[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 127 (Tuesday, July 2, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 39638-39644]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-15823]



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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 997

[Docket No. 120813326-3458-01]
RIN 0648-BC18


U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System; Regulations To Certify 
and Integrate Regional Coordination Entities

AGENCY: U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office (IOOS), 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office, 
which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the 
lead agency for, proposes rules to implement provisions of the 
Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 (ICOOS 
Act). Among other things, the ICOOS Act directs the Interagency Ocean 
Observation Committee (IOOC) to develop and approve certification 
criteria and procedures for integrating regional information 
coordination entities (RICEs) into the National Integrated Coastal and 
Ocean Observation System (System). This proposed rule would accomplish 
that goal. This rule also implements the provisions of the ICOOS Act 
establishing that certified entities integrated into the System are, 
for the purposes of determining liability arising from the 
dissemination and use of observation data, considered part of NOAA and 
therefore their employees engaged in the collection, management, and 
dissemination, of observation data in the System receive the same tort 
protections for use of that data as Federal employees.

DATES: Comments on this proposed rule must be received by August 1, 
2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NOS-2013-0083, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2013-0083, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Dave Easter, U.S. 
Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office, 1100 Wayne Ave., 
Suite 1225, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
     Fax: (301) 427-2073; Attn: Dave Easter
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in 
Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Easter, U.S. Integrated Ocean 
Observing System Program Office, at (301) 427-2451.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 
(Pub. L. 111-11) (ICOOS Act or Act, codified at 33 U.S.C. 3601-3610) 
directs the President, acting through the National Ocean Research 
Leadership Council (Council), to establish a National Integrated 
Coastal and Ocean Observation System (System). The System must 
``include[] in situ, remote, and other coastal and ocean observation, 
technologies, and data management and communication systems, and [be] 
designed to address regional and national needs for ocean information, 
to gather specific data on key coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes 
variables, and to ensure timely and sustained dissemination and 
availability of these data.'' 33 U.S.C. 3601(1). Another purpose of the 
System is ``to fulfill the Nation's international obligations to 
contribute to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems and the 
Global Ocean Observing System.'' 33 U.S.C. 3601(1) and 3603(a).
    The System is built upon a national-regional partnership, with 
contributions from both Federal and non-Federal organizations, 
promoting the quick and organized collection and distribution of ocean, 
coastal, and Great Lakes data and data products to meet critical 
societal needs. System data is used by both governmental and non-
governmental concerns, to, among other things, ``support national 
defense, marine commerce, navigation safety, weather, climate, and 
marine forecasting, energy siting and production, economic development, 
ecosystem-based marine, coastal, and Great Lakes resource management, 
public safety, and public outreach training and education.'' It is also 
used to promote public awareness and stewardship of the Nation's 
waterways, coasts and ocean resources, and to advance scientific 
understanding of the use, conservation, management, and understanding 
of healthy ocean, coastal, and Great Lake resources. 33 U.S.C. 
3601(1)(A)-(C).
    The ICOOS Act directs the Council to establish or designate an 
Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC). In 2010, the Joint 
Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST), acting on behalf 
of the Council, established the IOOC. The IOOC replaced, and assumed 
and expanded the role of its predecessor, the Interagency Working Group 
on Ocean Observations, which was originally established by the JSOST 
under the Ocean Action Plan.
    Under the ICOOS Act, the IOOC must ``develop contract certification 
standards and compliance procedures for all non-Federal assets, 
including regional information coordination entities, to establish 
eligibility for integration into the System.'' 33 U.S.C. 3603(c)(2)(E). 
To create the certification criteria, the IOOC chartered two working 
groups consisting of subject matter experts on IOOS data partners and 
regional entities to draft recommended certification criteria. The 
recommended draft criteria were approved by the IOOC in October 2011 
and released for public input. After a sixty-day public comment period 
and adjudication of public input, the IOOC drafted final certification 
criteria.
    In developing certification criteria, the IOOC focused on 
identifying the governance and management criteria a RICE--
organizations that coordinate regional observing efforts; manage and 
operate observing assets; manage and distribute data; and engage user 
groups in product development--must have in place to allow NOAA to 
coordinate non-federal assets for the purposes of the ICOOS Act. The 
IOOC certification standards ensure the necessary policies, standards, 
data, information, and services associated with eligibility for 
integration into the System are appropriately established, coordinated, 
overseen and enforced.
    This rule would, if implemented, establish the criteria and 
procedures for how RICEs can apply and become certified for and 
integrated into System. Integration into the System formally

