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Idea of the Day: What Challenges Does the New NOAA Administrator Face?

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Yesterday, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to be the new administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She replaces Dr. Jane Lubchenco, who stepped down in February 2013. Sullivan’s background—a Ph.D. in geology, a career as an astronaut that included more than three weeks in space, and service as an oceanographer in the U.S. Naval Reserve—is ideally suited to the challenge of leading the agency responsible for the management of America’s oceans, fisheries, and the National Weather Service.

Yet despite her ample qualifications and obvious acumen, she may well look back and find that training for her space walk was easier than preparing to take the helm of NOAA. By any estimation, NOAA faces massive challenges, from the sequestration-worsened budget crunch crimping the entire federal government’s ability to carry out its congressional mandates, to the global climate crisis, to fishery management dilemmas threatening one of the nation’s oldest commercial industries.

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