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Update on FY2003 VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations (10-16-02)

The Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies (VA/HUD) Appropriations bill funds several geoscience-related programs including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For fiscal year (FY) 2003, President Bush requested $5.1 billion for NSF, a 5 percent increase over the current year.  The budget request included $7.7 billion for EPA, a decrease of 3.5% from last year's allocation not including the additional funds from last year's anti-terrorism supplemental bill.  The president's request of $15 billion for NASA would increase the agency's budget by less than one percent above last year's allocation. The budget request for FEMA totaled $6.4 billion, which includes $300 million in pre-disaster mitigation activities and $300 million for flood-map modernization activities. The key programs of interest to the earth sciences include the Geoscience Directorate at NSF, the Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) at NASA, several of the environmental monitoring and research programs within EPA, and the natural hazards activities at FEMA.

Most Recent Action
On October 7th, the House VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its version of its FY 2003 funding bill after months of delay due to the subcommittee's low allocation. The as-yet-unnumbered bill would provide NSF with $5.42 billion, nearly a 13% increase over FY 2002. The EarthScope project would receive $40 million, twice the amount allocated by the Senate and $5 million above the President's request. Research accounts at NSF would receive $4.1 billion (up over 15%) within which the Geosciences Directorate would receive $701 million (up 15%). A committee press release provided overall numbers for EPA, NASA, and FEMA -- more on them and additional details on NSF can be found in an AGI Special Update sent out on October 8th. Subcommittee chairman Rep. James Walsh (R-NY) expressed optimism that the bill could be conferenced with the Senate during a post-election lame-duck session and the final bill could make it to the president before January. (10/8/02)

The Senate Appropriations Committee completed action on its version of the FY 2003 VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill (S. 2792) on July 25th with the filing of the Senate report (S. Rept. 107-222). According to the committee press release, the bill would provide a total of $5.3 billion for NSF, an 11% increase from last year's allocation of $4.8 billion and $288 million more than the requested level. The release also states: "The bill rejects the President's proposal to transfer the NOAA Sea Grant program, the EPA environmental education program, and a USGS water quality research program to NSF. Instead, these programs remain with their host agencies." The VA/HUD bill restores funding for earth, ocean and atmospheric science programs within the Geoscience Directorate, providing $684.5 million, an increase of 12.3% above last year's allocation. There is good news in the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account -- now renamed the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account. Report language recommends that the EarthScope initiative be funded at $20 million, but the funding in contingent on NSF hiring a Deputy Director for Large Facility Projects. In addition to NSF, S. 2792 would provide $15.2 billion for NASA. Funding for FEMA's flood-map modernization programs would receive the requested $300 million, and the EPA would receive $8.3 billion under the Senate version. Additional information on the Senate proposal is available below. (7/29/02)

 House Action   Senate Action   Conference Action 

House Action
The House Subcommittee on VA/HUD and Independent Agencies held a markup on October 7th that brought good news for the geosciences -- an October 7th AGI Special Update on the markup contains much of the information below. A full committee markup is expected before the end of the week, at which time a bill number will be issued and an explanatory report will be filed. According to the subcommittee press release, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive a 13% increase over last year's allocation, which would provide the agency with its largest budget ever. The House version not only includes funding for the EarthScope project in the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account but also provide larger than requested initial funding level for FY2003.

National Science Foundation
In total, NSF would receive $5.4 billion, which is slightly more than the Senate's proposal of $5.3 billion. This allocation would work to put the agency onto a path to double its budget over the next five years. To this end, the draft report, which will accompany the bill, ordered the agency to contract a report with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA): ". . . the Committee also believes that a review of the agency's organizational, programmatic and personnel structures is appropriate and can provide assurance to the public that the agency is positioned to maximize the opportunities which increased funding can create." The committee also had general concerns regarding the current National Science Board structure, which it suggests should be an issue included in the NAPA study.

