Debating US Ocean Policy

The 2014-2015 High School Policy Debate Topic
Hays Watson
14-15 Resolutional Wording
Resolved: The United States federal
government should substantially
increase its non-military exploration
and/or development of the Earth’s
Why Debate US Ocean Policy?
Importance to Life on Earth
Importance to the Economy
Importance to the Military
Importance to the Environment
Importance to Culture/People
Have We Debated Oceans Before?
Yes, the high school policy debate topic
in 2003 dealt with US ocean policy as
Resolved: The United States federal
government should establish an ocean
policy substantially increasing
protection of marine natural resources.
Why Debate Oceans in ‘14-15?
 Ocean policy is a salient issue – 50% of the worlds
population lives on the coast, melting ice caps and
rising sea levesls, Hurricane Katrina and the Pacific
Tsunami, the BP oil spill have all grabbed the
headlines in recent years
 Ocean policy affects us all - global warming, coastal
development, global trade flows, deep sea exploration,
energy resources, legal regimes/clarification, tourism,
recreation, scientific research, naval applications,
food, agriculture/aquaculture, etc.
What is US Ocean Policy?
Congress has played an important role in the formation of US
ocean policy
--1966 Stratton Commission report entitled "Our Nation and
the Sea“ led to the The Marine Resources and Engineering
Development Act
--Two federal agencies were created who are tasked with
overseeing US ocean policy (NOAA and EPA - more later)
--9 major pieces of legislation affecting marine resource
management, esp. including the Coastal Zone Management
Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
--Oceans Act of 2000 under Bush - established the US
Commission on Ocean Policy
What is US Ocean Policy?
Presidents, including Obama, have taken executive
actions to shape US Ocean Policy
 National Ocean Policy (Exec Order 13547) - Obama
 National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan
 Ocean Action Plans (Bush et al)
 US Commission on Ocean Policy
 Various executive agencies
What is the USFG’s Role?
The federal agencies involved in US Ocean Policy include:
the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, Army
Corps of Engineers, Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency, U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Research, Department of
Energy, Department of Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement (former Minerals Management Service),
Department of State, Department of Transportation, U.S.
Coast Guard, The White House Office of Management and
Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy,
Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation
Role of International Law
 US ocean policy is also heavily influenced by
international treaties and international law
 The most notable example of how international law
impacts US ocean policy is the UN Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS or LOST)
 The United States hasn’t ratified it –we pledge to
follow the treaty’s mandates without binding ourselves
to do so through law
 It’s the culmination of hundreds of years of “freedom
of the seas” concepts, old treaties, and international
Other Actors in US Ocean Policy
 Non-governmental actors (NGOs) – Oceana, Pew
Oceans Commission, Bluewater Network,
Conservation International serve as important
stakeholders in the formulation of US Ocean Policy
through research, lobbying, PR campaigns
 Private sector – businesses with interests tied to
oceans (shipping, energy, tourism, etc.) also play a vital
role in the development of US ocean policy
 Citizens – local/municipal groups, protests, consumer
product choices (e.g. Tuna/whaling) also shape policy
Word Association – Oceans
 What comes to mind when you hear oceans? Divide up
into groups of 5 and brainstorm a list of 5 things that
your group thinks of when you hear “oceans”
 Take 5 minutes to come up with your list
 Come up with a mix of popular cultural references as
well as debate-specific references to oceans
Part 2 – take a short break
What about the topic?
 The background of US ocean policy helps us predict
the likely ways in which this year’s topic will be
 There are parts of this year’s resolutional wording that
are MORE important than others in dictating the
content of this year’s debates – affirmatives, negative
arguments, etc.
 Topicality will be discussed more in-depth within your
particular labs, but a short discussion of key terms in
the resolution will help us understand the topic
Importance of Development
 “Development”will serve as the central focus of most debates on
this year’s topic
 Term is broad enough to encompass MANY things implicating US
ocean policy, permitting Affirmatives lots of creativity
 For example, here’s an authoritative definition:
The broad objectives of ‘ocean development’ have been laid down by
Parliament in the Ocean Policy Statement of November 1982. The
domain of our concern for development of oceanic resources and its environment extends
from the coastal lands and islands lapped by brackish water to the wide Indian Ocean. The
ocean regime is to be developed in order to: (i) explore and assess
living and non-living resources; (ii) harness and manage its resources
(materials, energy and biomass) and create additional resources such
as mariculture; (iii) cope with and protect its environment (weather,
waves and coastal front); (iv) develop human resources (knowledge,
skill and expertise), and (v) play our rightful role in marine science
and technology in the international arena.
