SPECIAL UPDATE: House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill, Senate Will Wait Until January
This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's
IN A NUTSHELL: The House of Representatives approved H.R.
2673, the Consolidated Appropriations bill for FY (Fiscal Year) 2004,
on December 8th by a vote of 242-176. However, the Senate has declined
to vote on the bill until January 20th, leaving the $328 billion bill
in limbo. This legislation provides funding for the bulk of the federal
departments and agencies, which are typically funded in seven different
appropriations bills. This special update reports on spending levels
for geoscience-related programs at the National Science Foundation,
NASA, NOAA, EPA and the Departments of Education and Agriculture.
In what has become a familiar refrain, Congress was unable to complete
its work on funding the government by the October 1st start of Fiscal
Year (FY) 2004. And in what has become an equally familiar refrain,
their inability to cooperatively settle outstanding issues on a bill-by-bill
basis has led Congress to combine seven remaining spending bills into
an "omnibus" appropriations bill. This consolidated bill
was passed by a House-Senate conference committee on November 25th.
There was enough controversy in the House to delay final passage until
after the Thanksgiving holiday, but they passed the bill on December
8th, 242-176, after a day of debate.
The Senate is a different story. There are a myriad of reasons why
the bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and funding set for
next year. Most Democrats, and some Republicans, are furious about
the number of projects and special grants for programs in individual
member's districts. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member
David Obey (D-WI) told The Washington Post that the bill contains:
"over 7,000 individual pieces of member pork," costing taxpayers
$7.5 billion. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has also been outspoken about
congressionally directed spending in the bill at the expense of funding
But despite this bluster, the only real disagreements about spending
levels were in the education and health care accounts. Otherwise,
the protracted wrangling is about legislative provisions, called "riders,"
that have been tacked on to the bill. These include the outsourcing
of federal work, overtime pay and TV station ownership.
Unable to muster the votes to cut off debate and call a vote, Senate
Majority Leader Frist opted to let Senators enjoy the holidays in
their home states and resume legislative business on January 20th.
In the interim, a Continuing Resolution (CR) will keep those departments
and agencies without funding approved for next year humming along
at FY 2003 levels until January 31st.
Information about departments, agencies and programs most important
to geoscientists are below. Note that the figures cited below reflect
lawmakers' intentions when they parceled out funding. Due to Congress'
tardiness in passing the FY04 appropriations bills, nearly one-third
of the new fiscal year has passed. The figures below are subject to
a 0.59% across-the-board cut -- a figure likely to increase as final
approval remains just beyond their grasp. Indeed some have suggested
that the conference committee may have to reconvene and "tweak"
the bill in a few places to garner enough Senate votes for passage
in January. The truly pessimistic are looking toward a CR that would
fund the remaining departments and agencies through September 30th,
the end of FY 2004.
To see how your Representative voted on H.R. 2673, click on http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2003&rollnumber=676
. Text of the bill and conference report is available at
National Science Foundation
The omnibus bill would provide NSF with a $5.6 billion budget in
FY 2004, an increase of $268 million, or 5%, over FY 2003. In an apparent
nod to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 that
sets a track for doubling the NSF budget in five years (an approximate
budgetary increase of just under 15% per year), the conferees noted
"very severe overall fiscal constraints" in their report
language. The new increase contrasts with the 10.4% increase approved
in the last budget cycle.
Under the conference agreement, Research and Related Activities will
receive a 5.6% boost, translating to increases between 3.1% and 7.5%
for each directorate. The report states: "The managers have given
their highest priority to funding basic research within the research
and related activities account. This account supports investigator-initiated
grants within each of the core disciplines as well as critical cross-cutting
research which brings together multiple disciplines. The conferees
urge the Foundation in allocating the scarce resources provided in
this bill and in preparing its fiscal 2005 budget request to be sensitive
to maintaining the proper balance between the goal of stimulating
interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust single
issue research in the core disciplines."
The Geosciences Directorate is slated to receive a 4.1% increase
to $719 million, in line with the House recommendation and a boost
over the flat funding proposed in the administration's request and
the Senate bill. The Office of Polar Programs will be funded at $345
million next year, 8.2% more than last year.
The conference agreement would allocate $155 million for Major Research
Equipment and Facilities construction--slightly more than the Senate
bill, but far less than the $192 million provided by the House. EarthScope,
the geophysical instrument array designed to investigate the structure
and dynamics of the North American continent, would receive $43.2
million for FY 2004, its second year of funding. This is slightly
less than the administration's request but nearly equal to the House
and Senate recommendations. The House bill included $12 million in
initial funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
but the Senate bill omitted all funding for this initiative. The conference
agreement follows the Senate recommendation and omits all funding
for NEON "without prejudice," which implies that the project
was not rejected due to merit concerns and may be funded in future
years. According to the conference report, "The conferees direct
NSF to consider the recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences
report and continue to refine the NEON plan from funds provided under
research and related activities." The House had also included
$25 million to initiate ship construction for the Integrated Ocean
Drilling Program (IODP) but due to the Senate's insistence on "no
new starts," funding for IODP was abandoned in conference.
