Government Affairs Program

AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee Meeting
DRAFT Report

October 25, 2003
AGI Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia


An agenda with links to background materials and summary of action items accompanies this report.

Attendees
Murray Hitzman, Chair, Golden, CO
Tammy Dickinson, Geological Society of America, Washington, DC
Judy Ehlen, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria, VA
Karl Glasener, Soil Science Society of America, Washington, DC
Hal Gluskoter, Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, McLean, VA
John Havlin, Soil Science Society of America, Raleigh, NC
Blair Jones, The Clay Minerals Society, Reston, VA
John R. Keith, Association of Earth Science Editors, Reston, VA
John Talley, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Elkton, MD
Tim West, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (liaison)
David R. Wunsch, Association of American State Geologists, Concord, NH

David Applegate, AGI GAP Director
Emily M. Lehr, AGI GAP Staff Associate
Larry Kennedy, 2002-2003 AGI Congressional Fellow


1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business
After introducing Emily Lehr as the new Staff Associate for the Government Affairs Program, the meeting began with the approval of the report and action items from the November 2002 committee meeting.

1.1 Action items from AGI Member Society Leadership Forum (May 19-20)
Held at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, the forum brought together the presidents and executive directors of AGI's Member Societies to discuss issues of mutual concern. One of the action items from the Leadership Forum included encouraging greater involvement in Earth Science Week. With that in mind, the committee reviewed President Bush’s message for Earth Science Week and considered the option for next year of also seeking a congressional resolution as the American Chemical Society did this year for National Chemistry Week (which did not pass the House until after the week was over).

Staff Action Item: The committee agreed that GAP should pursue a congressional resolution for next year’s Earth Science Week and consider doing a fly-in or other Hill event to coincide with Earth Science Week.

Another topic from the Leadership Forum included greater AGI and member society activity on the international front. Applegate briefed the Committee about the sanctions being enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Department of the Treasury that is forcing IEEE to change the way it does business with its Iranian members. Those members cannot have journal articles edited for publication, nor can they access portions of IEEE’s website. These activities are deemed “services” in the eyes of OFAC and illegal under the sanctions. This is an on-going dispute between IEEE and OFAC that GAP will continue to monitor.

Staff Action Item: Send a memo updating the committee on the Treasury Department's decision regarding publishing journal articles submitted from Iran and other sanctioned countries.

1.2 Program Finances
Applegate briefly reviewed the GAP finances, noting that the Program has been essentially flat-funded from member society contributions for a number of years and that AGI has been increasing its internal contribution to the program to allow it to keep pace. The AGI Foundation provides support for the congressional science fellowship. Applegate expects that member society contributions to the program this year will be close to last year's levels. Contributions peaked in 1998 and since then, the percentage of Societies contributing has decreased in part due to the stock market and the economic environment. [Note: For 2003, voluntary member society contributions totaled $84K, mostly due an accounting technicality that forced AAPG’s 2002 fourth-quarter contribution to be credited to 2003.]

Staff Action Item: Copy committee members on reminders sent to their society about the annual voluntary contribution to GAP.

Staff Action Item: To augment program staffing, committee members suggested we recruit volunteers or retirees to come in and lend a hand.

2.0 Current AGI Government Affairs Program Federal Activities

2.1 USGS Coalition Update
Applegate updated the committee on the organizational activities of the USGS Coalition, which organizations are involved and why. The coalition has sent out a letter about Fiscal Year 2004 funding and monitored the appropriations process, following up with staff via phone calls and personal visits with several members of the coalition to demonstrate the breadth of support for the USGS. The coalition is already thinking about a budget statement for FY05, including a $1 billion target for the agency's direct appropriations, stipulating broad areas where Congress can get a lot of bang for the buck if they provide additional investments. A question came up about the makeup of the coalition and wondered why insurers were not asked to come on board. It was suggested that possibly an affiliate group, “Friends of the USGS,” could be formed with insurance, mining, energy and trade groups represented. These groups could be kept informed via newsletter or other “arms-length” means. It was also suggested that the Environmental Council of States be approached as well as National Governors Association, Western Governors Association, and State Engineers, many of them oversee water resources in their states.

