SPECIAL UPDATE: Geoscience Cuts Largely
Restored by Interior Spending Bills
This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's
IN A NUTSHELL: Geoscience-related agencies covered by the
Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill took a beating in
the president's fiscal year (FY) 2004 budget request. But the House
and Senate Appropriations Committees have restored cuts to the U.S.
Geological Survey and partially restored deep cuts to the Department
of Energy's oil and gas research programs. Other geoscience funding
levels described in this update include the Bureau of Land Management,
Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution,
and U.S. Forest Service.
With Congress's August recess looming just around the corner, the
fiscal year (FY) 2004 appropriations process is now under a full head
of steam. Six of the 13 appropriations bills are through the House,
and two have passed the Senate. The Interior and Related Agencies
bill (H.R. 2691) made it through the House Appropriations Committee
on June 25th and is awaiting floor action. It passed the Senate Appropriations
Committee as S. 1391 on July 10th. Although Senate floor action is
possible before the August recess, September seems more likely with
a House-Senate conference to iron out differences getting underway
late that month in the waning weeks of the current fiscal year.
The Interior bill is one of the most important for the geosciences
because it funds not only several key geoscience-related bureaus of
the Department of the Interior -- the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau
of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, and National Park
Service -- but also the U.S. Forest Service (part of the Agriculture
Department), the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D programs,
and the Smithsonian Institution. This update provides a snapshot of
the explanatory reports that both the House and Senate committees
included with their versions of the Interior bill. Whereas appropriations
bills are themselves little more than a long string of numbers, the
accompanying reports contain specific directions and instructions
that agencies for agencies to follow. House Report 108-195 is available
on the web at
and Senate Report 108-89 is available at
US Geological Survey (USGS)
The House bill would provide USGS with $935.7 million, nearly 2%
above FY 2003 and 4.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill
provides $928.9 million, slightly less than the House but still above
the previous allocation and the president's request.
The House report expresses frustration with the administration's
repeated attempts to cut the USGS budget: "For the third year
in a row the [House Appropriations]Committee has restored a number
of high-priority research programs that were proposed for reduction
or elimination. The Department [of the Interior] has placed a high-priority
on both cooperative programs and programs that are outsourced to the
private sector. For the most part, the programs that are being proposed
for reduction or elimination in fiscal year 2004 are the very programs
that meet these criteria. More than any other Bureau in the Department,
the Survey has been a leader in the development of cooperative programs
and outsourcing its activities. The Committee believes that Bureaus
that are successful in implementing these policies should be rewarded
and not penalized."
USGS Geologic Programs -- Geologic programs would receive $231.4
million in the House bill, slightly below FY 2003 levels but 4.5%
above the president's request. The Senate bill would provide $236.9
million, up 1.5% over FY 2003 and up 7% over the request.
Advanced National Seismic System -- Both the House and Senate bills
restore a $1.9 million proposed cut to the Advanced National Seismic
System, and the Senate bill provides an additional $0.5 million "to
expand the earthquake program's capabilities."
Geologic Mapping -- The House bill restores all but $0.5 million
of the administration's proposed cut to the National Cooperative Geologic
Mapping Program and also provides $0.5 million for the Great Lakes
geologic mapping project. The Senate bill does not fund the latter
but restores the cut to the geologic mapping program and adds $0.5
million on top.
Mineral Resources -- One of the largest cuts proposed for USGS by
the administration was to the Mineral Resources program. Both the
House and Senate bills would restore funding for this program with
the House version putting back $9.1 million (and adding $1.3 million
for aggregate and industrial minerals studies) and the Senate restoring
the full $11.2 million cut. The House report states: "The Committee
strongly disagrees with the proposed reduction in the Survey's mineral
resources program. Minerals and mineral products are important to
the U.S. economy with processed minerals accounting for over $370
billion to the economy in 2002. Mineral commodities are essential
to both national security and infrastructure development. Mineral
resources research and assessments are a core responsibility of the
survey. Since the 1996 review by the National Academy, the Survey's
mineral program has refocused its efforts to address better the Nation's
need for more and better information regarding the regional, national,
and global availability of mineral resources. For these reasons the
Committee has restored the proposed cuts to this high-priority program."
