This three-day policy forum held on June 9-11 consisted of elected officials, academics, business leaders, scientists and ocean explorers to discussing the latest news on U.S. ocean policy and research. Below is an account of the discussions that related to Arctic policy. The full agenda is available here.
Day One: June 9
U.S. Ocean Policy
Juliet Eilperin, White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, moderated a discussion between Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and chair of the Arctic Executive Steering Committee; and Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
In discussing the Arctic Council’s focus on ocean policy as one of the U.S. chairmanship priorities, Holdren said the Arctic Ocean can serve as a link to other challenges in the Arctic and be used to build international cooperation. Holdren expressed remorse about recent cuts to the NASA and NSF budgets. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” he said.
Responding to a question about climate change and Arctic drilling, Holdren said 18 stringent regulations still need to be passed before companies like Shell can even begin exploratory efforts. The Interior Department has only granted Shell a conditional permit, not a drilling permit. He said the administration’s motivation for offshore oil development is to decrease dependence on foreign fuel sources.
Goldfuss spoke about marine protected areas, which can improve fish stock conditions outside of the protected areas. They also reignite the conservation core initiatives of America, he said.
Holdren talked about adaptation strategies and climate mitigation, which he stressed were separate subjects.
“To address climate mitigation, we need to focus on decreasing the pace and magnitude at which climate change is occurring,” he said. Regarding adaptation, he said it is simply not possible to stop climate change in its tracks.
Holdren referenced the administration’s May 2014 Climate Assessment regarding coastal communities in Alaska. He described climate change as an acute issue because lives and communities are at risk as decreasing sea ice opens exposure to severe storm damage. The Arctic Executive Steering Committee can focus strategies and use a gap analysis to see where there is room for improvement, he said.
Securing the Coasts: U.S. Navy & U.S. Coast Guard
Moderating a discussion on the military mission was Sherri Goodman, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. The panel included Rear Admiral Jonathan White, Oceanographer and Navigator of the U.S. Navy, and Rear Admiral John Nadeau, Assistant Commandant for Capability for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Now that retreating sea ice has opened up more navigable passages through the Arctic, maritime threats to national security are a heightened concern, said Goodman.
RAdm. White elaborated on the national security implications of an opening Arctic. He said that aside from submarine ports the U.S. Navy will likely not be capable of operating in the Arctic in the coming decade. Many basic needs still need to be met, including a basic understanding of the environmental threats posed by thinning ice and hazardous weather conditions. RAdm. White also addressed the marine chart problem, and said a recent study estimated a new oceanographic survey ship could be constructed for $250 million.
RAdm. White also said geosynchronous satellite capabilities need to be expanded into the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Current satellites in equator orbit have poor signaling capacity for the extreme northern and southern poles. To solve the problem in the near future, “We are investing time, money, and effort in our Arctic Roadmap 2014-2030,” he said.
RAdm. Nadeau discussed the implementation of the Coast Guard’s 2013 Arctic Strategy, which called for immediate improvements in the Coast Guard’s mobile and seasonal deployments. Under the current approach, the Coast Guard’s limited assets are only mobilized for the Arctic during the summer months when the region experiences peak activity.
RAdm. Nadeau described the well-known icebreaker dilemma, where only one heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Polar Star, is operational. He said that icebreakers are assets that need to be viewed from a whole government perspective. The U.S. icebreaker shortage is a “looming threat that needs to be tackled, and is something the Coast Guard’s budget on its own cannot handle.”
On the international front, RAdm. Nadeau elaborated on the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. The forum is a venue in which the eight Arctic nations’ coast guards can strategize jointly on activities such as search and rescue and environmental clean-up response.
RAdm. Nadeau pointed to the Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Coast Guard and Policy program, which launched last fall, as a national effort to bring more Arctic experts into the Coast Guard.
Goodman asked the panelists about supporting scientific research and how have the Navy and Coast Guard come together to fund scientific bodies.
