SPECIAL UPDATE: Geoscience Appropriations Nearing the Finish Line

(Posted 11-20-01)

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

IN A NUTSHELL: Members of Congress have headed home for Thanksgiving with action completed on eight of the 13 fiscal year (FY) 2002 appropriations bills. The president has signed five, including those funding the U.S. Geological Survey (up 3% over FY 2001), the Department of Energy's (DOE) Fossil Energy program (up 35%), and DOE's Basic Energy Sciences program (up 1% over FY 2001). Bills funding the National Science Foundation (up 8%), NASA Earth Science (up 6%), EPA Science and Technology (up <1%), and NOAA (up 5%) await the president's signature. Most of these numbers are at or, in some cases, well above the president's request, reflecting a mutual desire between the administration and Congress to complete action on these bills and move on to economic stimulus and other security measures related to September 11th. For additional details on appropriations, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#approps.

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In a normal year, Congress would have adjourned by now. Representatives and senators would be back in their districts through the holidays and into January. But a delayed budget request from the new administration, a party switch in the Senate, and the wartime footing brought on by September 11th have made the FY 2002 appropriations cycle one of the most disrupted that anyone can remember. For the geosciences, this year's budget process was tough sledding from the start. Faced with the need to meet campaign promises while holding the line on spending, President Bush's request included flat funding or cuts to many science agencies and programs. Moreover, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) insisted that unlike previous years, this administration would not sign off on congressional spending bills that came in above the original request. Although OMB's fiscal hawkishness will no doubt reappear with the FY 2003 request -- budgets being all the tighter given the slowing economy and large amounts of unexpected spending required by the crisis -- political expediency in the near term demanded that enough additional spending be included in order to speed passage.

Another departure from normal years is an almost total elimination of the congressional practice of adding non-spending provisions to appropriations bills. Known as "riders," these provisions often address environment or resource-related issues that are not likely to pass on their own. In recent years, these riders were often a bone of contention between Congress and the Clinton Administration leading to vetoes and delayed passage particularly for the Interior bill. With few riders and consensus on spending levels having been achieved through White House-Congress negotiations, the FY 2002 appropriations process is moving rapidly toward its conclusion.

As of November 19th, Congress has passed 8 of the 13 appropriations bills. The president has signed five.  Although there are no presidential veto threats on any of the remaining bills, there is still a chance that the Labor/HHS bill will have to go through a few rounds between the White House and Congress before passage. Owing to the radically altered national security condition, the massive defense bill has not even made it out of committee. Two of the five key geoscience-related bills -- Interior and Energy & Water -- have already been signed into law, and the rest -- VA/HUD, Commerce, and Agriculture -- are expected to be signed into law in the coming week.

Interior and Related Agencies

As described in an October 17th AGI Action Alert, geoscience funding in the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 2217) was way up from the president's request. See http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/interior_alert1001.html for more details. The president signed the Interior bill on November 5th.

Energy and Water

The President signed the Energy and Water bill (H.R. 2311) into law on November 12th.  Within this bill, DOE's Office of Science received $3.2 billion, which is a 2% increase above the budget request.  Within that total, Basic Energy Science (BES) programs were allocated $1 billion, just slightly under the requested level.  The Engineering and Geoscience programs within BES will receive the requested $32 million.  Nuclear Waste Disposal activities will total $375 million. Funding for DOE renewable energy resources programs totals $396 million, which includes $29 million for geothermal programs and $5.3 million for hydropower programs. On the water side of this bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received $4.5 billion and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation received $914 million. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/approps_energy2002.html.