A $5.42 billion allocation for the NSF marks not only an increase of nearly 13% above last year's allocation but also an increase of $395 million (7.9%) above the president's request. Adding to the goods news is that fact that none of this increase is due to the proposed transfers outlined in the budget request -- $10 million from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for its Hydrology of Toxic Substances program, $57 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its Sea Grant program, and $9 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its environmental education programs. The Research and Related Activities account would receive $4.1 billion (up 15.3%); the Major Research Equipment and Facilities (MRE) account would receive $159 million (up 14.9%); and Education and Human Resources would receive $910 million (up 4.1%). According to the draft report accompanying the bill, increases in research funding should be allocated by NSF giving "the highest priority to increasing research opportunities for investigator initiated research in the core scientific disciplines."

Within NSF, the Geosciences Directorate (GEO) would receive $701 million, a 15% increase over FY 2002. The Senate bill would provide $684 million. The President's budget had requested $691 million for GEO, the bulk of which came from the previously mentioned proposed transfers. Existing GEO programs would have received only a 1.2% increase over FY 2002. As was the case in the Senate bill, the increase for GEO does not include any of the administration's proposed program transfers. According to the House report: "Each of these programs works well within its current framework and the Committee has not been convinced that such transfer as proposed in the budget submission will either enhance the individual programs or benefit the ongoing programs of the Foundation."

Funding for the NSF research account includes $254 million for the U.S. Polar Research Program and $70 million for Antarctic Logistical Support activities. The report includes an extensive section on the Office of Polar Programs (OPP), noting that an increase of $18.3 million above the president's request "has been provided to enhance the ongoing research effort as well as to provide additional necessary resources for operations, research support and logistics, and science and research grant support. In addition, the Committee requests that the OPP prepare and deliver to the Committee at the earliest date possible a report outlining the work that needs to be performed to upgrade these facilities as well as the estimated short- and long-term costs involved with such upgrades…. Upon completion and delivery of such report, OPP may utilize available resources provided herein to begin planning, design, pre-construction and/or construction activities related to such necessary upgrades." The report goes on to approve preparations for a "mechanical traverse capability between McMurdo Station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station."

Within the MRE account, the bill would provide initial funding for the EarthScope project at $40 million, which is $5 million above the president's request. The Senate provided $20 million of the $35 million requested as part of its overall $79 million for that account, half what the House proposes to spend on MRE projects. EarthScope is now poised to become the first-ever MRE project for the earth sciences.

The report states that the increased figure for EarthScope is part of an "alternative request" that provides more level funding over the life of the project: $40 million in FY 2003 (year one), $42 million in year two, $40 million in year three, $39 million in year four, and $37 million in year five. Benefits of this approach include "significant cost savings over the long-term operation and maintenance of the facility, and providing higher quality data through the acquisition of instrumentation with uniform technical characteristics."

The bill also would fund presidentially requested MRE amounts of $13.6 million for the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, $9.7 million for the Large Hadron Collider, $30 million for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and $6 million for South Pole Station construction. The Terascale Computing System would receive $10 million, half the request. Other MRE projects not requested but funded by the House include $25.5 million as the final installment to complete the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER) and $24.7 million for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The bill does not fund the request to initiate the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), but the report notes that the decision was made "without prejudice," allowing limited resources "to fully fund ongoing projects as well as begin funding for one new research effort, the EarthScope project."

