NOAA 03-094
Contact: Bob Hopkins
NOAA News Releases 2003
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


Statement from retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator on progress made at the first meeting of the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) established during the first Earth Observation Summit, July 31 in Washington, D.C.

“At the first-ever Earth Observation Summit ministers and other high-level representatives from around the world adopted a declaration that put forth the principles for developing a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained Earth observation system to ‘take the pulse of planet Earth.’ We now look forward to developing a plan to make this a reality. The overwhelming response to the summit brought an enormously talented group from around the world who have played an important role over the years in getting us to this historic opportunity. The first meeting of the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations made considerable progress in taking the initial steps toward organizing and structuring a working intergovernmental body to meet the goals outlined during the summit. The goodwill and consensus demonstrated at the GEO meeting will bring enormous benefit to nations and regions of the world as we work toward establishing a plan to implement a global Earth observation system to enhance economic and environmental security for every nation.”

Admiral Lautenbacher was named by the White House as the lead U.S. representative to the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Admiral Lautenbacher’s alternate, Dr. Charles Groat, is director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Other developments that took place during the first meeting of GEO include:

Admiral Lautenbacher was elected co-chair along with Director General Achilleas Mitsos, directorate general for research, European commission; Mr. Akio Yuki, deputy minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology (MEXT) and South Africa was selected as the developing country co-chair.

In addition, terms of reference were revised and adopted, and sub-groups were formed on international cooperation, architecture, capacity building, sata utilization, user requirements & outreach. It was determined that international organizations will play a key role in the work of the sub-groups, since those organizations have been instrumental in the development and maintenance of existing systems that will serve as the backbone for a future global network. A secretariat was established with several countries contributing to its work to support the GEO over the next year.

The next meeting of the GEO is scheduled to take place in Baveno, Italy November 28-29, 2003. The purpose of the follow-on GEO meetings will be to develop a framework for a 10-year plan to be presented at the next ministerial meeting to take place in Tokyo in spring 2004.

The Earth Observation Summit, hosted by the United States at the U.S. Department of State, marked an important milestone in the development of a comprehensive Earth observation system. By bringing together ministerial-level representatives from developed and developing countries with an interest and significant role in observing systems as well as representatives from international organizations such as the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization, the summit promises to increase knowledge about our planet and enable international decision-makers to act on that knowledge to the benefit of society and the citizenry.