American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE

Status of Geoscience-Related Fiscal Year 1998 Appropriations


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

IN A NUTSHELL: Two weeks into the new fiscal year, the appropriations process chugs along under a continuing resolution that expires on October 23rd. Although not yet final, funding levels for most geoscience-related agencies have been set and are unlikely to change. This update provides near-final numbers for the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior; the National Science Foundation, NASA, and EPA. Funding levels for the Department of Education and NOAA are not yet set. More information on all these bills is available on AGI's web site .

Of geoscience-related bills, only the National Security bill (DOD) has been signed by the President. The Energy & Water bill (DOE) and the VA, HUD & Independent Agencies bill (NSF, NASA, and EPA) both are complete and await his signature. The Agriculture conference has been completed, and the House has voted on the conference agreement, which now awaits final Senate passage. The House and Senate are still conferencing on their versions of the Interior and Related Agencies (USGS) and Labor/HHS (Education) bills. A conference begins this week on the Commerce, State, and Judiciary bill (NOAA), which is unlikely to be ready by the October 23rd deadline and will probably be part of another, longer continuing resolution.


The deadline for passage of appropriations bills for FY98 passed on October 1st with only four bills having been completed. As a result, the House and Senate passed a 23-day continuing resolution on September 30, which the President promptly signed. The resolution keeps those agencies without FY98 appropriations funded at FY97 levels. Most bills not yet completed are in their final stage of conference to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions. The resulting bill (known as a conference agreement or report) must then be passed by both houses before going to President Clinton for his signature or veto. This year marks the first time that the President has line-item veto authority, which he has already exercised on the Military Construction bill, excising tens of millions of dollars worth of military construction projects not included in his budget request.

Agriculture Bill
A short conference has concluded, and the House has already passed the conference agreement on H.R. 2160, the bill providing agriculture appropriations, with the Senate expected to follow soon. Conferees essentially split the difference between conservation funding levels, appropriating just over $633 million for conservation operations. According to preliminary estimates, the National Resources Conservation Service may lose 500 employees under this deal. The conferees also appropriated $101 million for watershed protection programs and $35 million for the Resource Conservation and Development Program

Commerce Bill: NOAA
Conference on the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies spending bill is expected to begin this week, and it is expected to be a long process, primarily because of disagreements between Congress and the White House on the use of new census sampling techniques. Sources say that Commerce may well be part of a second continuing resolution that could last several months. An extended period of funding at the FY97 level could be detrimental to NOAA, which could receive significant increases as a result of intense interest in El Nino. The House bill, H.R. 2267, provides nearly $1.87 billion in FY98 for NOAA, while the Senate, S. 1002, provides $1.99 billion.

Energy and Water Bill: DOE
The House and Senate have passed the conferenced version of the $20.7 billion Energy and Water appropriations bill, which the President is expected to sign. The Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences account will receive the President's request of $668.2 million, a 2.9% increase over FY97. This account funds non-defense basic research at DOE's national laboratories, including the geosciences program funded at $23.5 million, a 6.7% increase from FY97. The Department of Energy's massive Environmental Management program, tasked with cleaning up the defense nuclear weapons complex, is funded at $5.5 billion, a level comparable to FY97. The agreement provides $350 million for the Yucca Mountain site characterization program ($160 million from the Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund and $190 million from the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal account), down from $382 million in FY97. A provision in the Senate bill to revive DOE involvement in science and math education was not included in the conference agreement. A big winner was DOE's solar and renewable energy program, which soared to $346 million, more than requested by the President or allocated in the House and Senate bills. Although DOE sought $1 billion for privatization of cleanup efforts, the conference agreement allots only $200 million amidst problems with DOE's Pit 9 contract, which was to be a model privatization effort at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and has been dogged by huge cost overruns and repeated management changes (AGI's web site contains a hearing summary on this issue).

Interior Bill: USGS, DOE Fossil Energy
Conference is continuing on H.R. 2107 with resolution expected this week. A major difference between the House and Senate was resolved on September 23rd, when the House voted to instruct conferees to accept Senate amendments to restore $100 million in funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. The conferees are still trying to hammer out a compromise on the President's request of $700 million for public lands acquisitions. Although details are still lacking, the House and Senate conferees have already agreed to funding levels for the agencies covered in this bill, including $759.1 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, an amount $0.9 million more than provided by the Senate bill, $3.3 million more than provided by the House bill, $13.7 more than requested by the President, and $19 million more than the agency received in FY97. The agreement includes the President's request of $3.8 million for the Global Seismographic Network, and $22.2 million for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program, $1.7 million more than requested (and the same as FY97). The amount does not include requested fund transfers in the Water Resources Division to pay for the President's Kalamazoo Initiative on water quality.

The agreement funds the Minerals Management Service at $143.6 million, down from $163.4 million in FY97. The National Park Service will receive $1.647 billion, up from $1.571 billion in FY97. The Bureau of Land Management will receive $1.136 billion, down from $1.386 billion in FY97. Outside the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service will receive $2.506 billion. The Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D Program will be funded at $362.4 million, down $2.3 million from FY97 but $16 million more than the President's request.

The conference agreement includes a House provision to sell $207.5 million worth of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to pay for its operations and maintenance. The Senate had removed the provision, which was opposed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and other groups.