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establishes the role of the RICE and ensures that the data collected 
and distributed by the RICE are managed according to the best 
practices, as identified by NOAA.
    Additionally, under the ICOOS Act, employees of RICEs that NOAA has 
certified and incorporated into the System who gather and disseminate 
information under this Act are, for the purposes of determining 
liability arising from the dissemination and use of observation data, 
considered to be part of NOAA. In other words, they are federal 
employees for the purposes of tort liability relating to their work 
directly related to the System. Only those non-federal entities that 
agree to meet the standards established under the process described in 
the ICOOS Act, and that are designated by NOAA as certified entities in 
the System, will be considered as ``certified'' for purposes of these 
regulations.
    These proposed regulations satisfy the ICOOS Act requirement that 
NOAA, as the lead Federal agency for implementing the System, 
``promulgate program guidelines to certify and integrate non-federal 
assets, including regional information coordination entities, into the 
System.'' 33 U.S.C. 3603(c)(3)(C). Accordingly, they detail the 
compliance procedures and requirements for certifying RICEs that 
satisfy the IOOC-approved certification standards.
    Among other things, to become certified, RICEs must provide NOAA 
with information about their organizational structure and operations, 
including capacity to gather required System observation data. They 
must also document their ability to accept and disburse funds and to 
enter into legal agreements with other entities. RICEs must have by-
laws, accountability measures governing boards and an explanation of 
how they are selected, and be able to provide information about RICE 
diversity, user feedback processes, and transparency. Moreover, RICEs 
must submit to NOAA a strategic operation plan to ensure the efficient 
and effective administration and operation of programs and assets to 
support the System, and agree to and actually work cooperatively with 
other governmental and non-governmental entities to the benefit of the 
System. Importantly, an application for certification must include a 
description of the RICE's management of ongoing regional system 
operations and maintenance. The RICE must illustrate its standard 
operating procedures for ensuring the continued validity and 
maintenance of equipment used; strategies to enhance the System. 
Additionally, a RICE must also provide a Data Management and 
Communications Plan documenting how the RICE maintains and controls 
data quality and distribution. Certification lasts for five years, 
after which time a certified RICE must apply for re-certification.
    These regulations apply to the certification of RICEs only. Further 
regulations will be developed by NOAA to provide certification for 
other non-federal assets that do not meet the definition of RICEs.

Classification

Executive Order 12866

    Under Executive Order (E.O.) 12866, if the proposed regulations, 
including regulations such as those proposed here, are a ``significant 
regulatory action'' as defined in Sec.  3(f) of the Order, an 
assessment of the potential costs and benefits of the regulatory action 
must be prepared and submitted to the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB). OMB has determined that this action is not a ``significant'' 
regulatory action under E.O. 12866.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Pursuant to section 605 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 
the Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration that these proposed regulations, if adopted, will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The reasons for this certification are as follows:
    The ICOOS Act directs NOAA to ``promulgate program guidelines to 
certify and integrate non-Federal assets, including regional 
information coordination entities into the System.'' 33 U.S.C. 
3603(c)(3)(C). This action establishes the criteria and procedures for 
certifying and integrating RICEs into the Integrated Coastal and Ocean 
Observation System (System), in compliance with the ICOOS Act.
    Specifically, this action proposes to require RICEs to provide NOAA 
with certain information about their organizational structures, 
financial capabilities and makeup, oversight, and data quality 
assurance methods in order to obtain certification under the ICOOS Act. 
Although most of the affected entities already meet the majority of the 
requirements proposed here, there may be some minimal costs for some or 
all of those entities to come into full compliance with these 
regulations.
    Currently, there are eleven RICEs that NOAA expects may be impacted 
by these regulations. RICEs are generally partnerships of entities in 
the academic, private, governmental, tribal, and non-governmental 
sectors, and are organized either pursuant to Sec.  501(c)(3) of the 
Internal Revenue Code or by Memorandums of Agreement. Most of these 
eleven RICEs employ from three to five full- or part-time individuals, 
either directly or as contractors. They therefore fit into the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act's size standards as small organizations, 
because they ``are not-for-profit enterprises independently owned and 
operated and not dominant in their field.'' 5 U.S.C. 601(4).
    RICEs primarily depend on funds from NOAA for their operations. 
Through a series of cooperative agreements, NOAA has been funding these 
eleven RICEs since FY 2005 to develop the organizational structure, 
operating procedures, and data management capacity necessary to serve 
as the entities responsible for planning, coordinating, and operating 
the regional observing systems. Funding levels to build the 
organization and coordination capacity of these eleven RICEs, made 
available through these cooperative agreements, varies by region, but 
has typically ranged from $300K to $400K per year per RICE.
    In addition, beginning in FY 2008, each of these eleven RICEs 
entered into cooperative agreements with NOAA to support data 
collection, data management, and development of products and services. 
In FY 2012, the funding amounts for these eleven RICEs ranged from $1.4 
million to $2.5 million per RICE.
    Notably, many of the proposed regulations are an extension of the 
effort to build the capacity of these eleven RICEs to perform 
successfully the duties of a RICE as identified in the ICOOS Act. As 
such, the regulations will likely not impose additional expenses on the 
affected RICEs, because those entities are, for the most part, already 
engaging in those activities.
    NOAA expects that the greatest economic impacts to RICEs of these 
regulations will be associated with the staff time necessary to 
organize and submit to NOAA the information required for certification. 
However, these costs may be low, because in many cases the RICE may 
already have the information necessary to meet the certification 
requirements. In a few cases, some staff effort will be required to 
develop new materials, but notably that effort will be essentially 
funded through the RICE's cooperative agreement with NOAA. Moreover, 
NOAA expects that RICEs will incur these costs only once every five 
years,

