As the new director of NOAA Fisheries, it is my good fortune to receive an expert evaluation of the agency’s strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, and budget process by the National Academy of Public Administration. The findings are summarized in NAPA's “National Marine Fisheries Service Budget Structure and Allocation Review.” From my vantage point, it provides a valuable opportunity to move forward on improving our budget process, better aligning funding to our mission priorities, and expanding our communications with Congress and our partners and stakeholders.
While this report is hot off the press, we are already taking heed of the recommendations and planning and implementation are underway. NOAA Fisheries is committed to improving the dialog and processes around the budget and strategic priorities, internally and externally, with an increased focus on tackling long-term challenges. More broadly, we will use the recommendations in the report to further improve communication with Congress and our partners and stakeholders.
I want to thank NAPA and the Study Fellows for a job well done. This was a big challenge. In 2020, they were asked to evaluate how the agency connects three processes—budget development, planning, and decision-making—with our national mission and regional priorities. The NAPA team interviewed about 90 individuals for the study, including NOAA Fisheries employees in headquarters, the regions, and the science centers. They also spoke with Congressional staff, employees in other science agencies, and various stakeholders.
The NAPA report includes five recommendations for NOAA Fisheries and a sixth recommendation directed at Congress. NAPA’s top-level recommendations for us are:
- Make strategic planning a more important driver of the budgetary process
- Implement stronger program management at the HQ level
- Implement stronger functional planning, to include operations and mission support
- Request funding for the NOAA Fisheries facilities portfolio’s requirements through NOAA and its Facility Capital Investment Plan by conducting robust assessments of the portfolio
- Embracing and implementing the previous recommendations, NOAA Fisheries should request Congress provide greater discretion that allows it to be more strategic with its resources, using an evidence-based approach and managerial flexibility to identify and organize around Agency priorities and address them more effectively
Along with the recommendations, NAPA recognized that NOAA Fisheries has made significant efforts to improve its strategic and budgetary processes in recent years. It was great to hear that the Fisheries team is already on the right track in many areas.
My leadership team and I understand that this report is intended to fuel significant changes at NOAA Fisheries. We welcome the challenge. While work is underway to address many of the recommendations, implementing change takes time. Building relationships and trust also takes time, and we are fully committed to doing that as well.
Overall, I am confident that we can use the NAPA recommendations to drive change and improve our processes and our communications around the budget as we work to better engage with partners at all levels. I encourage everyone to review the report, and I look forward to a robust dialog around this in the coming months and years. We are committed to learning from this study, and more importantly, benefiting from it to make changes and improve our critical work at NOAA Fisheries. More to come!
Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries