The preceding chapters address the components of the charge. In this final chapter, the committee presents its conclusions and recommendations, which are intended to provide strategic guidance on how the agency can prepare for its future. The conclusions appear in italics and the recommendations in bold type.


Over time, the USGS has evolved and built a solid foundation on which to plan its future. At present, senior management is attempting to modify the agency 's culture from a cluster of loosely linked organizational units to a tightly interactive community. The recent integration of the BRD into the USGS is an organizational change that provides an opportunity for the agency to respond to questions beyond the geological, hydrological, and geographical sciences. When the BRD merged with the USGS, it prompted slight changes in wording, but no fundamental changes to the formal mission statement of the agency. The mission of the agency is to supply information that contributes to the wise management of natural resources and that promotes the health,


Throughout this report, the committee uses the term “natural science” to broadly frame the range of scientific issues that are addressed by the USGS. Natural science is defined as “any of the sciences (as physics, chemistry, or biology) that deal with matter, energy, and their interrelations and transformation or with objectively measurable phenomena.” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1986) The specific activities carried out by the USGS within the broad domain of “natural sciences” depend on the agency's mission, which in turn, is shaped by the missions and responsibilities of other federal and state agencies and a variety of societal and political forces. Examples of natural science disciplines currently within the purview of the USGS include geology, hydrology, geography, biology, and geospatial information sciences. The committee chose this terminology after considering many other alternatives because it is a relatively succinct term that is generally understood to encompass all of the major scientific issues that are addressed by the USGS. The use of a single broad term also serves to emphasize one of the committee's main points—the value of integrated, coordinated science when dealing with the types of multidisciplinary mission-relevant problems addressed by the USGS. The term also was chosen by the USGS to describe itself in its 1999 vision statement. However, it is important to clarify that the committee's use of the term “natural science” does not imply that the USGS mission should include all natural sciences. The USGS is A natural science agency—not THE natural science agency.

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