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given the duration of certification and need for renewal, and that the 
costs associated with preparing the certification materials may be 
reflected in a temporary loss of coordination capacity. Each RICE's 
specific information needs are not clear at this time, so the costs 
cannot be determined with accuracy; however, because most of the 
information needed to become certified likely already is in the RICE's 
possession, these costs are likely low.
    Another cost that may arise due to these regulations relates to 
implementation of new procedures at RICEs to manage data and ensure 
data quality. Most RICEs have some data management and quality 
assurance programs in place, but satisfying the certification 
requirements proposed here may result in some RICEs having to re-
allocate their existing funds to provide additional resources to 
improve their data quality and management. As the data quality 
standards of each RICE currently differs, NOAA cannot determine the 
costs this rule would impose on any given RICE to meet the new 
requirements. However, NOAA believes that such costs would likely be a 
small percentage of their overall operating budgets, and so would not 
constitute a significant economic impact to the affected entities.
    One benefit to RICEs provided by these regulations and the ICOOS 
Act is the extension of liability protection to RICE employees for data 
collected and disseminated pursuant to the ICOOS Act. Specifically, 
employees of entities that are certified and integrated into the System 
are, for the purposes of determining liability arising from the 
dissemination and use of observation data, considered to be part of 
NOAA.
    The extension of tort liability protection may in some instances 
benefit RICEs and their employees. However, NOAA notes that this 
benefit may be minimal, as past claims against NOAA and the Department 
for damages arising from allegedly incorrect data are rare and have 
been for relatively low amounts. Thus, any financial benefits in terms 
of liability may be limited.
    Finally, certification is a voluntary step by RICEs. Although NOAA 
expects any entity that may qualify as a RICE and currently receives 
NOAA funds under the ICOOS Act to seek certification, lack of 
certification does not preclude funding opportunities.
    These regulations will affect eleven known small organizations. 
However, the rules impose no mandatory costs on any of those 
organizations; rather, the costs to these organizations to become 
certified are born by the RICEs voluntarily. Nonetheless, because the 
affected entities will likely possess most of the information needed 
for certification, IOOS expects that the overall costs to the entities 
that result from these rules will be minimal. Because this rule, if 
implemented, will not result in a substantial economic impact on a 
significant number of small entities, no Regulatory Flexibility 
Analysis is required, and none has been prepared.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposed rule contains a collection-of-information requirement 
subject to review and approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act 
(PRA). This requirement has been submitted to OMB for approval. Public 
reporting burden for certification as a RICE is estimated to average 
293 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, 
searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data 
needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.
    Public comment is sought regarding: whether this proposed 
collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of 
the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall 
have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden estimate; ways to 
enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be 
collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of 
information, including through the use of automated collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on 
these or any other aspects of the collection of information to U.S 
Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office, National Ocean 
Service, NOAA at the ADDRESSES above, and email to OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, or fax to (202) 395-7285.
    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is 
required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty 
for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the 
requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays 
a currently valid OMB Control Number.

    Dated: June 26, 2013.
Holly A. Bamford,
Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management.

List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 997

    Science and technology, Ocean observing, Certification 
requirements.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, NOAA proposes to amend 
15 CFR chapter IX by adding part 997 to read as follows:

SUBCHAPTER G--REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATION BY NOAA OF NON-FEDERAL 
ASSETS INTO THE INTEGRATED COASTAL AND OCEAN OBSERVATION SYSTEM

PART 997--REGIONAL INFORMATION COORDINATION ENTITIES

Subpart A--General
Sec
997.1 Definitions
997.2 Acceptance of Procedures by a RICE
Subpart B--Certification and Decertification Process for a Regional 
Information Coordination Entity (RICE)
Sec
997.10 Eligibility
997.11 Application Process
997.12 Review by NOAA
997.13 Certification Process
997.14 Certification Duration and Renewal
997.15 Audit and Decertification
997.16 Final Action
Subpart C--Certification and Application Requirements for a RICE
Sec
997.20 General
997.21 Organizational Structure
997.22 Membership Policy
997.23 Strategic Operational Plan
997.24 Gaps Identification
997.25 Financial Oversight
997.26 [Reserved]
997.27 [Reserved]
997.28 [Reserved]
997.29 [Reserved]
997.30 Civil Liability

    Authority: 33 U.S.C. 3603 et seq.

