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Overview of Fiscal Year 2003 Geoscience Appropriations (1-17-03)

President Bush released his administration's fiscal year (FY) 2003 budget request on February 4th.  As outlined in Bush's State of the Union address the previous week, defense spending would receive the biggest boost. The budget focuses on national security and homeland defense. Overall, he proposed a 9% increase in science and technology funding from $52.3 billion in FY 2002 to $57.0 billion in FY 2003. Science is presented as part of those efforts, but only science narrowly defined. Much of the 17.3% boost for the National Institutes of Health (to a whopping $27.3 billion total) is directed toward addressing the bioterrorism threat. Once the president has released his budget, it goes into the hands of Congress, where there are a series of hearings followed by several rounds of debate. Only after the congressional approval process is complete do the final appropriations bills appear at the White House ready for presidential approval.

FY 2003 Appropriations Bills

 Energy & Water 
 (USGS, DOE-Fossil) 

Library of Congress Table on Current Status of FY 2003 Appropriations Bills

Most Recent Action
Now that the Senate has agreed upon an organization plan, it has taken up a FY 2003 omnibus appropriations bill (H. J. Res. 2) rewritten from last session's individual bills with $10 billion in cuts in order to meet the White House endorsed discretionary spending cap of $750 billion. The Senate cuts were not evenly distributed among federal programs. One tool used to meet the cap was an across-the-board 1.6 percent cut, but for some programs, especially land acquisition funds within the Department of the Interior, this cut was just the beginning. Funding for the U.S. Geological Survey was cut $12 million from the level provided by the FY 2003 Interior bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the last Congress. The omnibus bill would provide a total of $915 million (USGS received $914 million in FY 2002; the president requested $867.3 million). According to E&E News, the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy research and development program would see a cut of $38 million, giving those activities a total of $884 million. Additional information will be forthcoming. A final vote on the omnibus package is expected late on the 17th -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has announced that the chamber will forgo its recess next week if the omnibus bill is not passed this week. Democrats introduced a number of amendments to increase levels for specific programs, but all were defeated by party-line votes (only Sen. Zell Miller, D-GA, crossed party lines). Several Democrats had talked earlier in the week about offering environmental riders to the legislation, including one from presidential hopeful John Edwards (D-NC) related to the proposed New Source Review program that President Bush released last fall. Many of these riders have not materialized and are likely not to before the Senate votes to pass the final bill. (1/17/03)

Just as planned, the House passed two Continuing Resolutions (CR). The first (H. Res. 1), which was also passed by the Senate, will maintain funding for federal programs at the fiscal year (FY) 2002 levels and is set to expire at the end of January. The second CR (H. Res. 2), which was passed by the House on Wednesday, is to be the vehicle for the Senate's trimmed-down appropriations bills. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young's (R-FL) plan for the one-two CR combination was then put on hold while the Senate worked out its organization plan to split committee operation funds -- the chamber is split 51-49, and Democrats are seeking more than the traditional two-thirds/one-third split for majority/minority that Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has proposed. After Democrats took control in the last Congress, they provided near-parity funding for the minority, an arrangement that Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) sought to continue. A resolution was reached on Wednesday, and the Senate is now considering amendments to the omnibus appropriations bill. A final vote could come as early as the 17th. (1/16/03)

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young (R-FL) has announced the plan of attack for the opening days of the 108th Congress. Young and his Senate-counterpart Ted Stevens (R-AK) have kept the deadline for passing the FY 2003 bills before the president's State of the Union Address. They have also agreed with the White House to cap discretionary spending to the president's proposed $750.5 billion. To meet this number, the Senate will need to trim $10 - $15 billion from each of the bills crafted in the last Congress. According to E&E News, there remains $385.2 billion for the 11 remaining appropriations bills -- the Defense bill (P.L. 107-248) was $359.8 billion and the Military Construction bill (P.L. 107-249) was $10.5 billion. Young has suggested that the House will quickly pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the federal government at FY 2002 levels, with some supplemental funds, until the end of January. After clearing the first CR, the chamber will pass a second one that Young hopes the Senate will use as a vehicle to pass its trimmed-down bills as an omnibus amendment to the House introduced CR. It is not clear if the cuts would be targeted or an across-the-board percentage cut from all programs. (12/20/02)

