Monthly Review: February 2004
This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member
societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee,
and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort
to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community
that it serves.
The President's Budget Request for FY05 Released
Another New Energy Bill?
GAO Details Foreign Scientist Visa Process Recommendations
NSF Director Resigns
Evolution Battles Heat Up - Again!
Understanding Evolution: An Evolution Website for Teachers
Key List of Federal Register Notices
New Material on Website
The President's Budget
Request for FY05 Released
President George W. Bush released his fiscal year (FY) 2005 budget
on February 2, 2004. Characterizing the FY05 science and technology
budget request is a classic example of a glass being viewed as half-full
or half-empty. Although some components of the S&T budget request
are up, others are down, or at least disappointing. Contrast the remarks
made by OSTP Director John Marburger: "I think we have a good
story here," with those of House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood
Boehlert (R-NY) who said, "I am very disappointed in the proposed
science budget . . . we just have to find a way to do better."
There are many different perspectives by which to view the S&T
budget request. Faced with mounting deficits, the Bush Administration
restrained future growth in discretionary program spending. These
are the programs for which funding can vary each year, such as for
S&T, as compared to, for example, mandated expenditures for Social
Security. Not counting discretionary spending for defense and homeland
security programs, discretionary programs account for less than one-fifth
of the total federal budget. The Administration proposes to limit
to just 0.5% the overall increase for this portion of the budget.
From this 0.5% perspective, the proposed 2.5% increase in FY05 spending
for non-defense/homeland security R&D seems more favorable. (Adding
in defense and homeland security R&D boosts the requested increase
to 5%.) Non defense R&D is 5.7% of total discretionary spending
in the proposed budget, which the Administration calculates is the
third highest level in the last 25 years. At a briefing on February
2nd, Marburger urged increases in all categories of R&D to be
viewed over the course of the Bush Administration, saying that it
would rise 44% from FY 2001 through the FY 2005 request. "This
has been an Administration highly favorable to R&D," he said.
Initial reaction on Capitol Hill was noticeably cooler. Boehlert
said, "I am very disappointed in the proposed science budget,
and I will be working with the Administration and my Congressional
colleagues to improve the numbers as we move through the budget process.
I understand that we are in a very tight fiscal situation and that
the Administration has tried to treat research and development (R&D)
as favorably as possible. But we just have to find a way to do better.
The [Administration's FY 2005] budget chapter on R&D includes
the quotation that 'Science is a horse. Don't worship it. Feed it.'
The budget does not reflect that advice. After a few years of spending
at the levels proposed in this budget, science would be an emaciated,
old, grey mare, unable to produce any new ideas or young scientists."
Ranking Minority Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) commented, "The Administration's
budget fails to make the responsible investments in our future that
our children expect of us. If we hope to grow new industries, provide
new skills to unemployed workers, and foster the economic conditions
that will allow us to eliminate our Federal deficit, we have to invest
in research and development programs."
Over the next few days the Government Affairs Program will be sending
a breakdown of how agencies and programs important to the geosciences
fared in the President's budget request.
On February 12th, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman
Pete Dominici (R-N.M.) introduced a slimmer, trimmer Energy Omnibus
bill. S. 2095 is the latest incarnation of the energy bill that is
still two votes shy of passage in the Senate. In light of the current
fiscal realities - the growing deficit and the White House's desire
to scale back the cost of the energy package - Senator Dominici is
seeking a new legislative vehicle by which to establish a national
This new bill strips last year's version of the controversial fuel-oxygenate
(MTBE) liability protection language and about $17 billion in tax
incentives. After tossing around the ideas of attaching the energy
bill as an amendment to other legislation, most notably the highway
bill, senators rejected the idea. Instead, Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) invoked Senate Rule 14, which allows the newly
introduced bill to bypass the committee process and go straight to
the Senate floor. With the Senate debating the budget resolution in
early March, however, chances are slim that the Senate will take up
S. 2095 before the March 15th recess. Even if the Senate does consider
and pass the bill before the recess, the House is unlikely to pass
it unless it has the MTBE liability protection language that was taken
out of the new Senate version. For a history of this legislation,
please see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html.
GAO Details Foreign
Scientist Visa Process Recommendations
On February 25th, the House Science Committee heard from Bush Administration
officials and the Government Accounting Office (GAO) on the current
status of the conflict between science and national security in visa
policy. The hearing is a follow-up to a March 2003 hearing that addressed
the committee's concerns about the impact of security measures on
scientific research. Testifying at the hearing were Asa Hutchinson,
Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS); Jess Ford, Director of International Affairs
and Trade at the Government Accounting Office (GAO); Janice Jacobs,
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Consular Affairs at the Department
of State (State); and Robert Garrity, Jr., Deputy Assistand Director
for Record/Information Administration at the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) expressed concern
that "we can't have a visa system that needlessly discourages
and alienates scientists from around the world who could be a boon
to this country." Concerned about inefficiencies in the agencies
charged with handling international visas, Chairman Boehlert also
acknowledged Congress's share in the blame, referring to their inability
to fully fund the agencies requests to implement technology interoperability
(the FBI had requested $400 million, but received only $330 million).