Subpart A--General


Sec.  997.1  Definitions.

    Certification. For purposes of these regulations, the term 
``certification'' means the granting by NOAA of status to a non-federal 
entity as a participating RICE of the System authorized by Sec.  12304 
of the ICOOS Act. An applicant will not be considered to be 
participating in the System unless (1) it agrees to meet the 
certification standards issued by the Administrator issued herein, and 
(2) the Administrator declares the applicant to be part of the System 
as a certified RICE.
    Non-Federal Assets. The term ``non-federal assets'' means all 
relevant coastal and ocean observation technologies, related basic and 
applied technology research and development, and public education and 
outreach programs that are integrated into the System and are managed 
through State, regional organizations, universities, nongovernmental 
organizations, or the private sector.

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    Owned and/or operated by the RICE. Non-Federal Assets that are 
either owned and/or operated directly by the RICE, or supported 
financially in part or in full by the RICE.
    Regional Information Coordination Entity. The term ``regional 
information coordination entity'' means an organizational body that is 
certified or established by contract or memorandum by the lead Federal 
agency (NOAA) designated in the ICOOS Act, and that coordinates State, 
Federal, local, and private interests at a regional level with the 
responsibility of engaging the private and public sectors in designing, 
operating, and improving regional coastal and ocean observing systems 
in order to ensure the provision of data and information that satisfy 
the needs of user groups from the respective regions. The term 
``regional information coordination entity'' includes regional 
associations described in the System Plan.
    Employee of a Regional Information Coordination Entity. An 
individual identified in subsections 997.23(d)(3) or 997.23(f)(1) of 
these Regulations.
    System. The term ``System'' means the National Integrated Coastal 
and Ocean Observation System established in accordance with Sec.  12304 
of the ICOOS Act (33 U.S.C. 3603).
    System Plan. The term ``System Plan'' means the plan contained in 
the document entitled ``Ocean.US Publication No. 9, The First 
Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Development Plan,'' as updated 
by the Council under these regulations.


Sec.  997.2  Acceptance of Procedures by a RICE.

    By its voluntary entrance or participation in the System, the RICE 
acknowledges and accepts the procedures and requirements established by 
these regulations.

Subpart B--Certification and Decertification Process for a Regional 
Information Coordination Entity (RICE)


Sec.  997.10  Eligibility.

    Any non-Federal entity may submit an application for certification 
as a RICE as defined in the ICOOS Act and these Regulations.


Sec.  997.11  Application Process.

    (a) The applicant for certification shall submit an application 
package containing the information and documentation outlined in 
Subpart C--Certification and Application Requirements for a RICE of 
these Regulations. The submission package shall include the application 
form, available online at http://www.ioos.noaa.gov/certification.
    (b) Submission shall be made to NOAA at the address below, or to 
such other address as may be indicated in the future: Director U.S. 
IOOS Program Office, NOAA, 1100 Wayne Ave, Suite 1225, Silver Spring, 
MD 20910. Submissions may also be made online at http://www.ioos.noaa.gov/certification.


Sec.  997.12  Review by NOAA.

    (a) After receiving an application package, NOAA shall have up to 
90 calendar days to review the application package and decide whether 
to certify the applicant.
    (b) Before the 90 calendar days have elapsed, NOAA may request 
additional information, in which case NOAA shall have up to 30 
additional calendar days after that additional information has been 
received by NOAA, above and beyond the original 90 calendar days, to 
review the application package and decide whether to certify the 
applicant.
    (c) NOAA's decision whether to certify the applicant shall be based 
on whether the RICE demonstrates that it satisfies the current IOOC 
certification criteria and these regulations.


Sec.  997.13  Certification Process.

    (a) NOAA's decision whether to certify the applicant, along with 
the reason for its decision, shall be delivered to the applicant via 
letter delivered by first class mail and by electronic means.
    (b) Applicants receiving a certification determination in the 
affirmative shall be designated as ``certified'' RICEs by NOAA. NOAA 
shall memorialize this status via a memorandum of agreement with the 
applicant. Certification shall mean that a RICE is incorporated into 
the System.
    (c) A certified RICE shall provide NOAA with written notification 
of the RICE's intention to change any details of its organizational 
structure or Strategic Operational Plan, from those details originally 
provided to satisfy the requirements of these Regulations, and shall 
request approval from NOAA for the change. After receiving the written 
notification, NOAA shall have up to 30 calendar days to review the 
requested change and decide whether to approve the requested change. 
NOAA's decision, along with the reason for its decision, shall be 
included in a written notification to the RICE.


