Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE


NSF, NASA Appropriations Bill Signed, USGS Bill Faces Veto

(10-22-99)


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

IN A NUTSHELL: After a bipartisan summit meeting with congressional leaders at the White House last week, President Clinton signed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 VA,HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations bill into law on October 21. The final bill restores many of the funding cuts to the National Science Foundation and NASA contained in an earlier House-passed version. The following day, he signed the Agriculture appropriations bill into law. In contrast, the president has issued a veto threat for the Interior (USGS, MMS, DOE Fossil) appropriations bill, which is awaiting final House and Senate votes after the completion of a House-Senate conference last week.

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The good news is that the VA,HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations bill was signed into law this week with increased allocations for geoscience programs in both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The bad news is that the fighting over the Interior appropriations bill is far from finished, and it is likely that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will continue to be funded at FY 1999 levels for some time under additional continuing resolutions. For more on FY 2000 appropriations bills as they relate to the geosciences, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2000up.html.

NSF and NASA

Overall, the allocations in the VA,HUD and Independent Agencies bill, H.R. 2684, are promising for the geosciences. A White House press release states that "the bill increases the nation's investment in scientific discovery and education, which has helped to fuel our remarkable economic growth for the past decade."

The National Science Foundation received a total of $3.9 billion, near the Administration's request level and 5.5 percent above FY 1999. As in the request, the bulk of the increase will be channeled to biocomplexity and information technology initiatives. The Research and Related Activities account will increase 5.6 percent to $2.97 billion. Within that amount, the Geosciences Directorate will receive $489 million, a 0.7 percent increase over the Administration's request and 3.3 percent above last year's allocation. Polar Research Programs received $255 million, up 3.9 percent over FY 1999. The House-Senate conference report includes extensive discussion of specific programs within polar research and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program. The NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate increases 5.3 percent to $697 million.

The enacted bill provides NASA with a total of $13.7 billion. Within this amount, the Office of Earth Science will receive $1.4 billion, slightly less than the president's request but just over 2% more than the FY 1999 allocation. At times during the appropriations process, earth science programs were slated for cuts up to 20 percent. Despite the House recommendation to abolish the controversial Triana program, the final version of the bill included enough money to keep the project alive but directs the National Academy of Science to perform an evaluation of the mission's scientific value. NASA's overall research and development funding will remain flat.

USGS

On Wednesday night, House and Senate negotiators filed the conference report (H. Rpt. 106-406) to accompany H.R. 2466, the FY 2000 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The next step is for final votes in both the House and Senate, but there seems to be little hope that House debate will run smoothly or quickly. A number of controversial riders opposed by the House remain in the conferenced bill. Once the House passes the bill, the Senate will quickly vote on it. Those same "anti-environmental" riders, however, have led to a veto threat from the White House unless several of them are removed, including delays in the Bureau of Land Management's revised hard rock mining regulations, restrictions to the Department of the Interior's ability to enforce a 5-acre size limit to mill sites, a continued moratorium on the Minerals Management Service's final oil and gas royalty valuation regulations, and a proposed 10-year renewal of grazing permits while BLM conducts environmental reviews of these lands.

In the conference report, the USGS would receive $823.8 million, slightly more than either the House ($820.4 million) or Senate ($813.1 million) bills provided but still less than the $838 million request. Most of the increase over FY 1999's $798 million goes toward uncontrollable costs with no funds provided for presidential initiatives to create community information partnerships or a disaster information network. Other increases are $2.4 million for upgrading seismic networks and other real-time hazard programs in the Geologic Division and another $2.0 million for upgrading streamgage networks in the Water Resources Division. Quite a number of increases go to specific, earmarked projects including $0.5 million for the Great Lakes geologic mapping project, $2 million for minerals programs in Alaska, and a number of smaller increases for various volcanic, hydrologic, and biologic projects. The conferees accepted the USGS's proposal to create consolidated survey-wide Science Support and Facilities accounts but rejected the proposed Integrated Science line item.


Sources: White House Press Releases, Environment and Energy Daily, National Journal's Greenwire, Library of Congress website, Government Publication Office, and the American Institute of Physics FYI Bulletin of Science Policy News

Special update prepared by Margaret Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

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

Posted October 22, 1999


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