VA, HUD & Independent Agencies

Both the House and Senate passed the final version of the VA/HUD bill (H.R. 2620) on November 8th, and a presidential signature is expected any day. Among the many departments and agencies funded by this bill are NSF, NASA, and EPA. The president had requested a modest 1.3% increase for NSF, but the final numbers are up over 8% above FY 2001, totaling $4.8 billion.  Research and Related Activities received a total of $3.6 billion, which includes $611 million for the Geoscience Directorate (up 9% over FY 2001), $230 million for the U.S. Polar Research programs, and $68 million for the U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support activities. Details about the specific breakdown between the atmospheric sciences, ocean sciences, and earth sciences were not available in the conference report, meaning that NSF will have some discretion as to how it allocates the money.  The Major Research Equipment account is funded at $138 million. Projects funded in that account include the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation ($24.4 million), the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER) aircraft ($35 million), Terascale Computing Systems ($35 million), and Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope ($12.5 million).  NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate received $875 million, which includes $160 million for a new Math and Science Partnership Initiative.

EPA will receive a grand total of $7.9 billion, which the House Appropriations Committee notes is focused primarily on state grants in the areas of clean water and safe drinking water programs.  This funding level is 7% more than the original budget request for the agency.  EPA's Science and Technology programs will be funded at $698 million.  Staying at FY2001 levels, Superfund is provided $1.27 billion, of which $98 million will go to the Brownfields program and close to $37 million will go towards research and development activities.  The Leaking Underground Storage Tank program will receive $73 million, and oil spill response activities will receive $15 million.  Lawmakers provided $1.35 billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and $850 million to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.  Funding for local air quality grants, under sections 103 and 105 of the Clean Air Act, will total $222 million, and funding for the non-point source pollution grants will be $237 million.

Total funding for NASA will be $14.8 billion, which is an increase above both the requested level and last year's funding level. NASA's Office of Earth Science will be funded at $1.6 billion, an increase of 4% above the budget request.  Within this funding, there will be a $1 million increase above the request for the Triana mission, which is ready for launch but has been delayed because of shuttle scheduling issues.  The Sun-Earth Connections program for Living with a Star totals $50 million. Education activities at NASA will total $231 million. (In related news, President Bush on November 14th nominated Sean O'Keefe, currently Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Dan Goldin as head of NASA. More at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2001/141.html.)

More on this bill at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/approps_vahud2002.html.

Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies

The Commerce bill (H.R. 2500) passed by large margins in the House on November 14th and the Senate on November 15th. A presidential signature is expected. This bill provides funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will receive total funding of $3.25 billion, including $223 million for conservation activities. This amount is up 3% from the president's request. Funding for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is up 8% to total $356 million for a range of research activities and programs.  Climate Observation and Services programs will received a total of $23.5 million, which is a 2% decrease from the budget request, and includes $2.3 million for carbon cycle research and $2.5 million for baseline observatories. Ocean exploration programs received the requested $14 million; and the Tsunami Hazards Mitigation program received a very sizable increase to total $3.3 million. NOAA's National Ocean Service received a grand total of $414 million, a 14% increase above the budget request. The National Weather Service will receive a 2% increase, which will bring the account up to $672 million for the year. Also receiving a boost in funding was NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information System, which received nearly $140 million or 6% above last year's level. More on this bill at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/approps_commerce2002.html.

Agriculture

Also awaiting the president's signature, the Agriculture bill (H.R. 2330) passed the House on November 13th (379-33) and the Senate on November 15th (92-7). Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources and Conservation Service totals $779 million for projects ranging from water quality to soil mapping.  Research and education activities received a total of $542 million.

The only remaining appropriations bill of interest to the geosciences is the Labor/HHS bill (H.R. 3061) that has been delayed in conference due to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Congress will pick the Labor/HHS bill back up after the Thanksgiving recess.

Even as Congress and the White House work out the final details of the FY 2002 budget, the agencies and the White House Office of Budget and Management are finalizing the FY2003 budget requests that will come out in February.  Currently the outlook for geoscience-related funding is not good, but we can always hope that next year's budget ends on a similar note to this year's allocations.

Please take a moment to thank your senators and representatives for supporting geoscience programs in this year's appropriations process and encourage their support in the tough year ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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

Sources: American Institute of Physics, Congressional Green Sheets, E&E News, Greenwire, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, and USBudget.com.

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

Posted November 20, 2001


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