Sec.  997.14  Certification Duration and Renewal.

    (a) Certification of a RICE shall be for a term of 5 years, unless 
otherwise specified by the NOAA Administrator.
    (b) Certification may be renewed, at the request of the RICE, for a 
period of five years. A RICE seeking to renew its certification shall 
provide NOAA with a written request to renew at least 120 calendar days 
before the expiration of the existing certification. The request shall 
include the application form, available online at http://www.ioos.noaa.gov/certification, and all information providing evidence 
that the applicant satisfies the IOOC certification criteria and NOAA 
regulations promulgated to certify and integrate non-Federal assets 
into the System.
    (c) After receiving a written request for renewal of certification, 
NOAA shall have up to 90 calendar days to review the request and decide 
whether to renew the certification.
    (d) Before the 90 calendar days have elapsed, NOAA may request 
additional information, in which case NOAA shall have up to 30 
additional calendar days after that additional information has been 
received by NOAA, above and beyond the original 90 calendar days, to 
review the request and decide whether to renew the certification.
    (e) NOAA's decision whether to renew the certification shall be 
based on whether the RICE continues to demonstrate that it satisfies 
the current IOOC certification criteria and these regulations. NOAA's 
decision, along with the reason for its decision, shall be included in 
a written notification to the RICE.


Sec.  997.15  Audit and Decertification.

    (a) NOAA may audit a RICE that it has certified to ensure 
compliance with the IOOC certification criteria and these regulations. 
NOAA may conduct an audit without advance notice.
    (b) NOAA may decertify a RICE. In general, a RICE may be 
decertified when:
    (1) The results of an audit indicate that the RICE no longer 
satisfies the requirements under which it was certified;
    (2) Other relevant reasons for decertification become apparent.
    (c) NOAA's intent to decertify a RICE, along with the 
identification of a specific deficiency(ies) and a recommended 
corrective action(s), shall be included in a written notification to 
the RICE. After receiving NOAA's written notification, a RICE shall 
have up to 30 calendar days to request in writing that NOAA reconsider 
its intent to decertify the RICE. The RICE's request for 
reconsideration shall contain sufficient information for NOAA to 
determine whether to grant the request for reconsideration. 
Alternatively, the RICE may correct the deficiency(ies)

[[Page 39642]]

identified by NOAA within 30 calendar days, notify NOAA in writing of 
the corrective action(s) taken, and provide sufficient evidence for 
NOAA to determine the correctness and effectiveness of the corrective 
action(s) taken.
    (d) If a RICE submits to NOAA a written request for reconsideration 
or a written assertion that the identified deficiency(ies) has been 
corrected, NOAA shall have up to 60 calendar days after receipt of the 
request or assertion, to review the request for reconsideration or the 
assertion of corrective action. NOAA's decision, along with the reason 
for its decision, shall be delivered to the applicant via letter 
delivered by first class mail and by electronic means.
    (e) Upon decertification, a RICE shall no longer be incorporated 
into the System.
    (f) A RICE may act voluntarily to terminate its certification at 
any time by notifying NOAA in writing of its desire to do so. Upon 
receipt of the notification by NOAA, the RICE will no longer be 
incorporated into the System.


Sec.  997.16  Final Action.

    NOAA's decision, whether to certify, renew or decertify a RICE 
shall be considered final agency action.

Subpart C--Certification and Application Requirements for a RICE


Sec.  997.20  General.

    (a) For the purposes of these certification regulations, when the 
verb ``describe'' is used it indicates that the RICE shall give an 
account in text that responds to the requirement. This text shall 
contain sufficient information to demonstrate how the RICE satisfies 
the certification requirement. The RICE may include a link(s) to 
additional information. When the verb ``document'' is used, it 
indicates that the RICE shall furnish a document(s) that responds to 
the requirement. A text statement accompanying the document(s) will 
normally be necessary to provide context for the document(s) and to 
demonstrate how the RICE satisfies the certification requirement. The 
RICE may include a link to a document in the accompanying text 
statement.
    (b) Documentation that addresses the certification requirements may 
include references to existing RICE documents. All documents and 
materials may be submitted directly to the U.S. IOOS Program Office or 
made accessible for public viewing on the RICE's Web site.


Sec.  997.21  Organizational Structure.

