under which all organizational units of the USGS would create their own strategic plans (USGS, 1996a). The plan outlines a road map by which the agency is to address key societal issues. It recognizes that in a global economy and environment the USGS must extend its activities beyond the borders of the United States. It emphasizes that the USGS must develop more extensive partnerships with other federal agencies, academia, state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry to supplement the agency's skills and resources. Finally, it underscores the importance of scientists, from different units and disciplines working together to address public needs. Three years later, the USGS (1999a) revised its plan to clarify its strategic direction, and the agency anticipates the release of updated plans on a regular basis.
What work will the USGS be doing in the future? According to the 1997 plan, the agency will be engaged in a well-defined group of activities: (1) water availability and quality, (2) natural hazards, (3) geographic and cartographic information, (4) contaminated environments, (5) land and water use, (6) nonrenewable resources, (7) environmental effects on health, and (8) biological resources. In the revised 1999 plan, the eight activities were collapsed into two mission goals: (1) hazards and (2) environment and natural resources. By 2005, the level of effort applied to these goals will be different from the 1997 level.
To achieve its scientific mission in the new millennium, the USGS will have to anticipate and respond in a timely manner to a broad array of complex and intellectually demanding national, international, and global science problems, many of which involve whole systems. Success will depend on several factors including the outcome of the strategic change process presently under way and the ability of the USGS to attract and support an agile and diverse world-class staff. History will determine how well the USGS meets its mission in the early years of the twenty-first century.