Staff Action Item: Send committee members the list of participating organizations in the USGS Coalition and copy of the “stock” letter sent to organizations asking them to be a part of the Coalition.

Committee Action Item: As there are several AGI Member Societies absent from the USGS Coalition list, representatives of societies not on the list should ask their society to join if appropriate.

2.2 Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriations Advocacy
Following a review of FY04 appropriations status, Applegate described the process GAP has gone through thus far this year. It includes providing testimony in the spring, targeting our efforts toward DOE oil and gas R&D programs, NSF Geosciences Directorate/EarthScope and USGS programs.

Staff Action Item: Circulate FY 2005 testimony to the committee early next year and solicit ideas on which programs the member societies think are important and which ones they really want GAP to high-light in the testimony.

A discussion was had about the importance of water programs under USGS and it was suggested that AGI or the USGS Coalition host a Hill briefing on water and mapping with specifics for each Member of Congress on which activities happen in their district. The committee discussed the need to take a position on the increased level of congressionally directed projects in science agencies. Applegate reviewed GAP’s coalition activities, including involvement in Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day in May and a related August District Visits, the Coalition for National Science Funding congressional exhibition of NSF research, and letters of support and involvement with the Math-Science Partnership Working Group. Applegate told the Committee that a new Communicating With Congress Section will be added to GAP’s website and

Staff Action Item: Maintain a “schedule” section on the website to show when member societies have meetings in Washington, fly-ins, and related events along with a congressional calendar and other policy-related events.

2.3 Other legislative issues
Applegate reviewed the comprehensive energy legislation and the twists and turns this particular bill has taken as it makes its way through the process. Applegate also reviewed GAP’s involvement with the Natural Hazards Caucus Working Group and efforts to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program with AGI participating in a NEHRP Coalition alongside member societies AGU and the Seismological Society of America as well as engineering, code and other groups. The group also discussed legislation concerning fossils on public lands and geospatial data issues, including the removal of data from the web due to security concerns and a bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) to move domestic geospatial data responsibilities to the Department of Homeland Security.

3.0 Non-Federal Policy Activities

3.1 Challenges to Teaching Evolution
Applegate described his participation in the National Center for Science Education's Advocates Summit at the end of May, an opportunity for state and local groups that support the teaching of evolution in the nation's public schools to learn from one another. Anti-evolution actions at the state and local level range from legislation making its way through the Michigan State House to the biology textbook adoption process in Texas to science education curriculum guideline development in Minnesota. GAP’s web site has been enhanced with a map of the U.S. and links to states that have become “hot spots” in this issue.

3.2 Rebuilding Earth Science Education in Texas
In response to a ruling by the Texas State Board of Education that Earth Science does not count toward high-school graduation requirements, concerned geoscientists led by Ed Roy of Trinity University in San Antonio and David Dunn of the University of Texas at Dallas launched an effort to convince the board of the value of earth-science education. In response to their concerns, the board formed an Earth Science Task Force chaired by Roy. The task force produced a report recommending eight specific actions the Board can take to further the scientific literacy of children in Texas. The Executive Summary of the report was included in the meeting packet. The board is considering what actions, if any, to take in light of these recommendations.

3.3 IUGS Task Group on Public Affairs Update
The task group, chaired by Applegate, is still seeking appropriate activities. They will meet for the first time at the International Geological Congress in Florence in August, 2004.

4.0 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

4.1 Presentation by 2002-2003 Fellow Larry Kennedy
Larry described his experiences working for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. The 2003-2004 Fellow, Eloise Kendy, was not able to attend the meeting, but she has been through the Fellowship orientation and has accepted a position with Senator Reid as well. Larry spoke about his work on Interior appropriations, public lands, and mining issues. He felt that his experience had made him more realistic about government.

4.2 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship Endowment
Applegate informed the committee that $1.5 million has been raised to support this endowment, which is described in his column in the October 2003 issue of Geotimes. The endowment goal is $2 million, which would provide enough support for one and possibly two fellows in perpetuity.

