Wetland damage from roseau cane plague visible in satellite images

A stand of roseau cane dies, converting to bare soil and open water in the lower Mississippi River delta in February 2018.

The author of a recent letter to the editor says LSU is receiving no public funds for research and development. That may or may not be true at the state level, but it is not true at the federal level.

I sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee. I’m the only member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to sit on an appropriations committee. Earmarks are now prohibited in federal appropriations bills. However, I work with LSU each year to appropriate millions of dollars for which the university can qualify.

In Fiscal Year 2019, LSU received $150.3 million in research monies. This was a 12% increase from the previous fiscal year. Just a fraction of the money I helped LSU secure included $22 million for counterterrorism training and $1.5 million for the Sea Grant program, which supports coastal activities.

The Louisiana delegation fights every year to ensure funding is in place to help battle the Roseau cane pest, support forestry research, promote STEM fields, fund coastal activities and study cybersecurity. We’re currently working on spending plans that will allow LSU to participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects. We also fund numerous research programs that focus on health care, agriculture, the environment and other fields.

A few years ago, something started destroying the Roseau cane that protects Louisiana’s wetlands. It’s no secret that our wetlands already are vulnerable. We don’t need yet another threat to our natural barrier against coastal erosion and storms. LSU alerted us to the problem, and we worked quickly to put funding in place. That funding is fueling research into what’s wreaking havoc.

Another LSU-based research initiative funded with federal dollars is Louisiana Sea Grant. This innovative program works on multiple projects simultaneously, reaching into our K-12 classrooms to steer children toward the job-rich STEM field while also aggressively investigating what’s working and what’s not working in our coastal restoration efforts. Every dollar spent on Louisiana Sea Grant is a dollar well spent.

Finally, there’s no issue more serious than cybersecurity threats. As a nation, we’re far too vulnerable. A single attack can destroy thousands of computers at a company. It can result in identity fraud that takes years to unravel. We’re helping LSU receive funding to delve into how to conquer this cyber monster.

As you can see, the author of the letter to the editor is mistaken when he says that LSU has not received substantial public funds for research and development, at least from the federal budget.

JOHN N. KENNEDY

U.S. Senate

Madisonville

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