American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE

President's Budget Request Unveiled for Fiscal Year 1998


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

Yesterday, the Clinton Administration released its budget request for fiscal year 1998 (FY1998). The budget includes numbers out to fiscal year 2002 at which point it will be balanced. This update is intended to provide some of the key highlights for the geosciences and is by no means comprehensive. In the coming days, additional information will be posted on AGI's web site, which also includes links to the various federal agency home pages. The most extensive coverage of the overall science and technology budget can be found on the AAAS R&D Budget site. In addition, the "Political Scene" column in the special Geology and Government issue of Geotimes this April will report on the President's request, and AGI also will be contributing the earth sciences chapter to AAAS Report XXII: Research and Development FY1998 to be released in April.

Overall Science and Technology Budget
The overall picture for science and technology is remarkably rosy given the tight constraints imposed by the need to reach a balanced budget. The rosiness, however, tends to disappear when looking at the specifics as well as when one considers that this budget represents merely the President's request and by no means the final word. Having said that, the requests for science are generally increases over fiscal year 1997 (FY1997). According to a budget briefing by OSTP and OMB, basic research spending is up 3% and applied research is up 4%. University-based research is up 2%. Both NIH and NSF received 3% increases in keeping with the rate of inflation. Science programs at DOE were held at their FY1997 level. Total R&D spending is up $1.6 billion over FY1997 to $75 billion. Looking only at civilian R&D and basic and applied research at the Department of Defense shows an increase of 3.8% from $38.7 billion in FY1997 to $40.2 billion in FY1998 with basic research representing $15.3 billion of that total. For those concerned about the future of basic research at DOD, that budget is up 5%. The reason that increases for applied research are greater than for basic research has mainly to do with the severe cuts to applied programs administered by Congress in the last budget cycle, particularly those in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The Administration calls for increases of 22% for the Advanced Technology Program and 36% for the Manufacturing Extension Program, both of which are strenuously opposed in Congress as "corporate welfare".

In the OSTP/OMB Briefing, OSTP Director and Presidential Science Advisor Jack Gibbons emphasized the President's commitment to protecting civilian R&D from deep cuts in the years leading to a balanced budget. He cited well-publicized concerns that cuts on the order of 25-33% in civilian R&D were required to reach balance. Instead, he asserted that the President's budget would result in a nominal 2% increase between FY1998 and FY2002. Gibbons then called on Congress to move beyond the acrimonious debates of 1996 and find common ground. He went on to say that having "gone through the narrows of the 104th Congress," we must begin to build bipartisan support for a strong research program in keeping with the wishes of the vast majority of the voting public.

U.S. Geological Survey
The FY1998 budget request for the USGS is $745 million, an increase of $6.5 million over fiscal year 1997 (FY1997). The increase, however, is primarily for the Biological Resources Division. The Geologic Division request is $227.7 million, down $1.6 million from FY97. The National Mapping Division request is $130.9 million, down $0.9 million, and the Water Resources Division request is $194.4 million, up $1.9 million.

The Geologic Division funding cut is larger than it appears, because the division's budget includes a $3 million increase for maintenance of the Global Seismographic Network, for which the USGS is newly responsible. The primary cuts are a $2.8 million reduction in Continental Surveys and a $1.7 million reduction in the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program. The justification for the latter is as follows:

"The proposed decrease will enable redirection of funds to higher priority activities. It will result in reduced preparation of geologic maps and digital data bases, and development of GIS-based methods for use in land and resource management decisionmaking. The reduction will be distributed to USGS and external grant elements of the program in accordance with the provisions of the National Geologic Mapping Act." (Interior Budget in Brief, p. BH-43)

The Water Resources Division budget includes a number of cuts to Hydrologic Networks and Analyses ($1.7 million), Water Information Delivery ($1.4 million), Federal/State Coop Water Program ($1.2 million), and Water Resources Research Act Program ($2.8 million) in order to provide $9 million for the President's Kalamazoo initiative to study the quality of 75 metropolitan water systems and transmit that information to the public.

National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) as a whole received a 3% increase from $3.270 billion in FY1997 to $3.367 billion in the President's FY1998 request. The budget request for Research Project Support is up 2.7% from $1.823 billion to $1.872 billion. The Research Facilities account would rise 3.5% from $662 million to $684 million, and the Education and Training account would also rise 3.5% from $646 million to $669 million. The Geosciences Directorate -- which includes the Ocean, Atmospheric, and Earth Sciences Divisions -- did not fare as well as the agency overall, receiving a 1.5% increase to $452.6 million. At a stakeholders meeting today, the reason given for the lag was a shift in funding for construction of the Polar Cap Observatory. The Earth Sciences budget would rise 1.5% to $95.13 million, Ocean Sciences up 2.1% to $206.16 million, and Atmospheric Sciences up 0.6% to $151.32 million.

Department of Energy
The Department of Energy's budget request is up 2.6% to $16.6 billion for FY1998. The agency is also seeking up-front funding for several large construction projects, most notably the National Ignition Facility, raising the total price tag to $19.2 billion, although much of the additional funds would not be expended in FY1998. The budget includes $2.5 billion for Science and Technology, funding basic research at DOE's national laboratories and at universities through the Office of Energy Research.

The DOE Office of Fossil Energy R&D budget request is for $346.4 million, a decrease of $18.3 million from FY1997. The principal decreases come from the coal program ($3 million) and the gas program ($17.3 million), whereas the petroleum R&D program is slated to receive an increase of over $6 million. It is not yet clear whether that budget includes funds for geoscience data preservation, which is a high priority of AGI.

NASA's budget for Mission to Planet Earth received a slight boost from FY1997, increasing 4% to $1.42 billion. The primary changes to the NASA budget were in the out years where drastic cuts projected in last year's budget have been replaced with more level funding levels. OSTP Director Jack Gibbons described the out-year budgets as "more reasonably paced" and "well-behaved" than was the case last year.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
With the environment a major campaign issue, the President's budget provides EPA with a requested increase of $850 million over the FY1997 level of $7.65 billion. Most of the increase is directed toward acceleration of cleanups in the Superfund program. The agency's Science and Technology account is slated to receive a $62.3 million increase to $614.3 million.

(Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs)

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Uploaded February 8, 1997

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