RAdm. White responded the Navy’s workforce has a strong science base. As for federal budget constraints, he recommended partnerships with private industry. The private sector needs to fund scientific research that supports its activities.
RAdm. Nadeau said the Coast Guard acknowledges and responds to the effects of climate change, while the debate continues over what is causing it.
Receiving applause, RAdm. White called out unnamed members of Congress for focusing too much on how climate change is caused and not devoting enough resources to respond to it, as climate change directly impacts the safety and security of the nation, both in terms of extreme weather and threats to energy security.
Goodman asked about the security value of Earth Systems Predictions Capabilities, which provides weather and shipping forecast and prediction. RAdm. Nadeau described it as another form of intelligence that helps the Coast Guard determine when and where to go, and what to bring. With the immediate cutter fleet aged at 30-50 years old, the Coast Guard’s capacity is dwindling.
Goodman asked about Russia’s infrastructure activity in the Arctic and how the U.S. is monitoring and responding. Adm. Robert Papp, the State Department’s Special Arctic Representative, and others have said that Russia’s actions are not particularly alarming, given the country’s Arctic defense needs.
RAdm. White responded he was frustrated and disappointed the U.S. cannot work with Russia in the Arctic given tensions elsewhere. He said he wants to work together with other Arctic nations on solving Arctic problems. RAdm. Nadeau again referred to the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, in which Russia participates, as an example of peaceful and cooperative relations in the Arctic region.
RAdm. Nadeau agreed the U.S. should not perceive Russia’s Arctic military activities—aimed at protecting investments in natural resources extraction—as a threat. RAdm. White said the U.S. Navy will work with the Russian Navy as best as it can under the current situation. Better relations may come in time, and the right people need to be able to work with each other.
Goodman also talked about the unique Arctic challenges in Barrow, Alaska, and the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation program, established to deal with the waste streams from Russian military activities, including decommissioned submarines and other unused infrastructure.
Taking Helm: Chairing the Arctic Council
This session examined how the U.S. leadership and others with interests in the Arctic are preparing for the future, both nationally and internationally, and in the extended economic zones. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) delivered the keynote address.
Ambassador David A. Balton, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, moderated the panel that included the following:
- Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.), S. Special Representative for the Arctic, U.S. Department of State, and former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
- Lawson W. Brigham, Distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Lisa Speer, Director of International Oceans for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Sen. Murkowski began her keynote address by emphasizing that Alaska has over 38,000 miles of mapped coastline, affirming why the ocean is so important to the state now and in the future. Below are highlights of her speech:
- The Bering Strait is the chokepoint between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. It is a corridor not only for maritime traffic, but also for northward bound invasive species and ice-melting ocean currents.
- The potential exists for unanticipated pollutants from Russia to reach Alaskan shores. This is only one of the contingencies of Russian offshore development that could negatively impact Alaska.
- It is often assumed the U.S. has more infrastructure in its Exclusive Economic Zone than is actually there. In fact, the U.S. is starting from ground zero to build the most basic infrastructure in the Arctic. Current and accurate marine charts are still needed, as is a deep water port, which is a long-term project requiring at least 10 years to get started.
- Current icebreaking capacity is insufficient, but there is growing support in Congress and the nation to fill this need. Recognition is building that an icebreaker would be a national asset, not just an Alaska earmark.
- The OCS revenue sharing legislation now pending in the Congress ( 1312) would direct a portion of the revenue to Arctic research.
- Local communities need to be involved in all decisions about the Arctic.
During the panel, Adm. Papp said one-third of the Arctic Council’s program is focused on Arctic Ocean safety. “So far, the agreements reached regarding Arctic Ocean safety look good, but that is only on paper,” he said. “It is really unknown if the proper resources are in place until the agreements are exercised.”
Adm. Papp said the Arctic is of special interest in the maritime sector because it has the potential to change global maritime dynamics. He also described the proposed Regional Seas program, which would look at sharing icebreaking resources among Arctic nations and establishing marine protected areas within international waters.