5.0 Member Society Collaboration
Societies around the table gave brief presentations on issues important to them. Reports included the following:

U.S. Geological Survey: Committee Liaison Tim West informed the group about the USGS's awarding of the John Wesley Powell Award to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Association of American State Geologists: David Wunsch described the association's involvement in crafting authorization language for geologic data repositories in the energy bill. AASG is also working on appropriations for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program in USGS as well as initial planning for the next reauthorization of the National Geologic Mapping Act, due in 2005. He clarified AASG's position with regard to the USGS Coalition, explaining their decision not to join at the present time.

American Institute of Professional Geologists: John Talley discussed the AIPG annual Washington fly-in, which included the society's executive committee and several state geologists meeting with 20 different organizations. He acknowledged the assistance of GAP staff and also noted how helpful GAP e-mail updates and alerts were for knowing about geoscience policy issues. During the fly-in, AIPG pressed for restoration of the Water Resource Research Institutes, cooperative geologic mapping, the US National Map and the Advanced National Seismic System. They also met with private industry. AIPG is concerned about the lack of federal funding for the geosciences and the possibility of additional geospatial data withdrawals. The organization is also concerned about a lack of interest in professionalism by up and coming geologists who have little time to get involved in society activities. He also noted the current buyout program at the USGS National Mapping Division and the impact that could have on mapping resources. Talley will pass along to Marcus Milling and Murray Hitzman a letter from Stanford University concerning their geoscience data preservation plans.

Soil Science Society of America: Incoming SSSA President John Havlin and SSSA Washington representative Karl Glasener discussed their society's policy-related activities. In combination with the Crop Science Society of America and the American Society for Agronomy (the tri-societies), SSSA sponsors congressional fellows in the AAAS program. Of the 26 fellows that SSSA has sponsored, 11 are still on the Hill or working for federal agencies, and the new Executive Vice President is a former fellow. SSSA has established a rapid response team of members who can address policy issues. The society recently provided testimony for Congress on the issue of carbon sequestration. Glasener is the driving force behind CoFARM coalition, which represents 135,000 members in 21 societies and advocates for agricultural research. SSSA sponsors briefings for the House and Senate Agriculture Committees with principal costs being for transportation. Glasener emphasized the importance of pooling our limited resources to be effective.

Staff Action Item: Distribute memo on how best to communicate with Congress (for example the rising use of e-mail by constituents since letters are delayed because of post-anthrax scare irradiation procedures).

Staff Action Item: Distribute revised memo on lobbying guidelines for member societies.

Association of Earth Science Editors: John Keith commented on the usefulness of the GAP updates and alerts, which he passes along to a number of other geoscientists.

Clay Minerals Society: Blair Jones reported that he also passes along the GAP updates. Like a number of other societies around the table, CMS faces declining memberships. A recent survey found that members were perfectly happy with what the society was doing for them, yet the numbers still decline. Blair sees strong interest in earth science topics but a lack of recognition that earth science lies at the core of such issues, particularly environmental.

Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration: Hal Gluskoter noted that he had received no specific guidance from SME in part due to the recent resignation of SME Executive Director Paul Scheidig. John Orologio is now acting in his place. Hal will report back to SME on the meeting and seek additional feedback from their leadership.

American Rock Mechanics Association: Judy Ehlen also reported no guidance from her society's leadership on policy issues, but noted that the society was pleased with its membership in AGI. ARMA has recently established a new digital library with all the proceedings of rock mechanics conferences (available at www.armarocks.org). She also noted that one of the obstacles to involvement in professional societies is a decrease in support by employers for such activities, citing her own experience at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which went from encouraging professional activities to dropping any support for involvement in such activities.

Society of Economic Geologists: Hitzman reported that the society is pleased with the work of GAP. Like others, he passes along the e-mail updates. There is a recognition in the highly international society that whatever happens in the United States will ultimately have effects elsewhere. He proposed that AGI should also poll federal agencies about their needs for geoscientists over the next decade, information that could then be given to the agencies so they can press for greater support and also given to department chairs to show their students.

Staff Action Item: Send a memo to member society leadership seeking their feedback on what policy issues are most important to them.

Staff Action Item: Poll federal agencies about employment needs for geoscience jobs in the next 10 years.

6.0 Wrap Up
Applegate thanked the members of the Committee for attending and reviewed the action items. The committee will next meet in the spring of 2004. The meeting adjourned.


Summary of Action Items

Committee Action Items:

Staff Action Items:


Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted December 1, 2003