Public Contract Law Journal

Research & Development Contracts: The Key to Combating Ocean Acidification

by Raef Cogan

Raef Cogan ( is currently a 3L at the George Washington University Law School. He served as an article editor on the Public Contract Law Journal. He would like to thank Judge Jeri Somers and Professor Bryan Byrd for their guidance throughout the Note writing process.

I.  Introduction

Imagine planning a country’s national security. A powerful military, secure borders, and cyber security immediately stand out as relevant. What about the environment? “National security is not just about fighting forces and weaponry. It relates to . . . genetic resources [and] climate . . .”1 as well. John Kerry, President Obama’s Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017,2 called climate change a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates already existing problems.3 President Trump’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, agreed, stating climate change drives instability and must be given attention.4 In today’s connected world, environmental problems in one area of the world directly affect the rest of the world, especially the United States.5 Inadequate action regarding environmental issues in the “present may ultimately harm national security and other national interests in the long run.”6 As intuitive as this may be, integrating environmental protections into national policy has proven difficult, at least in part because of the complexity and scale of the issue, as well as the “institutional culture” surrounding the topic.7

The Obama administration’s attempts at addressing the issue — though imperfect — set the stage for the United States to be a global leader in environ- mental protections.8 The new administration, though less than three months old, provides a prime example of what some commentators have called the “institutional culture.” On the campaign trail, President Trump called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese.9 In his short time in office, President Trump rescinded multiple Obama-era Executive Orders and memoranda,10 directed the EPA to begin the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan,11 and proposed a budget that would largely remove funding for climate change research.12

This Note will examine how the previous administration addressed the topic of ocean acidification (a result of climate change), how the current administration addresses the issue, and what the current administration should do to tackle the problem. Part I describes the differences among grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. Part II provides a summary of the current literature on ocean acidification and its effects. Part III explains why ocean acidification poses a national security threat. Part IV describes the steps previously taken to combat ocean acidification and how the current administration responds.13 Part V explains why the government may use re- search and development (R&D) contracts regarding ocean acidification and how using R&D contracts serves the best interests of the country.14

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