    (a) To become certified, a RICE must
    Demonstrate an organizational structure capable of gathering 
required System observation data, supporting and integrating all 
aspects of coastal and ocean observing and information programs within 
a region and that reflects the needs of State and local governments, 
commercial interests, and other users and beneficiaries of the System 
and other requirements specified under this subtitle and the System 
Plan. 33 U.S.C. 3603(c)(4)(A)(i).
    (b) A RICE's application shall
    (1) Describe the RICE's organizational structure (e.g., 501(c)(3) 
tax-exempt organization, establishment via MOU or MOA).
    (2) Document the RICE's ability to satisfy applicable legal 
criteria for accepting and disbursing funds, and entering into 
agreements. Sufficient documentation may be provided in the form of: 
(1) Evidence of a current grant, cooperative agreement, or contract in 
good standing with the Federal government; or (2) evidence of fiscal 
agreements, standard operating procedures for financial activities, and 
proof of an audit process.
    (3) Document the RICE's measures for addressing issues of 
accountability and liability. For this criterion, accountability and 
liability refer to the RICE's governance and management activities. 
Sufficient documentation may be provided in the form of (1) a conflict 
of interest policy for the Governing Board or governing body, which 
clearly states that a member of the governing board will declare any 
conflict of interest he or she may have and will recuse him or herself 
from associated funding decisions, and (2) a policy statement in the 
RICE's by-laws that addresses liability issues.
    (4) Describe the process the RICE uses to set priorities for 
distributing funds (e.g., requirement for Governing Board or governing 
body approval when responding to funding opportunities or adjusting to 
funding level changes in existing agreements).
    (5) Document the by-laws, signed articles of agreement, or any 
binding agreements that demonstrate how the RICE establishes and 
maintains a Governing Board or governing body. The documentation shall 
demonstrate:
    (i) How the composition of the Governing Board or governing body is 
selected and how it is representative of regional ocean observing 
interests. NOAA defines ``representative'' in this specific context to 
include geographic, sector, expertise, and stakeholder considerations.
    (ii) How and with what frequency the RICE solicits and receives 
advice on RICE participant diversity, stakeholder coordination, and 
engagement strategies, to ensure the provision of data and information 
that satisfy the needs of user groups.
    (iii) How the RICE collects and assesses user feedback to gauge the 
effectiveness of the regional system and subsystems in satisfying user 
needs, and how the RICE responds to this user feedback in setting its 
priorities. Sufficient documentation may be provided in the form of a 
description of the method the RICE uses in its annual planning process 
to assess priorities among the identified user needs in the region and 
to respond to those user needs.
    (iv) Steps the RICE takes to ensure decisions on priorities and 
overall regional system design are transparent and available. At a 
minimum, RICE priorities and regional system design decisions shall be 
made accessible for public viewing on the RICE's Web site.


Sec.  997.22  Membership Policy.

    The RICE application shall describe:
    (a) The process by which individuals or organizations may formally 
participate in the governance activities of the RICE;
    (b) The rights and responsibilities of this participation;
    (c) The process by which the RICE strives for organizational 
diversity through intra-regional geographic representation, and 
diversity of activities and interests from both public and private 
sectors; and
    (d) How the RICE allows for participation from adjacent regions or 
nations.


Sec.  997.23  Strategic Operational Plan.

    (a) To become certified, a RICE must:
    Develop and operate under a strategic operational plan that will 
ensure the efficient and effective administration of programs and 
assets to support daily data observations for integration into the 
System, pursuant to the standards approved by the Council;

and
    work cooperatively with governmental and non-governmental entities 
to identify and provide information products of the System for multiple 
users within the service area of the regional information coordination 
entities.
    The Strategic Operational Plan is a high-level document that 
outlines how a RICE manages and operates an integrated regional 
observing system. This Plan should evolve as a RICE matures, new 
technologies become available, regional priorities change, and new 
users and stakeholders are identified. The Plan may be responsive

[[Page 39643]]

