THE PRESIDENTíS BUDGET DECREASES TARGET SCIENCE PROGRAMS (6/01)

The following column by GAP Senior Advisor John Dragonetti is reprinted from the June 2001 issue of The Professional Geologist, a publication of the American Institute of Professional Geologists . It is reprinted with permission.

The Presidentís proposed budget for the 2002 Fiscal Year clearly reflects his campaign promises to significantly reduce taxes and increase funding for defense, education, and biomedical research. In his February address to Congress, the President voiced his concern that government spending in the 2001 Fiscal Year was up 8% -- greater than the rate of inflation or economic growth. By contrast, his budget limits the increase to 4%, virtually all of it going to the Department of Defense, the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health. That means all other federal programs would face level or decreased budgets in the president's request.

The proposed reductions would fall within the one-third of the federal budget, known as discretionary spending, that is subject to annual appropriations decisions by Congress and the President. This is also the part of the budget that funds almost all federal research and development. Of concern to our community are the recommended reductions to federal agencies involved in geoscience activities, in particular the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The Department of the Interior
The Fiscal Year 2002 budget for the USGS, $813.4 million, matches the Survey's funding for the 2000 Fiscal Year, but it is nearly $70 million below the amount provided for 2001. Almost half of the proposed reduction involves two water quality programs: the National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) and the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. The former is slated for a $20 million cut while the latter is slated for elimination. Both were designed to furnish critical data and information to federal and state regulatory agencies. For these and other external customers, the budget suggests collaborative partnerships within which the receiving agency would compensate the USGS for any provided services. Substantial decreases are also proposed for geologic mapping, international mineral information, biological research, the water resources research institutes, and streamgaging activities.

Of particular concern is the proposed reduction for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. This action sharply conflicts with the suggested funding levels set by the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1999. This program represents the very successful partnership between the USGS, state geological surveys and universities to provide the nation with necessary information to address natural hazard mitigation, environmental remediation, land-use planning, and resource development.

Elsewhere in Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and Office of Surface Mining would be funded at lower levels while the Bureau of Reclamation would remain at the 2001 fiscal year level. The Minerals Management Service would receive a slight boost to handle an expected increase in offshore oil and gas leasing. Only the National Park Service would receive a significant increase in funding, primarily for much-needed repairs to its facilities. Geoscience programs within the Park Service were level funded, as was the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is utilized for land acquisition.

Other Agencies
Department of Energy programs received some significant increases and some sharp decreases. Completion of the Yucca Mountain site recommendation, final environmental impact statement, and initiation of the license application process are all part of the president's request for the high-level nuclear waste disposal program, which would be increased 14% to $445 million. This action anticipates recommendation of the site for presidential decision in 2002.

Fossil Energy Research and Development at DOE would be cut 17% to $449 million. Within that total, the president proposes a $150 million Clean Coal Power Initiative to explore the barriers and technologies required to make current and future coal-fired generators cleaner and more efficient. The initiative is offset by cuts in existing coal programs. The Sequestration Research and Development program, which addresses greenhouse gas emission mitigation, would increase by over 10%. The president's budget calls for reductions of over 50% to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Research and Development programs. Cooperative Research and Development activities received no funding.

The Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both would experience small overall reductions. The National Science Foundation's Geoscience Directorate is slated for a small cut, and no funding is provided for EarthScope. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive a 2% increase, but there would be a $200 million decrease in the earth science programs. The Department of Transportation would gain 7%, because their funding is based on transportation trust funds and does not rely on discretionary funding.

The request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is down 6% to $7.3 billion. Funding for clean air programs would drop 4%, clean and safe drinking water programs would decrease 12.6%, and waste management programs are flat funded with a 5% increase for the brownfields program. Science programs at EPA are down 8%.

Congress
Within the coming months, Congress will act on the 2002 budget to determine its fiscal priorities. In late March, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution generally in accordance with the Presidentís proposals for tax cuts and discretionary spending. In contrast, the Senate reduced the size of the president's tax cut from $1.6 trillion to $1.2 trillion over 10 years, arguing that the $0.4 trillion difference from the Presidentís proposal was needed for general science and other areas. It is anticipated that the Appropriations Committees in both houses would like to increase discretionary spending and will develop spending bills to reflect that desire. Leading congressional Democrats have announced their intention to increase spending in a number of areas. The congressional increases combined with the Administrationís commitment to stand firm on the level of the proposed tax cut could provide an interesting battle when final budget negotiations take place between the White House and Capitol Hill this fall. Also in the equation is the forecasted economic slowdown, which would certainly affect the outcome.

Now that the budget is in Congress, it is the appropriate time for individuals within the geoscience community to communicate with their elected representatives to stress the importance of maintaining investment in science.
 

This column is a bimonthly feature written by John J. Dragonetti, CPG-02779, who is Senior Advisor to the American Geological Instituteís Government Affairs Program. Additional information on the president's budget request and congressional action on funding for geoscience-related programs can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap.


This article is reprinted with permission from The Professional Geologist, published by the American Institute of Professional Geologists. AGI gratefully acknowledges that permission.

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

Contributed by John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs.

Posted May 13, 2002


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