Regarding Arctic shipping, Brigham discussed the International Maritime Organization’s recently released Polar Code, written to ensure safe and reliable shipping in the region. He said the code takes a holistic look at protecting the Arctic and its residents from shipping hazards, as most cargo vessels weigh over 500 tons. Other Arctic states want the U.S. to move forward with the Polar Code.
Speer of NRDC talked about protecting marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Asked about opening the Arctic for economic development and the potential environmental risks, she said the Arctic presents an opportunity to get oceans management right. She said the region is already under a tremendous amount of stress due to the loss of sea ice, which impacts wildlife and the communities that depend upon Arctic marine life.
Development has its costs and only a small window of opportunity is open to address development impacts. A Regional Seas approach, done in a cooperative and collaborative way, could help coordinate and integrate multiple parties’ needs, and contribute to a successful outcome.
Asked about commercial fisheries potential, Brigham mentioned the U.S. decision five years ago to place a moratorium on Arctic offshore fisheries development. In follow-up, the U.S. has been working with four other countries on an Arctic fisheries agreement, which may be signed later this month. Under international law, other countries could, in theory, fish in the Arctic Ocean. A five-country declaration needs to be followed by a broader agreement.
Adm. Papp said this approach is very precautionary and it’s smart to get ahead of industrial development. Perhaps, a similar approach could be used for Arctic shipping routes and other activities.
Adm. Papp added that the small window of opportunity that Speer referenced is already gone. Entrepreneurs are not waiting for governments to act, and bureaucracies are slow to respond. Entrepreneurs will start commercial operations before regulations are in place. A cruise ship is scheduled to transit the Northwest Passage this summer. Adm. Papp questioned whether the region is prepared for that, and if air stations, for example, will be operational for search and rescue activities if needed.
Asked if sufficient infrastructure is in place to clean up large oil spills, Adm. Papp—who has seen Shell’s preparations for its Arctic exploration program—said the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) put Shell through a “very rigorous review” to ensure all of the proper resources will be in place. He added that a fuel leak from a ship is more likely than an oil spill from exploratory drilling.
Regarding ocean acidification, Speer said carbon dioxide dissolves more readily in cold water, so there is a much greater likelihood for ocean acidification in the Arctic. A Marine Advisory Program working group took a comprehensive look at the situation and found that acidification is happening unevenly throughout the Arctic: any creature with an exoskeleton or a shell is vulnerable to ocean acidification.
Asked how those who benefit from resource extraction can help pay for research, Brigham suggested environmental data transfer agreements. Speer said the Arctic is the last place any drilling should occur. The region has no roads, no airports, and is not prepared. Both Russia and the U.S. are not ready for major oil development, even though it’s happening.
Speer didn’t back down from her point that a window of opportunity still exists. With a visionary agenda in a challenging period, she said, this period can still be game changer over the next two years.
Day Two: June 10
Shaping the Nation’s Energy Outlook in Uncertain Times
This panel included developers, financiers, concerned citizens, and members of the federal and state governments covering topics related to adjustments along the energy supply chain in operations and investments for both the immediate horizon and into the future.
Brian Scheid, Senior Editor of Oil News, moderated the discussion. The panelists included the following:
- Walter Cruickshank, Deputy Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Department of the Interior
- Rolando Morillo, Equity Analyst, Rockefeller Asset Management, Rockefeller & Co.
- Conrad T. Spangler III, Director, Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy
- Randall Luthi, President, National Ocean Industries Association
- Brian Redmond, Principal, Paragon Energy Holdings LLC, Paragon Asset Group LLC
Cruickshank said DOI approved Shell’s plans for Arctic offshore exploration this summer because it believed the drilling can be done safely and responsibly using higher standards and safeguards.
