Step 7: Integrate Science and Policy Aspects of Drought Management

An essential part of the policy and planning process is integrating the science and policy aspects of drought management. Policy makers' understanding of the scientific issues and technical constraints involved in addressing problems associated with drought is often limited. Likewise, scientists and managers may have a poor understanding of existing policy constraints for responding to the impacts of drought. In many cases, communication and understanding between the science and policy communities must be enhanced if the planning process is to be successful. This is a critical step in the development of a national drought policy. Members of the NDPC have a good understanding of the policy development process and the political and financial constraints associated with proposed changes in public policy. They are also aware of the difficulties inherent in a change in the paradigm for the recipients of drought emergency assistance to a new approach focused on drought risk reduction. However, those persons at the state or community level that are embedded in the preparedness planning process are less aware of these constraints but have an excellent understanding of drought management actions, local conditions, and the key sectors affected and their operational needs. Linking the policy process with critical needs requires an excellent communication conduit from state-based drought task forces and the commission.

In essence, this communication conduit is necessary to distinguish what is feasible from what is desirable for a broad range of science and policy options. Integration of science and policy during the planning process will also be useful in setting research priorities and synthesizing current understanding. The drought task force should consider a wide range of options for drought risk reduction and evaluate the pros and cons of each in terms of their feasibility and potential outcomes.

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