Research Subcommittee Chairman Nick Smith (R-MI) summed up the sentiment
of many committee members: "This hearing is not a forum to pit
the interests of science against the interests of security. Rather,
our task is to eliminate bureaucratic inefficiencies in the existing
security system that compromise our Nation's ability to attract promising
scientists and engineers."
The hearing charter, witness testimony and archived webcast of the
hearing can be viewed at http://www.house.gov/science/hearings/full04/index.htm.
Individuals at academic institutions may find the hearing charter
a particularly useful summary of the background information regarding
foreign student visas.
In early February, National Science Foundation (NSF) director Dr.
Rita Colwell announced her resignation effective February 21st. She
will become Chairwoman of Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., a company
whose goal is to identify and develop life-science solutions with
potential applications in diagnostics and medical instrumentation.
Colwell will also serve as Distinguished University Professor at the
University of Maryland, College Park and on the faculty of The Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she will help develop
a new international center for the study of infectious diseases, water
and health. Colwell is a microbiologist and internationally recognized
expert on cholera and other infectious diseases.
Dr. Arden Bement, director of National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST), has assumed the role of interim director for NSF.
Bement will remain accountable to Congress and the Bush Administration
for NIST during this time, and will return to be full time director
of NIST once a new NSF director is appointed. In addition to a 39-year
career in industry, government and academia, Bement has also served
on the National Science Board, which governs NSF.
Heat Up - Again!
After announcing in late January that the word evolution would not
be used in K-12 curriculum, and sections on biologic evolution and
big bang theory would be cut out of classroom education, the Georgia
State Board of Education reversed these decisions in February. Following
a state and national outcry, both the word evolution and the missing
sections will be reinstated in the curriculum.
That said, a section on biologic evolution is still missing some
of the student activities and supporters of science education are
concerned that it may be a tactic used to undermine the classroom
presentation of evolution. The newly re-revised standards are still
up for public comment and the final vote will be taken in June. To
view the revised curriculum, go to http://www.glc.k12.ga.us/passwd/trc/ttools/attach/curriculum/science/UpdatedGaBioCur2-20.pdf.
To provide your feedback, go to http://edtech.doe.k12.ga.us/QCC/survey.htm.
In addition, Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta) has sponsored a bill (HB-1406)
in the Georgia House of Representatives that requires future changes
to the curriculum follow national standards. The bill would also clarify
the role of the legislature in curriculum changes. Ashe told the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, "My real objective is to make sure the
legislative process isn't left out as major curriculum revisions are
made and Georgia maintains a curriculum that is worthy as our place
as an economic engine in the Southeast." The bill has been assigned
to the House Education Committee where it has the support of committee
Chairman Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta).
Representative Jim Carns introduced HB391 in the Alabama House of
Representatives on February 12th. The bill provides protection for
both teachers and students who want to freely discuss creationism,
as long as the discussion is raised in the context of approved curricula
material and that the students show "acceptable understanding"
of the course materials. Meaning, as long as evolution is in the curriculum,
then alternate viewpoints (whether based on science or not) may legally
be discussed. HB 391 is similar to SB 336 (see below), but expands
upon the role of teaching all alternate viewpoints, and points out
that the aim of the bill is not to teach religion in public schools.
HB391 has been referred to the House Education Committee
On February 17th Alabama State Senator Wendell Mitchell, introduced
a bill (SB 336) into the State Senate that would allow all theories
on creation to be taught in Alabama public schools. According to the
Montgomery Advisor, Mitchell remarked, "This bill will level
the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the
biblical creation story of humankind." The bill has much of the
same language as HB391 and is currently under consideration by the
Senate Education Committee. Both bills are co-sponsored by a mix of
Democrats and Republicans. The Senate bill has 9 co-sponsors and the
House bill has over 30.
On February 10th the Ohio Board of Education passed a resolution of
intent to adopt a lesson plan (called "Critical Analysis of Evolution")
that endorses the teaching of intelligent design in the science curriculum.
The vote signifies only the Board's intent and a final vote will be
taken at next month's Board meeting. One of the Board members who
opposes the inclusion of intelligent design, vows to ask Ohio Governor
Bob Taft to overturn the decision. The new lesson plans would be voluntary
guidelines on how to teach the standards; however the lesson plans
will form the basis of proficiency and graduation tests, making their
content extremely important to educators.