Scheid asked Cruickshank why DOI didn’t delay approval until it was certain the Arctic environment would be protected. Cruickshank answered that there is no such thing as risk-free activity, and a lot of work has gone into understanding Arctic conditions. DOI, in fact, rejected Shell’s first proposal. The geology of the area also suggests there will not be a catastrophic spill.
Scheid asked if the Obama administration supports oil and gas development. Cruickshank responded the administration is focused on finding the right balance of areas to open for offshore development and to protect the environment.
Scheid asked if the recent glut in domestic energy supplies made offshore oil and gas development of less interest. Cruickshank said this is not the case, and that offshore sources will be in constant production for the next decade or so.
Out of the 26 areas outlined in the administration’s 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program draft, Scheid asked why lease sales were limited to only the eight approved planning areas. Cruickshank said most of the proposed areas were offshore Alaska, and were so remote that there was no interest in them.
Randall Luthi said the energy industry is global in nature, and will go to the locations where it is able to produce. He added that he is no fan of the administration’s oil and gas policies.
“Though Alaska and Arctic development is not new to the world, it is relatively new to the U.S., especially in the relatively shallow Alaskan waters,” said Luthi. He said Shell is committed to bringing response vessels with them, which they will build as they begin the exploration.
Scheid asked about a role of a partnership between the federal government and industry, and the importance of this for other companies. Luthi responded that offshore oil and gas production are long term in nature: “First you have to find the oil and gas, then you have to figure out how to bring it to the market safely.”
Scheid inquired about why the industry would look to develop offshore oil if it is available to develop onshore. Luthi said offshore development is part of a strategy for energy security in the long term, producing a decade into the future. Also, as a geopolitical move, it is a great opportunity to solidify the economy and lead by a good example for other countries.
Scheid revisited DOI’s 2017-2022 OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program draft, noting that only 8 out of the 26 areas for potential development are able to be explored. Luthi said that although he was not particularly happy about this, and would love to see permitting abilities in a few of the other areas. “In order to see if the other areas are viable, you need to do exploration, and cannot just rely on seismic research,” he said.
Redmond discussed where the offshore wind industry is in the U.S. and Europe, and what is driving the two different stories in these regions. Scheid asked him about the conflict between offshore oil and offshore wind. Redmond stated that there wasn’t a conflict between the two, and there is a need to work together using the variety of resources that are available. Redmond also said geothermal energy doesn’t have the scalability of offshore wind.
To conclude the discussion, Redmond said he believes a game changer for renewable energy technology is battery technology. “As the storage capacity for solar and wind is established, then solar and wind will be able to establish a caseload mechanism.”
Moriollo added that once there is a potential for more compliance and regulation to force renewables to become more price competitive, there will be a bigger push for them.
Ensuring a Sustainable U.S. Seafood Supply
This session discussed opportunities for the U.S. seafood industry given predictions in the demand for seafood to vastly increase over the next 15 years. The following discussion focused on actions to ensure a sustainable U.S. seafood supply while making U.S. fisheries more productive in order to meet the growing demands of future populations.
Rep. Rob Wittman, representing the 1st District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives, delivered a keynote address discussing the importance of sustainability as it relates to fisheries and continuing the value of resources well into the future. He also stated supported the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
Eric Schwaab, Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, moderated the discussion among the following panelists:
- Sebastian Belle, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association
- Phil Gibson, CEO, RESILIENSEA Group Inc.
- Buddy Guindon, Owner of Katie’s Seafood Marketplace and Executive Director at the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance
- Susan Jackson, President, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation
- Gunnar Knapp, Director and Professor of Economics, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage
Guindon talked about the success the Magnuson-Stevenson Act (MSA) has brought to the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, noting that when this science-based management system was enacted seven years ago, the annual quota was 5 million pounds. Today, it has gone up to 14 million pounds annually and is predicted to grow in the future. By putting laws in place to allow fisheries to be managed properly, but not flexibly, this “rights-based management” has resulted in one of the most successful outcomes on fisheries management in the U.S.
