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Government Affairs Program ACTION ALERT

Bush Administration Threatens Major Cut to USGS Budget

(Posted 2-17-01)

UPDATE (2-21-01): Many thanks to all who have been sending letters (and providing us with copies). We are building a good stack and demonstrating that the USGS has a vocal constituency. The full text of the Wall Street Journal article has been posted by CNIE at Keep those letters coming!

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

IN A NUTSHELL: The Wall Street Journal reports that the new administration is planning a 22-percent cut for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in its Fiscal Year 2002 budget request. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive a 1-percent increase. Both figures are in stark contrast to the bipartisan support shown for building these agencies in recent years. Not since the abolition threat of 1995 has the USGS faced such a large cut. There is still time to change the request, particularly if there is an outcry on behalf of the survey. Geoscientists are encouraged to contact the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Interior to express their concerns.


The Feb. 16 Wall Street Journal (page A12) carried the story "Bush, Seeking to Make Room for Tax Cuts, Tightens Budgets for Science Agencies." According to staff reporter David Rogers, "In trying to make room for his tax cut, President Bush is having to chop another Republican priority: increased government spending for science. Funds for the National Science Foundation will rise just 1% in fiscal 2002, which begins in October, one of its tightest budgets in years. The U.S. Geological Survey, which performs water and biological studies for federal policy makers, is fighting to stave off a threatened 22% cut from its $885 million appropriations for this fiscal year."

The broad outlines of the president's budget request will be released in the State of the Union address to Congress on February 27th, but the complete budget is not expected before the end of March. The White House plans to request a small overall increase in discretionary spending, those funds that Congress and the administration decide to spend each year through the appropriations process. Most of the increase will go to the Departments of Defense and Education and the National Institutes of Health, which the president has pledged to double in five years.

Independent sources have confirmed that OMB is calling for a sizeable cut to the USGS, affecting all four divisions: Geologic, Water Resources, National Mapping, and Biological Resources. Such a substantial cut would erase the progress that the agency has made in the past several years to rebuild after 1995 when the survey survived the threat of elimination but suffered significant reductions. The 1-percent increase for NSF would be below the rate of inflation and represent a decrease in the agencyís ability to fund research. It would almost certainly mean that new initiatives such as Earthscope would not be requested.

According to the Wall Street Journal, new House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) has raised his concerns about the proposed science budget to OMB Director Mitch Daniels. Boehlert is quoted as saying, "Any downturn in our science investment is cutting into our competitive edge and against our long-term interests." Congress will certainly have a chance for input once the president's budget request is released and the appropriations process begins. But any subsequent changes made by Congress are done relative to the original request and are subject to final negotiations with the White House. Although the low numbers -- particularly for NSF -- can be expected to increase during the course of the summer and fall, expanding support for science will be far easier if the initial request is robust.

The article points out that NSF "has powerful backers in the universities that receive its grants. But, the more than 10,000 employees at the U.S. Geological Survey donít have the same high profile, despite the agencyís increased role in recent years in managing natural resources." The onus is clearly on the geoscience community to convince the new administration of the value of the survey's activities. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), former chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, put it best: "Good science is essential," going on to describe USGS as the "premier science agency for the management of public lands."

Please write a brief letter to OMB chief Mitch Daniels and Interior Secretary Gale Norton explaining why the USGS should not be subjected to major cuts. Contact information and a sample letter are provided below as a template. Feel free to cite specific programs and to use examples of the value of investment in the geosciences. Fact sheets on USGS programs are available at Letters to OMB may also discuss the value of geoscience research supported by NSF and encourage greater investment in that agency.

Please fax or e-mail a copy of your letter to AGI at Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703-379-7563; email

For maximum impact, please send the letter by Wednesday, February 21st. Many thanks for taking the time to be an active citizen-scientist!

Letter to OMB and Interior on USGS

Mitchell Daniels, Director
Office of Management and Budget
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Room 252
17th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20503


The Honorable Gale Norton, Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Director Daniels:
Dear Secretary Norton:

I am writing to ask that you support a strong, balanced investment in science in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 budget request. Specifically, I urge you to support a robust budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Nationís premier geoscience organization.

The central mission of the USGS is to provide reliable, objective earth science data and analysis from a national perspective. The survey is widely recognized for providing unbiased data to better manage the nation's resources. In order to offset previous declines, the USGS received an increase in FY 2001, which began to address the need to improve the Nationís streamgaging network, modernize its seismic networks, and expand the data available from the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. Please support a strong budget request so that this agency can fulfill its important mission.

Federal investment in the geosciences generates new knowledge about our home planet, helping us to responsibly develop our nation's resources, better protect the environment, and reduce our vulnerability to natural hazards. This investment also helps to train the next generation of scientists and to provide all citizens with a better understanding of their world.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter. If you would like additional information on USGS programs and their value to our Nation, I would be happy to be of assistance.

Alert prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: The Wall Street Journal.

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

Posted February 17, 2001; Last updated February 21, 2001

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