CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ALERT

Initial House Spending Levels for USGS Fall Far Short of President’s Request

Posted: May 21, 2000


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

IN A NUTSHELL: The first results are in from the fiscal year (FY) 2001 appropriations process, and they are not good. Despite the budget surplus, the congressional budget resolution provided low allocations for the individual appropriations bills, in many cases below FY 2000 levels. As a result, the significant increases proposed for geoscience-related agencies in President Clinton’s budget request are at risk of turning into flat-line funding or cuts unless geoscientists speak out on the value of federal investment in these areas. Last week, the House subcommittee that handles appropriations for the Department of the Interior provided $816.7 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although this amount represents a $3.3 million increase over FY 2000 levels, it is nearly $80 million less than requested by the president and is a major blow to the survey’s efforts to grow after years of budgetary stagnation and retrenchment. The Senate allocation for the Interior bill is somewhat higher holding out hope that some of the President’s request will materialize in the Senate bill due out in the next month. The bills for NSF are not out yet, but both the House and Senate have less money to spend than they did in FY 2000. Subcommittee chairmen in both chambers have already announced that as much as they would like to, they will not be able to provide the major funding increases proposed for NSF in the president’s budget.

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Three months after President Clinton submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 budget request to Congress, appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate have begun to mark up the bills that will eventually determine the actual spending levels for the federal government in the coming year. By all appearances, the process will be even more contentious than last year despite the burgeoning budget surplus. In April, Congress passed its first budget resolution since 1997, setting appropriations and other spending levels. On May 4th, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released their budget resolution-based allocations for each of the 13 individual appropriations bills. Except for military spending, most of the allocations fall well below the president's request.

On May 17th, the House Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies marked up its FY 2001 bill (which will not receive a bill number until it reaches the House floor). The subcommittee was allocated $14.6 billion, $300 million below FY 2000 enacted levels and $1.7 billion below the president’s request. In a press release, subcommittee chairman Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) stated: "This year's Interior bill was very difficult to put together. The constraints of the budget resolution on natural resource spending, compared to other priority issues, presented a number of challenges in meeting the operational needs of all the agencies in the bill. We have tried to meet the highest priorities of the American people, such as maintaining our national parks."

Details are still scarce for most of the bill, but AGI has obtained preliminary numbers and report language covering the USGS. Other geoscience-related agencies funded by this subcommittee include Department of the Interior bureaus, the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy, and the Smithsonian Institution. Additional details will be available shortly on the AGI website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.

House Funding Levels for USGS
Given the subcommittee’s low allocation, it can be considered a small victory that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received $816.7 million, a $3.3 million increase over FY 2000 levels. But that victory is tempered by the fact that the survey had requested $895.4 million, its first major increase in many years. The bill continues a recent trend from this House subcommittee of not funding administration initiatives but restoring funds for core programs and congressionally added (or earmarked) programs.

According to report language accompanying the House bill, the Geologic Division would receive $211.3 million, virtually flat from FY 2000 and $13.5 million below the request. Additional funds above FY 2000 levels are provided for the survey’s real-time hazard initiative: $1 million for upgrading seismic networks ($2.6 million requested) and the requested $0.5 million for volcano networks. Geologic mapping would receive a $0.5 million increase ($7.5 million was requested as part of the Community/Federal Information Partnerships initiative) as well as the requested $0.5 million transferred from the National Mapping Division for the Great Lakes Mapping Coalition. The coastal and marine geology program would receive $1 million to initiate a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary coastal program based on recommendations in the recent National Research Council review "Science for Decisionmaking: Coastal and Marine Geology at the U.S. Geological Survey." These increases were offset by cuts to several projects added by the Senate in FY 2000, including Hawaiian volcano monitoring ($0.5 million cut), minerals at risk studies in Alaska ($2 million cut), and Nevada gold studies ($1.2 million cut). The bill does not make presidentially requested cuts to coal availability and recoverability studies.

The Water Resources Division would receive $187.9 million, $2.1 million more than FY 2000 but $9.6 million below the request. Increases over FY 2000 include $1.7 million for upgrading streamgage networks ($4 million requested) and $0.4 million for the water resources research institutes. The bill does not include requested cuts to hydrologic research and development, water data collection and management projects.

The National Mapping Division was the big loser, receiving $122.8 million, $3.9 million below FY 2001 and a whopping $32.5 million below the request. In addition to zeroing out administration initiatives, the bill would cut $3.4 million from the land management Hazard Support System project, expressing considerable concern over the division’s handling of contracts related to the project. Those funds would be redirected to the USGS Biological Resources Division to conduct research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill also rejects the administration's request to transfer all funds from the Gateway to the Earth-Ohio (often referred to as OhioView) project to other similar projects, although some redirection would be allowed.

The Biological Resources Division would receive $140.4 million, up $3.5 million over FY 2000 but down $18.4 million from the request.

Actions Needed
Geoscientists concerned about the lack of support for USGS initiatives can take a number of actions: urge your senators (particularly any that sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee) to fully fund the USGS request, urge your representative to support expanding the allocation for the Interior bill when it comes to a vote in the full House Appropriations Committee and House floor, and urge the Clinton Administration not to accept the House numbers but to fight for its budget request during negotiations over the final bill this fall. For information on communicating with Congress, see http://www.agiweb.org/roster/howto.html. AGI testimony in support of the USGS request can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/interior_fy2001.html.

The Senate appropriations bill has not yet been introduced, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies -- chaired by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) -- has a higher allocation of $15.5 billion, halfway between the House level and the president's request.

Prospects for NSF and NASA
The National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are all funded by the same bill overseen in both the House and Senate by the Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies. Each of these subcommittees has been allocated roughly $76 billion, which is $2 billion below their FY 2000 level and over $8 billion below the president's request. As reported by the AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News, Senate chairman Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO) has stated that he is in "an impossible situation...we do not have an allocation that will allow us to do what we must do."

Nowhere have expectations been higher than for NSF, which requested the largest dollar increase in its history. The Geosciences Directorate at NSF requested a 19.5 percent increase and within that the Earth Sciences Division requested a 16.6 percent increase. The request for the NSF-wide Major Research Equipment budget includes $17.4 million to launch the USArray and San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth components of the new Earthscope initiative.

As with the USGS, concerned geoscientists should contact their senators and representatives and communicate the importance of expanding federal investment in geoscience research at NSF. AGI testimony in support of NSF's request can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/vahud_fy2001.html.



Sources: AAAS R&D Budget Project, AIP, House and Senate Appropriations Committees

Alert prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

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

Uploaded May 21, 2000


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