Guindon stressed the need of a similar management practice to be put in place for recreational fishing. “If recreational fishery managers regulated a system that logs the amount of catches,” Guindon said, “then they would be able to manage them adequately, as data is the most important tool to manage fisheries.”
Jackson discussed the power of buying decisions to promote responsible practices, and the impact the industry can make voluntarily, without regulations. She talked about her own experience with the tuna market, and how the industry led change in the face of a political stalemate.
Knapp was asked to frame current fisheries-related challenges. He emphasized the great diversity of fisheries across the U.S. coasts, but in general, “U.S. wild fisheries are doing well and improving, as overall catches are stable or increasing.” This is due to an effort to build back fisheries that have previously been overfished. Despite this progress, there is still a lot of room for improvement for many fisheries, as they need to function well both ecologically and economically.
Regarding aquaculture, Knapp emphasized the need for more research, as over half of the fish sold in the global marketplace is from aquaculture farms, “which are essential as there are limits on the amount of wild fish that can be caught.” He stressed the importance about not choosing wild-caught versus farmed fish, and that it is about managing wild fisheries in a responsible manner to derive the most benefit. He thinks the U.S. can do better regarding aquaculture and expand aquaculture production in a safe and responsible manner.
Schwaab also asked the panel about ways to improve collecting fisheries data that drive the management system. Guindon responded that fishery managers need to take advantage of data provided by the fishermen directly, which he said should be required. He also noted the great value of data produced by university students’ research in fisheries management.
In closing remarks, Belle stated there can be progress with aquaculture if similar measures that were taken in the past can be made for aquaculture: specifically, granting funds to NOAA for this, and looking to pass a bill similar to MSA for aquaculture.
Knapp agreed with this approach and emphasized the rapid change that continually drives the seafood industry: “These changes will be driven by the market, technology, and aquaculture. When you think about fisheries, the ecosystem is incredibly complex,” he said. “An important part of fisheries management in the U.S. is understanding this complexity, and how it is important to seek better understanding of the ecosystem as a whole to keep fisheries progressing.”
Day Three: June 11
Fueling American Business: Ocean Technology and Research
Craig McLean, Assistant Administrator at NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research moderated the discussion among the following panelists:
- Paul Bunje Senior Director, Oceans, XPRIZE
- Chip Cunliffe, Manager of External Programs, XL Catlin
- Lance M. Towers, P.E., Director of Advanced Technology Programs at the Boeing Company
- Jennifer A. Warren, VP of Technology Policy & Regulation for the Government & Regulatory Affairs Department at Lockheed Martin Washington Operations
Cunliffe said the most important areas of interest to XL Catlin are Arctic sea ice and coral reef, which requires more open source data for scientists to understand more thoroughly. He said these data need to be publicly available.
During the allotted time for questions, McLean asked Towers about new and emerging technology in the ocean community, and how the Boeing Company has gone to apply them to undersea science explorations. He responded that requirements for ocean exploration are sky rocketing, but funding is not, though his company is trying to collect more data in a cost effective manner.
Warren said data-sharing could be presented in a way that is meaningful to the public: “Currently, the majority of the data being published is from the private sector, and the scientific arms of the states have not been publishing much over the last decade.”
Warren also said she supported U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which would allow the U.S. to bring scientific expertise and knowledge to the international scientific community.
KeynoteAddress: Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to the President
Brian Deese gave an overview of the ocean and environmental policies of the Obama Administration and its goals during the next 18 months in office.
Deese highlighted the administration’s recent oceans policy reforms, many of which were related to the Arctic, including asking Congress to designate 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, and removing more than 52,000 square miles of water in Bristol Bay from consideration for oil and gas exploration or drilling.
Deese stated the Obama Administration intends to use the U.S. platform in the Arctic Council to elevate challenges of a changing climate in the Arctic in a way that has never been done before.
He discussed the intention to address consequences of a warmer Arctic and sea ice retreatment, such as fish expanding their habitat range further north into the Arctic oceans.