When it was all said and done, the 107th Congress failed to pass the majority of the FY 2003 appropriations bills -- only the Military Construction and Defense bills were signed into law. As reported in the November 15th AGI Special Update, the remaining funding bills will be taken up first thing by the 108th Congress. In the interim, federal programs are being funded via a continuing resolution (CR; H. J. Res. 124) that does not allow federal agencies to initiate any new activities. The CR, which expires on January 11, 2003, funds these programs at FY 2002 level, a level that translates into a funding decrease for most programs because of inflation. Negotiations at the staff level will continue until the 108th Congress convenes on January 7th, but in a surprise decision, incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has announced his intentions to move the remaining 11 appropriations bills individually. It has become common practice to roll remaining bills into an omnibus bill when time is of the essence. No matter the type of vehicle that ends up moving, the new Congress must first reconcile the more than $15 billion difference between the House and Senate numbers. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) has made it clear that he does not plan to exceed the president's total request of $750 billion for all of the bills. All this translates into likely cuts across many programs as Congress works to complete the FY 2003 appropriations. Lott also announced his plan that both chambers will complete action on these bills before the State of the Union address on January 21st -- leaving only two weeks to pass all 11 of the remaining bills. (12/11/02)

On October 16th, both the House and Senate passed -- and the president is expected to sign -- a long-term continuing resolution that will keep government agencies operating at FY 2002 levels through November 22nd. This resolution, the sixth since the fiscal year began on October 1st, paves the way for a post-election ("lame duck") session with the House expected back on November 11th, and the Senate not yet announced. That session will focus on passing appropriations bills and possibly a measure establishing the Department of Homeland Security. (10/17/02)

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)

Fiscal year (FY) 2003 has arrived without a single appropriations bill signed into law. Indeed, none of the 13 appropriations bills have even made it out of Congress. At last count, three bills were ready for House-Senate conference consideration but four others have not even been drafted by the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate has been debating the Interior and Related Agencies bill (H.R. 5093) for nearly a month, unable to break filibusters on an amendment addressing the western wildfires -- a cloture vote to end debate and put the amendment up for a vote has failed three times. In what has become the standard practice, Congress has passed its first two Continuing Resolutions (H.J. Res. 111 and H. J. Res. 112) that will fund federal programs at FY 2002 baseline levels through October 11th. The only significant movement on geoscience-related bills in September was the filing of the House Appropriations version of the Energy and Water bill (H.R. 5431) that changed little from the subcommittee version.

There has been some talk about Congress taking a slightly different approach to this year's budgetary end game. Instead of passing a series of continuing resolutions while working to pass the remaining few bills, Congress might pass a continuing resolution that would extend into January 2003 and allow the 108th Congress to finish the work, thus freeing members of the current 107th Congress to campaign for the November elections and avoid a lame-duck session afterwards. With such an approach, however, all bills not yet signed into law would have to start from scratch in January, meaning that the gains already made for geoscience programs in the U.S. Geological Survey and NSF could be lost. (10/4/02)

Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
On September 4th, the Senate began floor debate on the FY2003 Interior bill (H.R. 5093). On the first day of consideration, Senator Robert Bryd (D-WV) introduced an amendment that would provide funds to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service in order to reimburse accounts within these agencies for firefighting needs. The amendment (S. Amdt 4480) would provide a total of $825 million in emergency funding to these agencies. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) then added an amendment (S. Amdt 4481) that would provide drought relief to farmers affected by drought over the past two years -- the amendment did not include any specific dollar amount for drought aid. On September 10th, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced an amendment (S. Amdt 4518) that also deals with firefighting, more specifically at how to reduce available fuel for forest fires. One of the most contintious issues in the debate over these amendments is Craig's proposal that fuel reduction projects would not need to meet National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requirements. Senate consideration has been brought to a near stand-still as it debates these three amendments. A cloture vote, which would put an end to debate and require a vote on the amendment, has failed three times. A few other amendments have been considered and accepted by the body, inlcuding a technical amendment (S. Amdt 4474) that corrects an error in the bill regarding the total for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy. The Appropriations Committee had recommended a total of $640,965,000 but the bill text indicated a total for the program as $10 million more than recommended. S. Amdt 4474 corrected the bill text to read the correct amount for the Office of Fossil Energy. Also accepted was an amendment (S. Amdt 4573) introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to prohibit funds from the bill to be used by the Department of the Interior to forward open-pit gold mining claims in Imperial County, California. Boxer's amendment was approved via voice vote on the 18th. Additional information is available at the AGI Update on FY2003 Interior Appropriations. Information is also available from a July 19th Action Alert on the House and Senate action. (10/4/02)

