[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 218 (Tuesday, November 12, 2013)]
[Pages 67418-67420]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26890]



National Plan for Civil Earth Observations; Request for 

ACTION: Notice of Request for Information (RFI).


SUMMARY: The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to 
solicit input from all interested parties regarding recommendations for 
the development of a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations 
(``National Plan''). The public input provided in response to this 
Notice will inform the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) 
as it works with Federal agencies and other stakeholders to develop 
this Plan.

DATES: Responses must be received by December 6, 2013 to be considered.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods.
     Downloadable form/email: To aid in information collection 
and analysis, OSTP encourages responses to be provided by filling out 
the downloadable form located at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/shareyourinput and emailing that form, 
as an attachment, to: [email protected]. Please include ``National 
Plan for Civil Earth Observations'' in the subject line of the message.
     Fax: (202) 456-6071.
     Mail: Office of Science and Technology Policy, 1650 
Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC, 20504. Information submitted 
by postal mail should allow ample time for processing by security.
    Response to this RFI is voluntary. Respondents need not reply to 
all questions listed; however, they should clearly identify the 
questions to which they are responding by listing the corresponding 
number for each question. Each individual or institution is requested 
to only submit one response. Responses to this RFI, including the names 
of the authors and their institutional affiliations, if provided, may 
be posted on line. OSTP therefore requests that no business proprietary 
information, copyrighted information, or personally-identifiable 
information be submitted in response to this RFI. Given the public and 
governmental nature of the National Plan, OSTP deems it unnecessary to 
receive or to use business proprietary information in its development. 
Please note that the U.S. Government will not pay for response 
preparation, or for the use of any information contained in the 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Timothy Stryker, 202-419-3471, 
[email protected], OSTP.



    The U.S. Government is the world's largest single provider of civil 
environmental and Earth-system data. These data are derived from Earth 
observations collected by numerous Federal agencies and partners in 
support of their missions and are critical to the protection of human 
life and property; economic growth; national and homeland security; and 
scientific research. Because they are provided through public funding, 
these data are made freely accessible to the greatest extent possible 
to all users to advance human knowledge, to enable industry to provide 
value-added services, and for general public use.

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    Federal investments in Earth observation activities ensure that 
decision makers, businesses, first responders, farmers, and a wide 
array of other stakeholders have the information they need about 
climate and weather; natural hazards; land-use change; ecosystem 
health; water; natural resources; and other characteristics of the 
Earth system. Taken together, Earth observations provide the 
indispensable foundation for meeting the Federal Government's long-term 
sustainability objectives and advancing the Nation's societal, 
environmental, and economic well-being.
    As the Nation's capacity to observe Earth systems has grown, 
however, so has the complexity of sustaining and coordinating civil 
Earth observation research, operations, and related activities. In 
October 2010, Congress charged the Director of OSTP to address this 
challenge by producing and routinely updating a strategic plan for 
civil Earth observations (see National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration Authorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-267, Section 
    Responding to Congress, in April 2013, OSTP released a National 
Strategy for Civil Earth Observations (``the National Strategy'', see 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/nstc_2013_earthobsstrategy.pdf). In April 2013, OSTP also re-chartered the 
U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) Subcommittee of the National 
Science and Technology Council's Committee on Environment, Natural 
Resources, and Sustainability. USGEO will carry out the National 
Strategy and support the formulation of the National Plan.
    As requested by Congress, the National Plan is being developed by 
USGEO to advise Federal agencies on the Strategy's implementation 
through their investments in and operation of civil Earth observation 
systems. The Plan will provide a routine process, on a three-year 
cycle, for assessing the Nation's Earth observation investments; 
improving data management activities; and enhancing related interagency 
and international coordination. Through this approach, the Plan will 
seek to facilitate stable, continuous, and coordinated Earth 
observation capabilities for the benefit of society.
    Congress also requested that development of the National Plan 
include a process for collecting external independent advisory input. 
OSTP is seeking such public advisory input through this RFI. The public 
input provided in response to this Notice will inform OSTP and USGEO as 
they work with Federal agencies and other stakeholders to develop the 

