SPECIAL UPDATE: Fiscal Year 2003 Appropriations Process Finally Over!

(Posted 3-3-03)

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

IN A NUTSHELL: The fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations process finally ended on February 20th, nearly five months after the fiscal year began, when the president signed an omnibus spending bill into law. Proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey are largely restored with the Survey receiving $919 million. At the National Science Foundation, the Geosciences Directorate receives $685 million, up 12.3% over FY 2002. In addition, the EarthScope initiative has been funded at just under $30 million. Within the Department of Energy, basic research funding is flat, while funding is up for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project to $457 million. Although Congress has restored proposed cuts to the natural gas research and development (R&D) program, providing $47 million (up 4%), the petroleum R&D account receives a 25% cut to $42 million. Funding for NOAA programs totals $3.1 billion, a 4% cut. At NASA, earth science funding is up 8.5% to $1.7 billion.


Almost halfway through fiscal year (FY) 2003, the federal government is no longer operating at last year's funding levels. On February 20th, President Bush signed a 3,000-page bill (H.J. Res. 2) combining the 11 remaining non-defense appropriations measures. Passed by both chambers of Congress a week earlier, the new law ends a process that began with the release of the president's budget request in February 2002. The massive bill totals $398 billion and puts the total FY 2003 discretionary spending level ($792 billion), including defense, well above the White House endorsed ceiling of $750 million. To aid in bringing the total closer to the spending cap, Congress agreed to a 0.65% across-the-board cut for most programs -- some social programs and the Space Shuttle program are exempt. This cut is applied to all the numbers shown in the actual bill, which is itself written largely in terms of two different versions previously passed by the House and Senate. Consequently, it has taken some time to untangle the actual amounts that programs will receive. Indeed, lawmakers are still learning what it was they voted for in the massive bill. The funding levels listed below for geoscience-related programs include the across-the-board cut. Additional information on the omnibus bill and accompanying report will be available online at www.agiweb.org/gap.

U.S. Geological Survey

The total funding for the USGS is $919 million, essentially flat from the FY 2002 allocation. On the bright side, this funding level is 6% more than president requested and restores funding to several water programs hard hit in the original FY 2003 request. Funding for geological programs will total $233 million. Water programs will receive a total of $207 million. The Ground Water Quality Assessment program will receive $13 million. The stream flow information program is marked for $14 million. The president’s recommendation to cut $4 million from the Toxic Substances Hydrology program and transfer the rest to the National Science Foundation was not accepted by Congress. Instead, Congress provided $13 million for the program. Mapping programs will receive a total of $133 million. Report language for the mapping programs focused primarily on Congress's support of The National Map initiative, especially as it relates to urban areas. Funding for the biological research activities totaled just under $170 million.

National Science Foundation

Funding for NSF will total $5.3 billion, a 10% increase that will help put the foundation on track to meet the goal of last year’s reauthorizing legislation (signed into law by President Bush) to double NSF’s funding over the next five years. With respect to that goal, report language accompanying the omnibus bill proposes a study by the National Academy of Public Administration to look at how the agency would handle a budget doubling. The study will review the organizational, programmatic, and personnel structure of the agency to "provide assurance to the public that the agency is positioned to maximize the opportunities which increased funding can create."

The omnibus bill provides $4.1 billion (up 12.7%) for the Research and Related Activities account that funds the disciplinary directorates. Within that total, the Geosciences Directorate will receive $685 million (up 12.3%) while polar research and support activities will get $320 million (up 7.5%). Within the separate Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account, Congress provided just under $30 million as the first installment for the new EarthScope initiative, marking the first time that the solid earth sciences have received funding through this account. In total, this account will receive $149 million (up 7%). Report language notes that funds have been provided for a study by the National Academy of Sciences "to develop a process for prioritizing projects" funded through the MREFC account. NSF's Math and Science Partnership program, a keystone to the president's "No Child Left Behind" Act that was signed into law last year, will receive $127 million.

Department of Energy

Total funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) comes to $20.7 billion. DOE's Office of Science is essentially flat funded at $3.3 billion, which includes $536 million for Biological and Environmental Research (down 5%) and $1.02 billion for Basic Energy Sciences of which $220 million will go towards the combined chemical sciences, geosciences, and energy biosciences program. Funding for developing Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the nation's permanent repository for nuclear waste totals $457 million, up from $375 million in FY 2002. The Energy Supply account will receive $697 million, including $30 million for geothermal energy programs and $5.2 million for hydropower activities.

DOE's Office of Fossil Energy research and development (R&D) account receives $621 million, which restores many of the deep cuts and proposed program eliminations in the president's FY 2003 budget request (cuts that are repeated in the FY 2004 request). R&D is up 8.2% over FY 2002 driven mainly by funding for coal programs, including $149 million for the president's Clean Coal Initiative, which is aimed primarily at downstream technologies for reducing power plant emissions. Carbon Sequestration research, for which a 67% increase was requested, will receive $40 million, up 24%. The biggest proposed cuts were for the natural gas and oil technology programs. Funding for Natural Gas R&D, which was slashed by 50% in the original request, receives $47 million, up 4%. Within that, the Natural Gas Exploration and Production account receives $23 million (up 13.5%), and gas hydrate research will receive $9 million (down 3.7%). The Petroleum/Oil Technology R&D account, also hard hit in the request, receives $42 million, a 25% cut. Within that total, Exploration and Production research is down 28% to $23 million. Also included in the Fossil Energy account is $0.5 million for a National Academy of Sciences study to review the office's programs.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) totals $3.1 billion, down nearly 4% from FY 2002. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research account receives $372 million (up 4%), including $165 million for climate change research and $62 million for the National Sea Grant program. Report language states that Congress does not support the transfer of Sea Grant to NSF as requested by the president. The National Weather Service receives $694 million (up 3%). Funding for the National Ocean Service account totals $415 million (flat), which includes $75 million for Coastal Zone Management activities.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) receives $15.3 billion in FY 2003, a 3% increase over FY 2002. The Office of Space Science, which includes unmanned missions to Mars and other planets, receives $3.5 billion, up 23% from FY 2002. The bulk of this increase is for development of next-generation propulsion systems. The Office of Earth Science receives $1.7 billion, an 8.5% increase.

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

Sources: Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, E&E News, House Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Geological Survey.

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

Posted March 3, 2003

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