to changing funding levels, and shall contain the following sections, 
referencing other plans directly when applicable. The RICE application 
shall provide descriptions and documentation that the Strategic 
Operational Plan satisfies the requirements of Sec.  997.23.
(b) Background and Context
    The RICE shall describe:
    (1) The role of the RICE in furthering the development of the 
regional component of the System;
    (2) The process by which the RICE updates the Strategic Operational 
Plan at least once every five years and how the RICE seeks inputs from 
the broader user community; and
    (3) The RICE's primary partners and any contributing observing 
systems. For the purposes of Sec.  997.23, NOAA defines a primary 
partner as any organization or individual that contributes significant 
staff time, funding or other resources to project activities. This is 
not an exhaustive list of all RICE partners but the primary partners 
the RICE is working with on a given project.
(c) Goals and Objectives
    The RICE shall describe:
    (1) How the RICE addresses marine operations; coastal hazards; 
ecosystems, fisheries and water quality; and climate variability and 
change; and
    (2) The major objectives that guide the RICE's priorities for data 
collection and management, development of products and services, 
research and development, and education and outreach.
(d) Operational Plan for the Observing System
    The RICE's Strategic Operational Plan shall include or reference an 
Operational Plan for the Observing System that:
    (1) Describes the key products, services and outcomes that the 
observing system will deliver;
    (2) Describes the elements of the operational integrated observing 
system that will deliver those products, services and outcomes;
    (3) Documents to NOAA's satisfaction that the individual(s) 
responsible for RICE operations has the necessary qualifications and 
possesses relevant professional education and work experience to 
deliver observations successfully. At a minimum the RICE shall:
    (i) Identify the individual responsible for overall RICE 
management;
    (ii) Identify, as applicable, the individual responsible for 
observations system management in the region;
    (iii) Provide the curriculum vitae for each identified individual; 
and
    (iv) Identify the procedures used to evaluate the capability of the 
individual(s) identified in subsection 997.23(d)(3) to conduct the 
assigned duties responsibly.
    (4) Describes how the RICE manages ongoing regional system 
operations and maintenance. At a minimum the RICE shall:
    (i) Describe the RICE's standard operating procedures for ensuring 
that those responsible for managing hardware owned and/or operated by 
the RICE calibrate, validate, operate, and maintain equipment regularly 
and in accordance with manufacturer guidance or industry best practice 
(other management factors that influence the delivery of quality data, 
such as managing software applications, are addressed in subsection 
997.23(f); and
    (ii) Describe the RICE's standard operating procedures for ensuring 
that those responsible for managing hardware owned and/or operated by 
the RICE maintain equipment inventories, shipping logs and instrument 
history logs.
(e) Development of a Strategy To Sustain and Enhance the System
    The RICE shall describe its strategy for balancing changes in 
regional priorities with the need to maintain established data sets, 
the primary value of which may be in their long-term records. At a 
minimum the description shall:
    (1) Identify the guiding principles that inform the strategy;
    (2) Reference and show connections to a long-term (five-to-ten-
year) regional Build-out Plan for the full implementation of the 
regional observing system based on the RICE's priorities and identified 
user needs; and
    (3) Relate the annual planning process the RICE uses to review its 
priorities in light of funding levels and its plans for system 
enhancement as outlined in the regional Build-out Plan.
(f) Data Management and Communications (DMAC) Plan
    The RICE's Strategic Operational Plan shall include or reference a 
DMAC Plan that:
    (1) Documents to NOAA's satisfaction that the individual 
responsible for management of data operations for the RICE has the 
necessary technical skills, and possesses relevant professional 
education and work experience to support DMAC capabilities and 
functionality for the System. At a minimum the DMAC Plan shall:
    (i) Identify the individual responsible for the coordination and 
management of observation data in the region; and
    (ii) Provide the curriculum vitae for the identified individual.
    (iii) Identify the procedures used to evaluate the capability of 
the individual identified in subsection 997.23(f)(1) to conduct the 
assigned duties responsibly.
    (2) Describes how data are ingested, managed and distributed, 
including a description of the flow of data through the RICE data 
assembly center from the source to the public dissemination/access 
mechanism. The description shall include any transformations or 
modifications of data along the data flow pathway including, but not 
limited to, format translations or aggregations of component data 
streams into an integrated product.
    (3) Describes the data quality control procedures that have been 
applied to data that are distributed by the RICE. All data shall be 
quality controlled. For each data stream, describe the quality control 
procedure applied to the data, by the RICE or other named entity, 
between the data's collection and publication by the RICE. The 
description will also include a reference to the procedure used (e.g., 
QARTOD, JCOMM/IODE, scientific literature).
    (4) Adheres to the NOAA Data Sharing Procedural Directive.\1\ The 
System is an operational system; therefore the RICE should strive to 
provide as much data as possible, in real-time or near real-time, to 
support the operation of the System. When data are collected in part or 
in whole with funds distributed to a RICE through the U.S. IOOS Program 
Office, the RICE should strive to make the data available as soon as 
logistically feasible for each data stream. When data are not collected 
with funds distributed to a RICE through the U.S. IOOS Program Office, 
the data may be made available in accordance with any agreement made 
with the data provider.
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    \1\ NOAA Data Sharing Policy for Grants and Cooperative 
Agreements Procedural Directive, Version 2.0 https://www.nosc.noaa.gov/EDMC/documents/EDMC_PD-DSPNG_final_v2.pdf.
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    (5) Describes how the RICE will implement data management protocols 
promulgated by the IOOC and the U.S. IOOS Program Office in a 
reasonable and timely manner as defined for each protocol.
    (6) Documents the RICE's data archiving process or describes how 
the RICE intends to archive data at a national archive center (e.g., 
NODC, NGDC, NCDC) in a manner that follows guidelines outlined by that 
center. Documentation shall be in the form of a Submission Agreement, 
Submission Information Form (SIF) or other, similar data producer-
archive agreement.

