political talent. It also has a citizenry that is as informed and concerned as that of any nation, even though its knowledge and involvement are much less than would be desirable. Federal agencies spend large sums of money on environmental research, which has produced much useful information in support of their missions. Cooperative programs addressing important environmental problems have been organized, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy's successful coordination of the global-change program. These strengths need to be maintained and improved.
The committee also finds the following weaknesses that need to be addressed:
The research establishment is poorly structured to deal with complex, interdisciplinary research on large spatial scales and long-term temporal scales. These traits characterize the primary needs of an effective environmental research program.
There is no comprehensive national environmental research plan to coordinate the efforts of the more than 20 agencies involved in environmental programs. Moreover, no agency has the mission to develop such a plan, nor is any existing agency able to coordinate and oversee a national environmental research plan if one were developed.
The lack of an integrated national research plan weakens the ability of the United States to work creatively with governments of other nations to solve regional and global problems.
The nation's environmental efforts have no clear leadership. As suggested by the lack of a cabinet-level environmental agency, the United States has lacked strong commitment to environmental research at the highest levels of government. Environmental matters have been regarded as less important than defense, health, transportation, and other government functions.
Although individual agencies and associations of agencies analyze data to provide a base for decisions on strategies and actions to address specific environmental problems, no comprehensive "think-tank" exists for assessing data to support understanding of the environment as a whole and the modeling of trends whose understanding might help to set priorities for research and action.
Bridges between policy, management, and science are weak. There is no organized system whereby assessments of environmental problems can be communicated to decision-makers and policy-setters.
Long-term monitoring and assessment of environmental trends and of the consequences of environmental rules and regulations are seriously inadequate. The United States has a poor understanding of its biological