marine resources that support a substantial segment of the U.S. economy. Simply put, the coasts exist because of the geologic forces that formed the continents, islands, and oceans that cover Earth.
Thus, wise stewardship and development of many coastal and marine natural resources are linked to sound scientific understanding. Science-based policy decisions facing federal, state, and local policymakers can be expected to depend on an understanding of the processes that have traditionally been the focus of research by the USGS and its CMGP.
Although several federal agencies conduct physical science and engineering programs and studies, the CMGP occupies a unique niche by providing the capability to conduct research and assessments of the geologic processes impacting the nation's coasts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers focuses on developing engineering solutions to very site-specific coastal problems (e.g., tidal inlet improvement projects and beach nourishment projects). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's needs for geologic information to address its mission requirements for management of fisheries, sanctuaries, and other coastal resources are not met in the agency, although the Sea Grant program does support small geologic research studies conducted by state institutions. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rely heavily on the academic community to provide whatever geologic research and knowledge base they require. However, the USGS alone has the ability to frame coastal geologic questions having both regional and national perspectives, while conducting studies that provide the geologic component for interdisciplinary approaches and useful information to decisionmakers. The distinctly different geologic characteristics of the coastal and marine realm of the United States, as well as the variations in ocean circulation and weather patterns, result in different geologic processes with diverse spatial and temporal scales that shape the coastlines and seafloor. The CMGP is uniquely qualified to address these issues given its capability both to conduct nearshore and offshore marine geologic studies and to integrate the results to produce a national assessment of the geologic structure of the coastal areas and adjacent EEZ.
The committee identified the major scientific questions or grand challenges that should form the integrating principle common to all CMGP efforts to fulfill the need for geological information about the nation's coastal and marine areas over the next few decades. To respond adequately to these grand challenges the CMGP will need to consider changes in the existing CMGP structures and procedures.
The three grand challenges identified by the committee are intended to provide a long-term focus and are not site or issue specific. These grand challenges include: 1) establish the geologic framework of the U.S. coastal and marine