“Development” continued
 Marine resources includes energy (oil, gas), minerals,
fish, water, agriculture/aquaculture, etc.
 Development likely also includes coastal development,
e.g. protecting coastlines against sea level rise…or
building walls to protect us from the Kaiju
 Clarification of legal uncertainty (what does the
CZMA cover, how far does Obama’s executive order go,
etc.) also seems to be a potential area for
 Anything that “exploits” the ocean likely is considered
ocean “development”
Importance of Exploration
 Likely to be a less popular option that development for
most affirmatives
Exploration likely implicates development – why do we
want to explore the oceans? To develop/exploit
something there
Most definitions seem to conclude that observation
and discovery are examples of exploration
Whether oceanic research is topical is up for debate –
most definitions I’ve found are split on the issue
Most likely to produce weirdness – Sea Colonies, etc.
Importance of “Non-Military”
 “Non-military” seems to be clearly intended to
preclude affirmative teams from claiming specific
military power-based advantages
 Building aircraft carriers, redeploying icebreakers,
nuclearizing subs, etc. all seem to violate “nonmilitary”
 The best and most authoritative definitions define
non-military as “civilian” or “private sector” assets,
which excludes assets that are involved in combat
missions (i.e. the Navy)
What do “Oceans” refer to?
 Common definition: “the whole body of salt water
which covers nearly three fourths of the surface of the
What are the oceans of the Earth? Name them.
Sometimes used synonymously with “seas” –
interesting question – is the Mediterranean Sea an
Does it include lakes? What about “underground
What about coastlines?
Likely Harm/Impact Areas
 The development/environment nexus will be a central
question in many debates on this years
topic…development = exploit, exploit = harmful to
 Exploration could either enable exploitation of the
ocean OR enable protection of the ocean
 Economy, energy, military, food production, water
resources, climate issues, soft power/diplomacy,
international law, international hotspots (i.e. Arctic),
and many more will be popular harm areas on the
Popular Affirmatives
 Energy and resource “development” affirmatives will
likely be the most popular – oil, gas, fishing, etc.
 There will be a fair share of climate-related
development affs (geoengineering, climate mitigation
construction, etc.)
 Affirmatives that clarify legal uncertainty will also be
 Exploration is the wild-card – could be straight
forward (deep sea exploration, tsunami monitoring) or
wacky (Flight 370, Sea Colonies, etc.)
OCS Drilling Affirmative
 Where is the outer continental shelf? “All submerged
lands, its subsoil, and seabed that belong to the United
States and are lying seaward and outside of the states'
jurisdiction”…includes Gulf of Mexico, Pacific,
Atlantic, and Alaskan areas
 Why drill for oil in US oceans? LOTS of oil…potentially
hundreds of billions of barrels in the OCS
 Benefits? Lower oil prices, less foreign dependence,
second-order economic benefits (shipbuilding,
manufacturing), regional influence (Arctic), etc.
Common Negative Arguments
 Development bad aka de-development aka growth bad will
serve as the general “thesis” of many negative arguments
Drilling disadvantages (BP oil spill)
Coastal habitat destruction
Pollution (dumping, ballast water, invasive species)
Global warming (more oil tankers/global shipping = more
Most “critiques” will interrogate “why” we feel the need to
develop the ocean (Heidegger, environmental
managerialism, environmental securitization, etc.)
More Negative Arguments
 Agency resource trade-off disadvantages will be
popular – new development projects means more
monitoring by the EPA/NOAA, strains their budgets,
means they can’t protect/monitor other things
 Military disadvantages will be common – new oil rigs
hurts naval training, abiding by UNCLOS provisions
constraints US naval freedom of action, etc.
 Privatization (“let the free market work”) will also be a
source of negative arguments given the economic
implications of ocean policy
Anything Else?
 It’s a BIG topic – this lecture merely scratches the
 Keep an eye on what other camps are producing both
in terms of Affs and Neg arguments
 Ask questions/read about ocean policy
 Read through the evidence packet (if you haven’t)
 Read the topic paper – very good background
information about the topic and why it was chosen:
Go to O-House!!!

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