Other increases above the president's request in the House bill would
go to global dust event impact studies and the national coastal program,
but the bill rejects the administration's request for $4 million directed
at Everglades research. The Senate report details quite a number of
earmarked increases over FY 2003 for volcano monitoring in Hawaii
and Alaska, a mineral inventory in Nevada, a Kansas well log inventory,
a coalbed methane study in Montana, a North Carolina erosion study,
completion of the Alaska Minerals at Risk program, South Carolina/Georgia
Coastal erosion, coastal monitoring studies and land subsidence studies
in Louisiana, and INSAR data acquisition. Cuts are directed at the
global dust program, a LIDAR consortium and an unspecified "Tampa
Bay pilot project."
USGS Water Resources Programs -- The House bill would fund the Survey's
water programs at $215.2 million, up nearly 4% above FY 2003 and up
7.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill is not quite as
generous, providing $209.5 million, still slightly above FY 2003 and
nearly 5% above the request. Both bills restore roughly $6 million
in funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes, which were
zeroed out in the president's budget, and restore cuts to the Toxic
Substances Hydrology program. And both the House and Senate reports
call for quite a number of site-specific studies.
USGS Mapping Programs -- The Survey's mapping programs would receive
$130.2 million from the House and $128.9 million from the Senate,
both levels are below FY 2003 levels (by 2% and 3% respectively) and
above the president's request (by 8% and 7%).
National Map -- The House report includes extensive language supporting
the Survey's National Map project, laying out its justification and
emphasizing the importance of partnerships. The House report notes
that funding is restored for "data collection activities through
partnerships and contracts with the private sector,
topographic mapping to expand and enhance initial National Map implementation
through partnerships," and geographic analysis and monitoring
related research, among others.
EROS Data Center -- The House report also emphasizes the importance
of the USGS EROS Data Center and supports USGS efforts to "convert
its archived remote sensing data from outdated storage media to disk-based
storage [in order to]
provide access to users more efficiently
and at lower cost." Noting the data center's designation as critical
infrastructure for homeland security, the report also supports "implementation
of a continuity of operations capability
utilizing `remote mirroring'
technology, which will eliminate a single point of failure for data
storage infrastructure and ensure full recovery with zero data loss
from any potential outage."
The Senate report notes the restoration of funding for data collection
and geographic analysis as well as taking exception to the administration's
proposed $6.6 million cut associated with government-wide information
technology savings, noting that this is an amount much greater than
proposed for agencies two to four times the Survey's size. The Senate
report also notes a $3 million cut for the AmericaView program and
a $1.4 million cut associated with closure of the Center for Integration
and Natural Disaster Information (CINDI) program and transfer of its
USGS Biology, Facilities, and Science Support Accounts -- The Survey's
biological programs would receive $173.3 million in the House bill
and $169.6 million in the Senate bill. The president requested $168.8
million, and these programs received $169.8 in FY 2003. The Survey's
Facilities account is slated for $93.9 million in the House bill and
$92.6 million in the Senate bill. It received $90.8 million in FY
2003, and the president requested $92.9 million. The Science Support
account is slated for $91.5 million in the House bill, the same as
requested, and $91.4 million in the Senate bill, up $6.2 million above
Overall, the House bill would provide $609.3 million for Fossil Energy
research and development, which is 2% below FY 2003 but 18% over the
president's request. The Senate bill recommends $593.5 million, down
5% from FY 2003 but up 15% from the request. The lion's share of Fossil
Energy funding goes to coal programs, particularly those focused on
clean coal technology. The House report notes the Appropriations Committee's
prior support for the administration's National Energy Policy but
chastises the administration for requesting "a few major initiatives
and program expansions at the expense of critical ongoing research."
The report goes on to note that the committee has restored many of
the proposed cuts "for research to improve fossil energy technologies.
It would be fiscally irresponsible to discontinue research in which
we have made major investments without bringing that research to a
The largest cuts to geoscience-related programs in the president's
budget request were directed at DOE's Natural Gas Technologies and
Oil Technology programs. The House report takes the administration
to task for requesting deep cuts to these programs: "Oil and
natural gas research is critical to improving current technology and
ensuring the best use of our domestic oil and gas reserves. These
research areas need more serious consideration in future budgets."