[[Page 39644]]

(g) Budget Plan
    The RICE's Strategic Operational Plan shall include or reference a 
Budget Plan that:
    (1) Identifies who supports the RICE financially;
    (2) Outlines the RICE's plans and strategies for diversifying 
funding sources and opportunities;
    (3) Identifies how RICE priorities guide funding decisions; and
    (4) Assesses funding constraints and the associated risks to the 
observing System that the RICE must address for the future.


Sec.  997.24  Gaps Identification.

    (a) To become certified, a RICE must identify gaps in observation 
coverage needs for capital improvements of Federal assets and non-
Federal assets of the System, or other recommendations to assist in the 
development of annual and long-terms plans and transmit such 
information to the Interagency Ocean Observing Committee via the 
Program Office[.] 33 U.S.C. 3603(c)(4)(A)(ii).
    (b) The RICE application shall
    (1) Document that the RICE's asset inventory contains up-to-date 
information. This could be demonstrated by a database or portal 
accessible for public viewing and capable of producing a regional 
summary of observing capacity;
    (2) Provide a regional Build-out Plan that identifies the regional 
priorities for products and services, based on its understanding of 
regional needs, and a description of the integrated system 
(observations, modeling, data management, product development, 
outreach, and R&D). The RICE shall review and update the Build-out Plan 
at least once every five years; and
    (3) Document the priority regional gaps in observation coverage 
needs, as determined by an analysis of the RICE asset inventory and 
Build-out Plan. The RICE shall review and update the analysis of 
priority regional gaps in observation coverage needs at least once 
every five years.


Sec.  997.25  Financial Oversight.

    (a) To become certified, a RICE must comply with all financial 
oversight requirements established by the Administrator, including 
requirement relating to audits. 33 U.S.C. 3603(c)(4)(A)(v).
    (b) The RICE's application shall document compliance with the terms 
and conditions set forth in 2 CFR Part 215--Uniform Administrative 
Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher 
Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-profit Organizations, Subpart C--
Post Award Requirements. This Subpart prescribes standards for 
financial management systems, among others. (Compliance with this 
criterion can be demonstrated by referencing any existing grant, 
cooperative agreement, or contract the RICE has with NOAA.)
    (c) The RICE shall document annually the RICE's operating and 
maintenance costs for all observing platforms and sensors, etc., owned 
and/or operated by the RICE.


Sec. Sec.  997.26 through 997.29  [Reserved]


Sec.  997.30  Civil Liability.

    (a) For purposes of determining liability arising from the 
dissemination and use of observation data gathered pursuant to the 
ICOOS Act and these regulations, any non-Federal asset or regional 
information coordination entity incorporated into the System by 
contract, lease, grant, or cooperative agreement that is participating 
in the System shall be considered to be part of the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration. Any employee of such a non-Federal 
asset or regional information coordination entity, while operating 
within the scope of his or her employment in carrying out the purposes 
of this subtitle, with respect to tort liability, is deemed to be an 
employee of the Federal Government.
    (b) The ICOOS Act's grant of civil liability protection (and thus 
the RICE's limited status as part of NOAA) applies only to a RICE that:
    (1) Is participating in the System, meaning the RICE has been 
certified by NOAA in accordance with the ICOOS Act and these 
regulations; and
    (2) has been integrated into the System by contract, lease, grant 
or cooperative agreement with NOAA.
    (c) An ''employee'' of a regional information coordination entity 
is an individual who satisfies all of the following requirements:
    (1) The individual is employed or contracted by a certified RICE 
that has been integrated into the System by contract, lease, grant or 
cooperative agreement with NOAA, and that is participating in the 
System, as defined in Sec.  997.30(b), above;
    (2) The individual is identified by the RICE, as required in Sec.  
997.23(d)(3), as one of three individuals responsible for the 
collection, management, or dissemination of ocean, coastal, and Great 
Lakes observation data; and
    (3) The individual is responsive to federal government control.
    (d) The protection afforded to employees of a RICE with regard to 
liability applies only to specific individuals employed or contracted 
by a RICE who meet the requirements of 997.30(c) and who are 
responsible for the collection, management, or dissemination of ocean, 
coastal, and Great Lakes observation data. The RICE must identify to 
NOAA's satisfaction: (1) The individual responsible for overall system 
management, (2) as applicable, the individual responsible for 
observations system management, and (3) the individual responsible for 
management of data operations. In accepting certification, the RICE 
will concede to NOAA the power to ensure these individuals comply with 
the requirements of the program regulations in their daily operations 
and that they are responsive to NOAA through the agreement the RICE has 
with NOAA.

[FR Doc. 2013-15823 Filed 7-1-13; 8:45 am]
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