Environmental Protection Agency
Increased funding continued into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the House bill providing almost 8% above the requested level to total $8.2 billion. The Science and Technology (S&T) account that funds research activities in cooperation with universities, other federal agencies, and corporations would receive a total of $714.6 million, an increase over both the request (6.6%) and last year's allocation (2.4%). In addition to this increase, the account would receive an $86 million transfer from the Hazardous Substances fund for Superfund research activities. Included in the overall S&T account is $5 million for the STAR Fellowship that was proposed for elimination in the budget request. Report language specified that the agency is to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to do a two-year study of the scientific and technical activities related to Superfund sites, with a special emphasis on the Coeur d'Alene Basin site. The Hazardous Substance Superfund account would receive a total of $1.4 billion, which is an increase of nearly 12% from the budget request and almost 22% more than last year. The Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund would be supported at the requested $72 million, with the majority of these funds to be provided to states and tribes for cleanup activities. State and tribal assistance grants are a key source of funds for meeting environmental standards. The House recommended a total of $3.8 billion for state and tribal assistance grants. Of this amount, $1.3 billion will go towards Clean Water State Revolving Funds, $850 million will go towards the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, and $120.5 million will go towards Brownfields assessment and revitalization grants.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would total $3.6 billion, a very large decrease from both the request and last year's funding level, which included several emergency appropriations. The disaster relief account that funds post-disaster activities once a presidential disaster has been declared would total $1.82 billion, which is a slight decrease from the budget request and 80% less than the total funding for FY2002. One reasoning behind the decrease in the disaster relief account was to transfer some of the funds to develop a pre-disaster mitigation grant program. The committee noted its agreement on the need for more pre-disaster mitigation but does not support that replacement of post-disaster mitigation with pre-disaster mitigation grants. The committee recommends $250 million, a $50 million decrease from the request, for the National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund. Report language states: "The Committee has found that Project Impact achieved its goals and it is now time to move on to a more robust competitive program to undertake mitigation projects that will significantly reduce damages from and costs of natural disasters."

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The total funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would be $15.3 billion, a 2% increase from the budget request and almost 3% more than last year. The House bill would provide the Science, Aeronautics and Technology account, which funds all of the geoscience programs, with a 16% increase from last year to total $9.1 billion. Within this amount, the Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) would receive $1.675 billion, a $46.6 million (2.8%) increase from the request. Last year ESE was required to submit a report to the House Appropriations Committee on "a credible program utilizing remote sensing data from the Earth Observing System [EOS]." Despite the support of the committee for the recommendations outlined in the report, the committee did not provide any funds for new remote sensing center for this fiscal year. In the Space Science account, which would receive a total of $3.56 billion, the committee provided increased funding for several aspects of the fist phase for a mission to Europa.

Senate Action
Senate Appropriations Committee action on the S. 2797, the FY 2003 VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill, ended on July 25th when the committee filed its report (S. Rept. 107-222). Overall, the report has good news for the geoscience community, especially within the National Science Foundation (NSF). In several cases, the committee used the report language to make strong statements in support of federal Earth Science programs. Once Congress returns from the August recess, the Senate will hold floor debate and a vote on S. 2797 and the House will begin consideration of its version of the VA/HUD bill.

National Science Foundation
Funding for NSF would increase by nearly 12% over last year's allocation, to total $5.35 billion. The report notes that this "funding level is consistent with proposals to double the NSF research budget over 5 years." Adding to the good news was that EarthScope, the first geoscience request in the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account, would be provided with $20 million (of the $35 million requested). The committee suggests "delaying the obligation of these funds until NSF fills the position of Deputy Director for Large Facility Projects on a permanent basis." Other highlights include the committee recommendation that the graduate student stipend be increased to $30,000 per year, which is a sizable increase of $5,000 more than requested and $8,500 more than the current stipend level. Funding for the NSF Math and Science Partnerships program would total $120 million, $80 million less than the budget request.

Overall funding for the Research and Related Activities account, which funds the disciplinary directorates, would total $4.1 billion. In the president's request, the Geoscience Directorate was placed in an awkward position as the recipient of proposed transfers of the National Sea Grant program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Toxic Substances Hydrology program from the US Geological Survey, and environmental education programs from the Environmental Protection Agency, those transfers making up nearly all of a proposed increase for the directorate. The Senate Appropriations Committee made it clear in both its press release and the report language that its does not support these transfers and that the committee's bill would restore funding to the core geoscience programs. The report language for the directorate states:

The Committee's recommendation provides $684,490,000 for geosciences research. This is $75,020,000 more than the fiscal year 2002 level. The Committee has rejected the Administration's proposal to transfer programs from NOAA, EPA and the USGS. In lieu of the transfer, the Committee is directing that the funds provided be used to augment high priority research activities in the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences. The Committee supports the efforts being made to develop multi-year strategic plans in the atmospheric sciences and in ocean drilling. As a result, the Committee expects NSF will use $15,000,000 of the increase to augment support for the national user facilities in this directorate and move forward on the integrated ocean drilling program.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Senate bill would provide the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with a grand total of $15.2 billion, an increase of slightly more than one percent above the budget request. Funding for the Science, Aeronautics and Technology account would total $9 billion, a 12% increase from last year's level. The Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) is funded through this account. Report language does not provide a total recommended allocation for ESE, instead providing a list of targeted increases and one targeted decrease that would provide the program with a grand total of about $50 million more than the requested $1.6 billion. Below are the opening paragraphs for ESE within S. Rept. 107-222:

The activities of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise seek to understand the total Earth system and the effects of humans on the global environment. This pioneering program of studying global climate change is developing many of the capabilities that will be needed for long-term environment and climate monitoring and prediction. Governments around the world need information based on the strongest possible scientific understanding. The unique vantage-point of space provides information about the Earth’s land, atmosphere, ice, oceans, and biota as a global system, which is available in no other way. In concert with the global research community, the Earth Science Enterprise is developing the understanding needed to support the complex environmental policy decisions that lie ahead.

However, the Committee is concerned about the potential for the administration to diminish NASA’s pre-eminent role in earth science and earth science applications. As the Committee noted during its fiscal year 2003 hearings, the Agency’s development and launch of a series of major earth science missions combined with a successful ground system that is processing and distributing the largest volumes of data ever received by civilian users from space are among NASA highest technological and scientific achievements. The Committee wishes to affirm its unequivocal support for expanding NASA’s role in earth science and earth science applications. Within the applications program, the Committee believes that the Agency’s approach needs more refinement and integration of emerging programs, like Synergy, the Regional Earth Science Applications Centers (RESACs), the Earth Science Information Partnerships (ESIPS) and the considerable in-house scientific capability at the NASA Centers. Such integration should not disrupt the existing program structure in 2003, but should plan for an evolutionary approach in fiscal year 2004. The Committee is pleased with efforts to integrate key Federal agency requirements as objectives of the applications program and expects a progress report on these efforts in the operating plan.

Environmental Protection Agency
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a total of $8.3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an increase of nearly 9% above the budget request and just under 3% from last year's allocation. According to the committee's press release, the bill would provide $1.45 billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and $875 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund -- both receiving a sizable increase above last year's level. In the Science and Technology account, the committee recommends a 4.5% increase above the budget request to total $710 million. The report language noted the inclusion of $9.75 million for the STAR Fellowship Program -- the National Council for Science and the Environment has been in the forefront to restore the program. The committee would also support the requested $20 million "to address the security of our Nation's drinking water system." Funding for the National Estuary Program would be restored to last year's level of $5.3 million. Brownfields activities would receive a total of $200 million in funding including $170.5 million in State and Tribal Assistance Grants. The committee would provide the requested $1.27 billion for Superfund activities, which is a slight decrease from the total fiscal year 2002 allocation that includes supplemental funding.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Post-disaster relief is a key focus of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with close to 40% of the agency's annual budget slated for these activities. In total, the committee would recommend $4.4 billion for FEMA, with $1.8 billion directed towards disaster relief -- $1.5 billion of which the committee has designated as emergency. Report language notes that the committee "supports the new grant program for pre-disaster mitigation" but would provide only $25 million of the $300 million requested. Another program of interest to the geosciences is FEMA's Flood Map Modernization activities, which would be provided with the requested $300 million in the Senate's version.

Sources: House Appropriations Committee website, Senate Appropriations Committee website, E&E News Publications, FEMA website, NSF website, NASA website, EPA website, CNSF, American Institute of Physics FYI Bulletin of Science Policy News, and the Library of Congress.

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

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, Government Affairs Program, and AGI/AAPG Spring 2002 Intern Heather R. Golding.

Posted August 1, 2002; Last Updated October 16, 2002

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