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SSA Opposition Letter to Senate Amendment 2060

3 Dec 2012

The Seismological Society of America has written and delivered the letter below to targeted Members of Congress opposing the passage of any postal reform bill that includes Senate Amendment 2060. Senate Amendment 2060, if approved, would strictly limit Federal spending on conferences and employee travel, and impose stringent constraints on the participation of government scientists in public meetings, scientific conferences, and professional society activities.


December 3, 2012

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
31 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer:

I am writing on behalf of the Seismological Society of America (SSA), an international scientific society of over 2,000 members devoted to the advancement of seismology and the understanding of earthquakes for the benefit of society, to respectfully urge you to oppose passage of any postal reform bill that includes Senate Amendment 2060, which is currently in the postal reform bill (S.1789) passed by the Senate in April, 2012.

SA 2060 is unrelated to the fiscal crisis facing the Postal Service and would have the unintentional effect of severely restricting government employees from attending meetings and conferences held by associations, nonprofits and other private sector organizations. While intended to improve accountability and financial reporting for government-sponsored meetings, the amendment in the Senate postal reform bill has unintentionally broad and serious implications for participation at non-governmental meetings that would hinder scientific progress in the public interest. One of the provisions, for example, would limit federal agencies’ participation to just a single conference sponsored by a private organization per year.

At SSA’s scientific meetings, many government, academic and consulting scientists share the latest research in earthquake seismology and related fields. In addition to seismologists, members include geophysicists, geologists, engineers, insurers, and policy makers actively engaged with government, academic, and private sectors to promote earthquake public safety. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of our focus on earthquake safety, many of these scientists also attend a conference focused on their broader discipline: geology, geophysics, engineering, etc.

Approximately 20% percent of the registrants for our annual meeting are employed by federal agencies such as the US Geological Survey, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and National Institute of Standards and Technology. The dialogue that takes place at meetings among government, academic and private sector scientists is essential to the development of informed policymaking on earthquake hazards. Our meetings are also heavily attended by university faculty and students, and the associations and interchanges that occur between government representatives and the next generation of scientists are critical to determining career paths and promoting future service to the U.S. Government. If SA 2060 were passed without modifications as part of postal reform, it would severely impact these dialogues.

While addressing the long-term solvency of the Postal Service is a critical issue, allowing SA 2060 to be included in any final bill would have long-term and serious repercussions for assuring that federal employees stay well-informed about current scientific results affecting the nation’s interests and would also be detrimental to the pipeline of young scientists who are considering national service.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue and please contact me if you have any questions about how this amendment affects the Seismological Society of America and many other science societies.

Regards,




Susan Newman
Executive Director, SSA




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