Committee chair named for analysis of Gulf oil spill

July 12, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council have named Donald C. Winter, former secretary of the navy, to chair a committee that will conduct a technical analysis of the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and recommend measures with the goal of preventing similar disasters in the future. Winter is a professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan, a retired top executive of the Northrup Grumman Corp. and member of the National Academy of Engineering.

In June, the U.S. Department of the Interior asked NAE and the Research Council to undertake this analysis to complement and inform investigations of the oil spill by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service (MMS), and a presidential commission.

The full committee has not yet been appointed. Winter and other experts named to the committee today will represent the NAE and Research Council at a Coast Guard-MMS hearing July 19-23 in Kenner, La., and visit the site of the oil spill accident.

The committee members named to date include: "We're pleased that Dr. Winter and these distinguished experts have volunteered to participate in this important national effort," said Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering, and vice chair of the National Research Council. "In coming days, we expect to complete a committee roster that will ensure we have the breadth of expertise needed to carry out this task."

The committee will provide independent, expert analysis and work closely with the other formal investigations to ensure that critical information each collects is shared. Specifically, the committee will examine information gathered on the performance of the technologies and practices involved in the disaster. It will recommend technologies, practices, and standards with the goal of preventing similar accidents related to oil and gas deepwater exploratory drilling and well completion.

The full committee will hold its first meeting in late July or early August and plans to hold public sessions in the Gulf Coast region. An interim letter report, scheduled for release by Oct. 31, 2010, will contain preliminary findings and recommendations to be considered together with other intial investigations of the oil spill. A final report will follow in 2011.
The full statement of task and biographies of committee members are available at, where the public is invited to submit comments on committee makeup.

The committee's work will be facilitated by the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Division on Earth and Life Studies. The National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council are private, nonprofit organizations that provide science and technology advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1863.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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