A small but interesting item in the agreement is a $400,000 appropriation to fund marine minerals research centers in Mississippi, Hawaii, and Alaska. These were authorized by legislation sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Trent Lott (R-MS), which was enacted into law in the last Congress (S. 1194; Public Law 104-325) after an agreement was made with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) to include his state.

Labor/HHS Bill: Education
Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies are still in conference on the two versions of this bill. One of the most controversial education issues is an amendment to the Senate bill, S.1061, by Slade Gorton (R-WA) that would transfer funds from K-12 education programs into block grants. The House bill, H.R. 2264, does not contain similar provisions. President Clinton expressed his opposition to this proposal, stating "If necessary, I will use my veto power to make sure no such provisions become the law of the land." A victory for the scientific community occurred when Gorton submitted changes to his block grant amendment to exclude the Eisenhower Professional Development Program funds from the block grant. His proposal does not, however, exclude funds for the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse. These changes have not yet been approved by the conference committee, but are expected to be accepted. The House bill funds Eisenhower at $310 million, the same amount originally appropriated by the Senate before the passage of the Gorton amendment. AGI and several of its member societies submitted letters to members of Congress on the importance of the Eisenhower program. For more information, visit AGI's action alert on the Eisenhower Program on AGI's web site.

National Security Bill: DOD
On October 8th, President Clinton signed H.R. 2266, providing appropriations for the Department of Defense for FY98. The House and Senate passed the conference agreement (H. Rpt. 105-265) for the bill on September 25th. Clinton has until October 14th to use his line-item veto power. In a year that has been marked by strong support for federal research programs, DOD's basic research account (known as the 6.1 account) has been the exception. President Clinton requested $1.16 billion for the account, a 7.8% increase over FY97. Both the House and Senate passed authorizing bills requesting similar amounts, and the Senate version of the National Security appropriations bill contained the increase. But House National Security Appropriations subcommittee chairman C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) opposed the increase and provided for a 4% cut. The report accompanying the House bill questioned "whether never-ending budget growth in basic research is wise, particularly in the context of the Administration's failure to adequately address the Defense Department's weapons system modernization needs." In conference, Young stuck to his guns (as it were), and the 6.1 account will be funded at $1.06 billion, a 1.1% decrease.

In contrast to the 6.1 cut, the DOD applied research (or 6.2) account will receive a 7.5% increase over FY97 from $2.86 billion to $3.08 billion, despite the Administration's request of a $46 million cut. Because the 6.2 account is the larger by far, the total research budget (6.1 plus 6.2) will increase to $4.14 billion, a 5.1% increase over FY97 and 4% over the President's request.

The conference on the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies spending bill for agencies including NSF, NASA, and EPA concluded on October 1, and both the House and Senate have now passed the conference agreement, which awaits the President's signature.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $3.429 billion, an increase of $159 million or 5% over the FY97 level and $62 million more than the President's request. In his remarks on the appropriation, NSF Director Neal Lane commented, "I am particularly grateful for the efforts made by the science and engineering community to work with the Congress. These efforts played a large part in obtaining such strong Congressional support for NSF." The Research and Related Activities account also increased by 5% over FY97 to $2.546 billion, but the Geosciences Directorate lagged behind, receiving only a $5 million, or 1.1% increase to $451 million, $2 million less than the President's request. The original reason given for the small increase was that it reflected a shift in funding to the Major Research Equipment account to fully fund construction of the Polar Cap Observatory, a $25 million request. That request was denied, however, after Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) learned that the observatory was to be built in Canada (near the North Magnetic Pole) rather than Alaska. NSF is to study the matter and consider alternative sites. The Antarctic fared much better in the Major Research Equipment account, receiving $70 million for the rehabilitation of the South Pole Station in the Antarctic of a total $109 million in the account, $29 million above FY97. Political interests also intervened in the Biological Sciences Directorate, which received a $40 million increase over the President's request, earmarked by subcommittee chairman Kit Bond (R-MO) for a merit-reviewed plant genome research program. The increases for research and equipment came at the expense of NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate, which will receive $535 million, just a 1.1% increase over FY97.

NASA is slated to receive $13.6 billion overall. AAAS estimates that R&D spending totals $9.8 billion, up 5.4% from FY97. The bulk of the R&D spending -- and all geoscience-related spending -- comes from the Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (SAT) account, which will receive $5.7 billion, up 4.3% from FY97. Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) will receive $1,422 million, up $66 million or 4.4% over FY97 and $5 million more than the President requested. In additional MTPE news, NASA has indicated that present cost saving techniques will allow the agency to increase its funding for data analysis by up to $165 million by 2000. Much of this increase will be used to fund grants to researchers.

EPA funding is set at $7.4 billion, up $564 million or 8.3% over FY97. Most of EPA's R&D spending is located in its Science & Technology account, which is funded at $631 million, a $79 million or 14.3 percent increase over FY97. The bulk of the increase, $50 million, is to be used for particulate matter research, reflecting congressional concerns about the lack of scientific data to support EPA's new rule under the Clean Air Act regulating ozone and fine particulate matter. Academic researchers will benefit from an increase in funding available for extramural competitive research grants, as much as $186 million. Under threat of a presidential veto, conferees agreed to $1.5 billion in funding for the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program with the promise of up to $2 billion next year if a reauthorization bill can be completed by May 15, 1998.

Sources: AAAS, AESOP, American Institute of Physics, Environment & Energy Weekly Bulletin, House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Library of Congress

Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs

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

Posted: October 13, 1997

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