The Senate report expresses "regrets that the current budget
scenario prevented the restoration of many accounts vital to our Nation's
Natural Gas Technologies Programs -- The House bill includes $36.5
million for natural gas research, down 22% from FY 2003 but 35% higher
than the president's request. The Senate bill would provide $41.9
million for natural gas programs, down 11% from FY 2003 but up 58%
over the request. Both the House and Senate bills deny the administration's
request to transfer natural gas funding to hydrogen research. The
House report "rejects the premise that domestic natural gas production
and infrastructure research and development should be cut at a time
when natural gas demand is increasing and supplies are already insufficient
to meet demand. Similarly, it is an unwise policy decision to balance
a new initiative to turn natural gas into hydrogen (and potentially
adding more stress to natural gas markets) by cutting the programs
necessary to stabilize natural gas supplies."
Oil Technology Programs -- The House bill provides $32.2 million,
down 23% from FY 2003 (and down 39% from FY 2002) but a whopping 215%
higher than the president's request. The Senate bill recommends $34.5
million, down 18% from FY 2003 but up an even more whopping 230% from
Carbon Sequestration -- Within the coal accounts, carbon sequestration
research would receive $40.8 million, nearly the same as FY 2003 but
52% below the president's request. The Senate bill allocates $39.8
million. Both the House and Senate reports argued that the president's
proposed National Climate Change Technology Initiative, which was
to receive the bulk of the increase, needs to be more clearly defined.
The House report suggested that it should be funded within the Energy
and Water appropriations bill. The Senate bill states: "The Committee
understands the need for additional Sequestration R&D
does not believe it is a wise policy decision to eliminate basic research
and development in well-established and successful coal, oil and gas
programs in order to shift funds to unexplained initiatives."
Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center -- Both the House and Senate
bills restore funding for this center, located on the national petroleum
reserve at the infamous Teapot Dome site in Wyoming. The president's
request proposed to eliminate the center.
National Academies Study -- The House report directs that $0.5 million
go to the National Academy of Sciences to provide an annual review
of Fossil Energy R&D programs "to measure the relative benefits
expected to be achieved and to inform decision making on what programs
should be continued, expanded, scaled back, or eliminated." In
2001, the Academy produced a report entitled "Energy Research
at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research
1978 to 2000," which can be read online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10165.html
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The House bill would provide $109.7 million for BLM's Energy and
Minerals program, slightly above FY 2003 levels and the president's
request. According to the House report, the additional funds are intended
"to address the significant coalbed methane permit backlog."
The Senate report identifies increases for processing applications
for permits to drill and increased inspection and monitoring activities
along with decreases for EPCA activities and information technology.
Minerals Management Service (MMS)
The House bill provides MMS with $264.4 million, virtually unchanged
from either FY 2003 or the president's request. The Senate bill provides
an additional $1.8 million for the Outer Continental Shelf resource
evaluation program "to support exploration and sustainable development
of seabed minerals," earmarking the funds for two centers in
Mississippi and Alaska.
National Park Service (NPS)
In both the House and Senate bills, the National Park Service is
slated to receive $1.64 billion, up $73 million from what the agency
received in FY 2003 and essentially the same as the president's request
for FY 2004. The Geologic Resources Division is funded within the
NPS Resource Stewardship account, which is slated for $340.4 million
in the House bill and $342.5 million in the Senate bill, both slightly
above FY 2003 and the request. The House report calls for an increase
of $7.9 million for inventory and monitoring activities while the
Senate report provides a $5 million boost for those activities. Both
reports identify a $0.6 million increase for water quality monitoring.
The House bill would fund the Smithsonian at $489.7 million, a 10%
increase over the FY 2003 allocation and 3% above the president's
request. The Senate would provide slightly less ($488.0 million).
The Senate report notes that $1.1 million is provided "to expand
the Latino grants program and reinstate the science fellowships program.
U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
In both the House and Senate bills, the USFS Minerals and Geology
Management program would receive $54.1 million, up 3% from FY 2003
and the same as requested.
The Senate bill restores funding for the trust overseeing the Valles
Caldera site in New Mexico, which the administration proposed to cut
by two-thirds. The site, an immense collapsed volcano in northern
New Mexico, was purchased by the federal government several years
ago to preserve and study its unique geological and ecological characteristics.
Special update prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs
Sources: House and Senate Appropriations Committee Reports.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted July 17, 2003