Definitions and Descriptions

    The term ``Earth observation'' refers to data and information 
products from Earth-observing systems and surveys.
    ``Observing systems'' refers to one or more sensing elements that 
directly or indirectly collect observations of the Earth, measure 
environmental parameters, or survey biological or other Earth resources 
(land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans).
    ``Sensing elements'' may be deployed as individual sensors or in 
constellations or networks, and may include instrumentation or human 
    ``Observing system platforms'' may be mobile or fixed and are 
space-based, airborne, terrestrial, freshwater, or marine-based. 
Observing systems increasingly consist of integrated platforms that 
support remotely sensed, in-situ, and human observations.

Assessing the Benefits of U.S. Civil Earth Observation Systems

    To assist decision-makers at all levels of society, the U.S. 
Government intends to routinely assess its wide range of civil Earth 
observation systems according to the ability of those systems to 
provide relevant data and information about the following Societal 
Benefit Areas (SBAs):
     Agriculture and Forestry
     Ecosystems (Terrestrial and Freshwater)
     Energy and Mineral Resources
     Human Health
     Ocean and Coastal Resources and Ecosystems
     Space Weather
     Water Resources
    The U.S. Government also intends to consider how current and future 
reference measurements (e.g., bathymetry, geodesy, geolocation, 
topography) can enable improved observations and information delivery.
    To address measurement needs in the SBAs, the U.S. Government 
operates a wide range of atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial 
observing systems. These systems are designed to provide: (a) Sustained 
observations supporting the delivery of services, (b) sustained 
observations for research, or (c) experimental observations to address 
specific scientific questions, further technological innovation, or 
improve services.

Questions To Inform Development of the National Plan

    Through this RFI, OSTP seeks responses to the following questions:
    1. Are the 12 SBAs listed above sufficiently comprehensive?
    a. Should additional SBAs be considered?
    b. Should any SBA be eliminated?
    2. Are there alternative methods for categorizing Earth 
observations that would help the U.S. Government routinely evaluate the 
sufficiency of Earth observation systems?
    3. What management, procurement, development, and operational 
approaches should the U.S. Government employ to adequately support 
sustained observations for services, sustained observations for 
research, and experimental observations? What is the best ratio of 
support among these three areas?
    4. How should the U.S. Government ensure the continuity of key 
Earth observations, and for which data streams (e.g., weather 
forecasting, land surface change analysis, sea level monitoring, 
climate-change research)?
    5. Are there scientific and technological advances that the U.S. 
Government should consider integrating into its portfolio of systems 
that will make Earth observations more efficient, accurate, or 
economical? If so, please elaborate.
    6. How can the U.S. Government improve the spatial and temporal 
resolution, sample density, and geographic coverage of its Earth 
observation networks with cost-effective, innovative new approaches?
    7. Are there management or organizational improvements that the 
U.S. Government should consider that will make Earth observation more 
efficient or economical?
    8. Can advances in information and data management technologies 
enable coordinated observing and the integration of observations from 
multiple U.S. Government Earth observation platforms?
    9. What policies and procedures should the U.S. Government consider 
to ensure that its Earth observation data and information products are 
fully discoverable, accessible, and useable?
    10. Are there policies or technological advances that the U.S. 
Government should consider to enhance access to Earth observation data 
while also reducing management redundancies across Federal agencies?
    11. What types of public-private partnerships should the U.S. 
Government consider to address current gaps in Earth observation data 

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and enhance the full and open exchange of Earth observation data for 
national and global applications?
    12. What types of interagency and international agreements can and 
should be pursued for these same purposes?

Ted Wackler,
Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant Director.
[FR Doc. 2013-26890 Filed 11-8-13; 8:45 am]