Energy and Water Appropriations
On September 24th, the House Appropriations Committee filed its bill (H.R. 5431) and the accompanying report (H. Rept. 107-681) that provides details on the allocations. Now that the committee has completed action, the bill will be placed on the House calendar for floor debate. In general, the House bill does not differ greatly from the subcommittee version considered in July. The committee's press release states that H.R. 5431 would provide programs within the Energy and Water Appropriations bill with a healthy increase over both the budget request and last year's allocation -- an increase of $516 million and $857 million, respectively. Funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) would total $20.7 billion and would include $396 million for renewable energy programs and $7.5 billion for environmental management cleanup activities. Unlike the Senate bill that would deeply cut the civilian radioactive waste funding, the House version would provide $209.7 million for the non-defense allocation for activities at Yucca Mountain. In total, the Yucca Mountain project would receive $524.7 million, which is a slight decrease from the budget request. DOE Science would be funded at $3.27 billion, which is about $8 million less than the request and $38 million more than last year's allocation. Additional information is available on AGI's Energy and Water Appropriations Update. (10/3/02)

Agriculture Appropriations
Both the House and the Senate Appropriations committees have considered the FY2003 Agriculture appropriations bills (H.R. 5263; S. 2801). Despite completion of the committee process, neither bill was brought up for floor debate before Congress recessed for August. Discretionary spending in both the House and the Senate bills would exceed the president's $17.4 billion request. The House, according to the committee's press release, would provide the Agricultural Research Service, which oversees agriculture-related research in soil, atmospheric and water science, with $1.1 billion and conservation activities with $843.6 million. According to the Senate committee press release, S. 2801 would provide the Agriculture Research Service with a $340 million discretionary increase for "competitive research, Congressionally directed research, and research funding that goes out to the states on a formula basis." The Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) activities would be funded at $1 billion under the Senate version. More at AGI's Agriculture Appropriations update. (9/9/02)

Labor/HHS Appropriations
The Senate Appropriations Committee completed action on the not-yet-numbered Labor/HHS Appropriations bill on July 18th. The press release notes that the Senate proposal would triple the requested increase for the Department of Education. It states that the Teacher Quality State Grants would receive $3.1 billion, an increase of $250 million above last year's allocation. According to a National Science Teachers Association legislative update, the Senate bill would provide $25 million for the Math and Science Partnership program, which is authorized at $450 million. The program received $12.5 million in FY2002. The House has not yet announced when it will begin consideration of its version of the Labor/HHS bill. (7/19/02)

VA/HUD and Related Agencies Appropriations
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 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 NSF earth, ocean and atmospheric science programs." Funding for the Geoscience Directorate would total $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 Facilities Equipment and Construction (MREFC) account. Report language states that the committee recommends that the EarthScope initiative be funded at $20 million, but the funding is 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. More at AGI's VA/HUD and Related Agencies update. (7/29/02)

Commerce Appropriations
On July 18th, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the yet to be numbered Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations bill. According to the press release, the committee would provide a total of $43.5 billion for the bill, including $5.6 billion for the Department of Commerce. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be funded at $3.3 billion, an increase of $88.5 million above last year's allocation. Within NOAA, the National Ocean Service programs would receive a total of $506 million, the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research programs would receive $413 million, the National Weather Service programs would receive $749 million, and the Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service programs would receive $742 million. The Sea Grant College program that was proposed for transfer out of NOAA and into the NSF would remain within NOAA under the Senate bill, which would provide $63.4 million for the program. Action by the House Appropriations Committee and a Senate floor vote have not yet been scheduled. Additional information is available at AGI's Update on Commerce Appropriations. (7/19/02)

Supplemental Appropriations
Despite signing the bill, President Bush decided not to distribute the emergency spending. As a result, the programs will not receive any of the funds detailed below. While working through the fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations, Congress also has been working on a supplemental for FY2002. President Bush signed the Defense and Homeland Security Supplemental (HR. 4775) into law on August 2nd. The accompanying report (H. Rept. 107-593) included several items of interest to the geoscience community. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was provided with $7.2 million for a National Weather Service supercomputer. This computer will backup the lone supercomputer that currently runs the operational models that provide the foundation to all weather forecasts. NOAA was allotted $29.2 million for the National Ocean Service to address critical mapping and charting backlog requirements and an additional $2.8 million for the National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service to support the backup capability for critical satellite products and services. The US Geological Survey (USGS) was provided with $26 million for surveys, investigations, and research. Of this sum, $20 million is for high resolution mapping and imagery of the strategic cities within the US and $6 million is for the Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center (EDC) to initiate the conversion of all archived data on outdated types of media to disk-based storage. Money was not appropriated for an improved backup power supply system that the USGS had wanted to ensure uninterrupted delivery of satellite data. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was provided with $300 million for the fire grant program as authorized by the amended Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 as well as $23.2 million for disaster relief, long-term recovery, and mitigation in communities affected by presidentially declared natural disasters. The supplemental appropriation also included language to extend the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education program for one more year. (9/9/02)