Desse said the Administration has closed the nation’s Extended Economic Zone (EEZ) north of Alaska to fishing because there is currently a lack of scientific research on the region’s fisheries. He elaborated they want to lead an effort to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the High Arctic Seas by forging a binding agreement with the major countries whose EEZs extend in this area until there is the necessary scientific information to form effective management practices.
Deese also addressed DOI’s grant for Shell to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer. Learning from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that occurred early in the administration, Deese said President Obama has been aggressive in ensuring standards for offshore exploration and drilling that do not threaten the pristine Arctic environments. He acknowledged it is impractical to prevent all oil exploration in the region, but ensures Shell’s offshore exploratory permit by the DOI is held to very stringent standards, as exemplified by DOI’s rejection of Shell’s first proposal.
Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing & Seafood Fraud
The Presidential Taskforce on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, comprised of 14 federal agencies, released its Action Plan in March 2015.
Task Force members discussed this plan, how the administration is moving forward to implement the recommendations, and the importance for Congressional leadership to introduce and pass the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).
Dawn Martin, President of Sea Web, moderated a discussion amongst the following panelists:
- Sally Yozell, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment, U.S. Department of State
- Russell F. Smith III, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries for NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce
- Alfred Nakatsuma, Director, Regional Environment Office, Regional Development Mission for Asia, U.S. Agency for International Development
- Peter N. Koufopoulos, Director, Division of Seafood Safety, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Yozell discussed the areas where the DOI is uniquely responsible, and the challenges they face in the international community. “As illegal fisheries have been addressed successfully domestically, there is a need to address illegal fishing in the international community, as it is essential for fisheries to be well managed in a global context,” she said.
Yozell pointed out the PSMA needs 25 countries to ratify it, and currently 11 have so far. This agreement implements robust port state measures, enhances regional and international cooperation, and blocks the flow of IUU-caught fish into national and international markets by banning access to ports for vessels with illegally caught fish.
The Ocean Week conference concluded with a Leadership Roundtable to focus on the nexus of ocean science, policy, management, and security.
Mark J. Spalding, J.D., M.P.I.A., President of the Ocean Foundation moderated the final panel that included the following:
- Sam Farr, U.S. House of Representatives, CA-20 and Co-Chair, U.S. House Oceans Caucus
- Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment, U.S. Navy
- Jeremy Jackson, Smithsonian Institution and Scripps Institution of Oceanography; 2015 NMSF Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree
- Kristen J. Sarri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior
- Kathryn D. Sullivan, Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
Sullivan spoke about the data economies from ocean services and observations as an exciting resource of the future. She spoke about how crowd sourcing could be potential method of enforcement with the ability to use pattern recognition to spot the tracks of a ship that abruptly exits and then re-enters the grid at another location.
Sullivan referred to the DOI’s diminishing financial resources as increasing activities along the coast require more support. She stated that discretionary budget levels need to increase to ensure the U.S. is keeping up with the investments needed to make a strong economy.
Jackson commented that 50 percent of the population lives along or near the nation’s coastlines, which is the most vulnerable in terms of environmental change. When asked to comment about the effects climate change in his research, he said he found coral reefs are adapting to a warmer climate, and he saw more detrimental environmental impacts during his recent trip to Antarctica. This gave him personal verification that the most detrimental ecological consequences of climate change will be in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Rep. Farr lamented that those in control of writing congressional appropriations bills will tell the federal government they have no business studying global warming and prohibit scientists from meeting.
Spaulding closed the discussion with some profound remarks, stating that there needs to be congressional appropriations to address the problems associated with climate change. “Any congressional appropriations made in the past, be it the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, they have all been driven by crisis.” He said that currently, the U.S. has the ability to make changes voluntarily, in advance, and strategically in a manner that saves money in the long run: “On the other hand, if we don’t make changes, it will still cost the nation money in the future.”