Addressing Future Ocean Drilling in the United States (“FOCUS”)
Upon the conclusion of the International Ocean Discovery Program in 2024, the U.S. ocean science community will lack both a formal scientific ocean drilling program and a U.S.-operated globally ranging riserless drilling vessel to implement the 2050 Science Framework. However, NSF-OCE has signaled its intent to continue supporting US scientific ocean drilling and has solicited expressions of interest to provide a coordinating office for US scientific ocean drilling activities. Thus, it is critical for the U.S. community to begin planning immediately for post-2024 subseafloor sampling activities.
A steering committee to address Future Ocean Drilling in the US (“FOCUS”) has been assembled to coordinate this planning effort. It consists of 17 members and as its main objectives will address the following questions:
- Within the 2050 Science Framework and the current fiscal constraints, what are the scientific priorities for the U.S. scientific ocean drilling community over the next 5-7 years that are achievable with the tools that are anticipated to be available?
- What subseafloor sampling options are available to address these priorities (e.g., U.S.-implemented MSP-type expeditions utilizing the JR, geotechnical vessels, or other platforms; seabed drilling technologies; ships with long coring capabilities, etc.)?
- How can the U.S. scientific ocean drilling community advance the argument for a future, state of the art, globally ranging U.S.-operated drilling vessel?
It is expected that this planning process will incorporate broad community input and include a series of virtual (i.e., online) workshops and an in-person workshop that address components of the charges listed above. The in-person workshop will occur in early spring of 2024 to assure timely input to OCE and will complement recommendations on approaches for future US ocean science research from the National Academies Decadal Ocean Survey Committee. In addition, the community will need to explore mechanisms to maintain the cohesion and strategic integrity of a U.S. scientific ocean drilling program, given the broad portfolio of research approaches that will likely be utilized (expeditions, international collaborations, LEAPs, and other research using legacy assets, etc.).