302(b) Allocations
Late in June, the appropriations process for FY 2003 finally was underway in both the House and Senate. On June 24th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the amount each subcommittee has to spend. Known as 302(b) allocations, these amounts are derived from overall numbers established by the budget resolution passed in each house. The total House number is $748 billion. Allocations to key geoscience-related subcommittees include:

On June 28th, the full Senate Appropriations Committee set its overall allocation at $768 billion, $20 billion more than the House. The vote was unanimous as appropriators sought to send a message to the White House that the requested levels were not sufficient to fund necessary programs.Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels has threatened to recommend a veto if funding levels approved by Congress are significantly higher than the president asked for. The Senate subcommittee allocations include:


Now that President Bush has proposed his budget with the administration's priorities, it is up to Congress to prepare a budget for the nation.  Congress begins the budget process by preparing a budget resolution and holding hearings on the rationale behind the administration's proposal.  While the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees and authorization committees are holding oversight hearings, the Budget committees use March to formulate a budget resolution.  This year it looks as if there is going to be a rough road for the two chambers to agree upon a single Joint Budget Resolution; instead it looks as if each body will use the guidelines provided by its own budget resolution.  Once they decide to either work out their differences or to leave two separate budget resolutions, the Appropriations Subcommittees will be given their allocations (known as 302(b) after the section of the 1974 Omnibus Budget Act that created this process) with which they will fund the programs under the 13 separate appropriation bills.  Meanwhile, congressional committees will continue to hold hearings to gather information to determine an appropriate funding level for federal programs.  As in years past, AGI has provided testimony to several subcommittee on programs of importance to the geoscience community.

Several hearings have been held in the previous weeks.  Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water on March 6th regarding the budget of the Department of Energy.  The following day, Abraham testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies to discuss the budget request for the Office of Fossil Energy.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies has held hearing on the Smithsonian Institution and the Department of the Interior.  Additional hearings summaries will be available on the individual appropriations bill web sites.

As in years past, the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Project website has information on trends in federal research and development funding, including information on the president's request, congressional budget resolution, 302(b) allocations, and each science-related appropriations bill.  Also, the American Institute of Physics and the American Geophysical Union have released e-mail alerts on the FY2003 budget request.  A chart of requests and funding levels for geoscience-related agencies and programs is available from all the AGI budget summary pages.  Additional AGI analysis of the President's budget request and congressional action is available on specific appropriations bill webpages and these additional alerts, updates, and articles:

Budget Process
As it does each year, the appropriations process begins in February when the President submits his budget request to Congress.  After the President releases the budget request, the congressional Appropriations  and Budget Committees begin hearings on the budget.  These hearings allow members of the subcommittees to review in detail the President's proposal and generate language for the congressional budget resolution.  Each chamber will produce a budget resolution that the body puts to a floor vote.  Because the Senate and House versions of the budget are not the same, the two chambers will form a Joint Committee that will produce a Conference Report on the budget resolution.

After the budget resolution is approved by both chambers (it does not go to the President), the House and Senate Appropriations Committees apportion discretionary funds, known as 302(b) allocations, to each of its 13 subcommittees to draft appropriations bills. Once drafted, each bill must be passed by the subcommittee, Appropriations Committee, and appropriate chamber of Congress respectively. Once a bill has passed both houses of Congress, the House and Senate will conference to reach agreement on differences in their bills. The final version will be presented to the President for his signature or veto.

A March 1996 Geotimes Political Scene article summarizes the overall budget process and provides a flow-chart of the budget time-line.  Both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee have information on the budget process and federal spending.

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Physics, E&ENews Publications, House Committee on Appropriations, Library of Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program, and Summer 2002 AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Intern Sarah Riggen.

Posted April 4, 2002; Last Updated January 17, 2003

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