Dr. Steve Rissing, a member of the advisory committee for the development
of the Ohio science content standards and professor at Ohio State
University, was asked to write a new lesson plan to replace "Critical
Analysis of Evolution," which he did. At the February meeting
of the Board, it was revealed that the new lesson plan would not be
considered until next fall. The delay was attributed to a decision
by the Chairman of the Standards Committee of the Ohio Board of Education.
The new lesson plan is still in draft form, but adheres to the benchmarks
and is in line with scientific thinking. More information at http://www.ohioscience.org.
On February 24th the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill
(HB 2194) that would require all textbooks that contain content on
evolution to have a disclaimer that begins by stating: "This
textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory which some scientists
present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things
such as plants and humans. No one was present when life first appeared
on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be
considered as theory, not fact."
The bill was originally introduced on February 2nd to require textbook
publishers to provide electronic files for the production of Braille
versions of the textbooks according to U.S. Department of Education
standards. The bill was amended on February 23rd, one day before the
House voted on it, to contain the new section about the evolution
In addition, HB 2194 contains language from SB 894, which allows
school districts to purchase textbooks not on the approved list of
the State Textbook Committee. SB 894 only allows for 20% of state
funds to go to alternate books, but HB 2194 does not have that limitation.
An Evolution Website for Teachers
A new resource is available on the internet for teachers and the
public at large. The site is split into two main sections, learning
evolution and teaching evolution. The learning evolution side has
sections on the nature of science, evolution, lines of evidence supporting
evolution, evolution's relevance to everyday life, misconceptions
of evolution and the history of evolutionary thought. The teaching
evolution section has searchable lesson plans, arguments about why
evolution is necessary to learn in the classroom with links refer
to the learning area of the site, and readings and resources for more
information. The new site is available at http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evohome.html.
List of Key Federal
Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal
regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the
geoscience community. Entries are listed in chronological order and
show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The
Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont04.html.
Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also
available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
EPA, Public Teleconference of the Science Advisory Board for a Report
on the Environment, March 9-12. For more information contact Dr. Thomas
Armitage, Designated Federal Officer (DFO), U.S. EPA Science Advisory
Board by telephone/voice mail at (202) 564-4539, fax at (202) 501-0582,
or via e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org, Volume 69, Number 23 (4 February 2004): pp
NETL, DOE, Funding opportunity entitled: Mining Industry of the Future
Grand Challenge Technology Concepts for the Mining Industry. For more
information go to the Industry Interactive Procurement System (IIPS)
web page http://e-center.doe.gov. Volume 69, Number 29 (12 February
2004): pp 6956-6957.
EPA, Extension of comment period for the Effluent Guidelines Program
Plan for 2004/2005 until March 18, 2004. See http://www.epa.gov/edocket
for more information. Volume 69, Number 29 (12 February 2004): pp
NIST, The Advanced Technology Program is soliciting proposals for
financial assistance. Proposals should be submitted by April 18, 2004
to National Institute of Standards and Technology, Advanced Technology
Program, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 4701, Gaithersburg, MD 20899. Volume
69, Number 32 (18 February 2004): pp 7617-7620.
NSF, The National Science Board is soliciting nominations for membership.
Nominations should be accompanied by biographical information and
sent to: Chairman, National Science Board, National Science Foundation,
4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230 no later than March 31, 2004.
Volume 69, Number 32 (18 February 2004): pp. 7658.
NASA, Open meeting of the NASA Advisory Council on April 6, 2004.
The meeting will be held at NASA headquarters: 300 E Street SW, Room
7022, Washington DC 20546. Volume 69, Number 35 (23 February 2004):
EPA, National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology
will hold an open meeting on March 11, 2004. The meeting will be located
at: Grant Hyatt Washington, 1000 H St NW, Washington DC. Volume 69,
Number 36 (24 February 2004): pp 8407.
NASA, President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space
Exploration Policy meeting on March 3-4, 2004. The meeting will be
held at the United States Air Force Museum, 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright
Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433. Volume 69, Number 38 (26 February 2004):
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs
portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last
- Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (2-20-04)
- Climate Change Policy Overview (2-19-04)
- Energy Policy Overview (2-13-04)
- Mining Policy (2-13-04)
- New Leadership at the National Science Foundation (2-13-04)
- Monthly Review: January 2004 (2-7-04)
- Superfund and Brownfield Legislation (2-4-04)
- Mercury Policy (2-2-04)
- Natural Gas Policy (2-2-04)
Monthly review prepared by Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs
Program and Gayle Levy, 2004 AGI/AAPG Government Affairs Intern
Sources: American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological
Sciences, American Institute of Physics, Associated Press, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, Cleveland Plain Dealer, CNN, Coalition for National
Science Funding, E&E Daily, Federal Register, Fort Wayne Journal
Gazette, Greenwire, Montgomery Advisor, National Center for Science
Education, National Science Foundation, Oklahoma House of Representatives,
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted March 9, 2004