Senators Urge Economic Geologist to Put USGS Back on Track

Demotion of Minerals Work Puts Nation’s Security, Prosperity at Risk

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., this week sent a letter to President Trump urging him to nominate an economic geologist to be the next director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The letter also encourages the president to refocus the agency on its primary mission, which is to assess U.S. mineral reserves.

“Despite the clear directives in its Organic Act, the most important charge for the USGS – the surveying of our nation’s mineral resource base – is today being severely shortchanged,” the members wrote. “After a broad reorganization in 2011, the agency’s Mineral Resources Program is now just one part of one of its seven mission areas, and accounted for just 4.6 percent of its total budget in Fiscal Year 2016.”

In their letter, the Senators outlined the important role minerals play in modern society and underscored that the agency’s lack of focus on its minerals mandate comes at a high price. According to the USGS, the U.S. last year imported at least 50 percent of its supply of at least 50 minerals and 100 percent of its supply of 20 minerals, including many that are essential components of defense, medical, energy, electronic, and other advanced technologies.

“The long-term demotion of mineral work has put our economic growth and national security at risk,” the members wrote. “But this can be fixed, and that starts by having the right leadership in place at the USGS. We must restore the mineral supply chain in the United States, and one of our first steps must be the collection of the basic data needed to give us a true understanding and reliable inventory of the location and extent of America’s mineral base.”

The members urged the president to choose an economic geologist, who would be trained in earth sciences and understand the economic and strategic value of domestic mineral production, to lead the agency.

“We strongly believe that having an economic geologist at the head of the USGS will embolden the agency to re-prioritize its original minerals mandate, and thereby allow the United States to take much-needed action to restore our mineral security.”

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and has been a longtime advocate for domestic mineral security. Yesterday, she chaired a full committee hearing that examined the nation’s growing dependence on foreign sources of minerals and the opportunities we have to rebuild and improve the domestic supply chain. A copy of the letter can be found here.

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