes action when it comes to the budget. If members of Congress receive a huge number of supportive emails from people who deeply value a particular program, it will make a large difference in regard to the outcome.

If you decide to reach out to members of Congress about Sea Grant, we suggest some sample language to be used in your email. It contains specific language that members and staff will recognize, pertaining to the proposed cut or elimination of the program.

Note that hard-copy letters sent through the US mail take months to arrive in Congressional offices, but emails are taken immediately. Some offices have online forms to provide comments.

Thank you,
Michael Triantafyllou

Sample Letter
For the House of Representatives you can easily search for names of members of Congress and contact information here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

For the Senate you can search here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Dear Senator ___________ OR
Dear Representative _________________

I am writing to ask that you request the Appropriations Committees to fund the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) at a level of $85 million in fiscal year 2019.

This funding level is consistent with the total amount proposed in HR 4306 and S129 and the new FY19 budget agreement Congress recently passed into law. This recommended funding level would support the key focus areas in the program’s strategic plan, which are: healthy coastal ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; resilient communities and economies; environmental literacy and workforce development.

The Sea Grant program is administered by NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, which is funded in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.

MIT Sea Grant, and the 32 other state Sea Grant programs across the nation, help coastal businesses develop and thrive supporting the growth and development of our coastal economy. Sea Grant supports state and local decision-makers via a non-regulatory approach based on sound science and technology. Sea Grant assists state and local entities as they address challenges facing coastal communities.

What does Sea Grant deliver to the taxpayer? In 2016 alone, Sea Grant helped generate an estimated $611 million in economic impacts; created or sustained over 7,000 jobs; provided 494 communities with technical assistance on sustainable development practices; worked with more than 1,300 industry, local, state and regional partners; and supported the education and training of over 2,300 college students. The Sea Grant program achieved this with a Congressional appropriation in FY 2016 of $73 million.

Sea Grant is unique in another way among government programs. Approximately 95% of the federal funding provided to Sea Grant leaves Washington and goes to the state programs where it is used to conduct research, outreach and education, providing solutions to the issues identified by the coastal businesses and communities in each state.

MIT Sea Grant is proud to invest in research that stimulates marine industry growth, to develop innovative education tools to inspire the next generation of ocean engineers and to help make Massachusetts coastal communities safer by providing critical information to decision makers.

I recognize that the Nation is facing very tight fiscal constraints. This suggests that where there is discretion, federal funding should go to programs that deliver economic, environmental and education benefits. The Sea Grant program does this in a very cost-effective manner. For that reason and because of the importance of MIT Sea Grant to the long-term health of our state, I urge you to strongly support the National Sea Grant College Program by submitting a programmatic request to the Appropriations Committee that would fund the program at a level of $85 million in fiscal year 2019.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.


MIT Sea Grant's REX IV is pictured in the Charles River.