The conference report would provide $139 million for the NSF Math
and Science Partnership program, which aims to strengthen K-12 math
and science education by linking local schools with colleges and universities.
Undergraduate education would receive $162 million, and graduate education
would receive $156 million, which is sufficient to set NSF graduate
stipends at $30,000 per year.
A table with NSF numbers and additional information on the NSF budget
can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_vahud.html
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The conferees provided NASA with $15.5 billion, $200 million more
than last year, to meet the president's request. That increase led
to additional funding for the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration
programs, which include the Office of Space Science and the Office
of Earth Science. The overall account will receive $7.93 billion next
year, a 6.6% increase over FY03 funding, but no specifics were given
for the individual offices. The amount provided by the conferees for
FY 2004 is meant to keep the program running, assist NASA in addressing
problems brought about by the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia
and to serve as a placeholder until President Bush unveils a new space
strategy early next year.
Report language of potential interest to graduate students and faculty
is: "The conferees are in agreement with the House direction
for NASA to evaluate the level of stipends for its Graduate Student
Research Program and the Earth System Science Fellowships as well
as the House direction for an evaluation on the merits of expanding
its use of graduate fellowships."
The report also encouraged NASA to speed up development of a next-generation
Landsat satellite given the technical difficulties currently faced
by Landsat 7: "The conferees are aware that technical problems
affecting the Landsat 7 satellite threaten the nation's ability to
continue providing land remote sensing data.... To ensure that the
U.S. Government does not experience a loss of remote land sensing
capabilities which would jeopardize the nation's domestic, foreign
policy and national security interests, the conferees instruct NASA
to immediately begin developing a successor to the Landsat 7 system...[and]
instruct NASA, working in conjunction with the United States Geological
Survey, to develop a successor system that may be implemented in the
near term based on the remaining options cited in the Land Remote
Sensing Policy Act."
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) commented:
"The bill also takes an appropriately measured approach with
NASA, providing some increased funding, emphasizing safety, recognizing
the need to fund the full range of NASA programs, and moving ahead
cautiously with new program requests." He went on to praise the
conferees saying, "like the Science Committee, the Appropriations
Committee is emphasizing the need to comply fully with the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board's recommendations."
Additional information on the NASA budget can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_vahud.html
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA will receive $8.4 billion next year, a $220 million increase
over the Senate's mark, a $390 million boost from the House's bill
and nearly $770 million beyond Bush's budget request. This increase
benefited programs across the board. The Science and Technology account
will be funded above either the House or Senate recommendations of
$767 million and $716 million, respectively. Instead, it will garner
$786 million, a 9.8% increase over last year. Environmental Programs
and Management will receive a $200 million increase over last year's
funding and $80 million more than the president requested. the Leaking
Underground Storage Trust Fund will receive $76 million, a $3 million
boost over FY 2003 levels and more than either the House or Senate
Hazardous Substances Superfund will receive a $5 million increase
over last year, despite the administration's request for a $130 million
boost. Looking for a way to trim costs of this program, the conferees
directed the "EPA IG [Inspector General] to conduct an evaluation
of Superfund expenditures at headquarters and the regions and recommend
options for increasing resources directed to extramural cleanup while
minimizing administrative costs. The conference agreement does not
include a provision, as proposed by the Senate, to require EPA to
allocate a specific percentage of its superfund budget to site remedy
construction and long-term response activities. However, the conferees
expect EPA to direct the maximum possible resources to these activities,
and look forward to reviewing the IG's recommendations for increasing
funding for these critical activities within available resources."
State and Tribal Assistance Grants were ramped up to $3.9 billion
for FY 2004, a 1.7% increase over last year. Even though there was
a slight increase, the Clean Water State Revolving Funds within that
account were cut by $150 million. But that was good news for an account
that the administration requested be cut by $500 million. Safe Drinking
Water State Revolving Funds will be flat-funded at $850 million and
the Brownfields program was cut by $74 million from last year's level,
bringing total funding for that program down to $93 million.
More on the EPA budget at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_vahud.html
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
In the report accompanying the bill, the Conference Committee detailed
final spending parameters for NOAA in the coming year. Programs and
projects that the House trimmed from NOAA's budget were restored,
and NOAA received $3.7 billion, a $400 million increase over the President's
request and $530 million more than last year. The National Weather
Service was granted a 5% increase to $730 million, slightly less than
the Administration's request, for better weather forecasting. The
National Ocean Service received a 16% increase over last year, which
is a 24% increase over the President's request and nearly 30% more
than the House had proposed. Despite the Senate's harsh words for
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the program also received an increase
to $401 million, $29 million more than last year and $75 million more
than the administration requested.
More on the NOAA budget at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_commerce.html
Department of Education
The omnibus bill would provide the Department of Education with a
$2.9 billion increase, bringing it to a total of $56 billion. With
more money to go around, the conferees agreed to the funding level
proposed by the House for the Math and Science Partnerships of $150
million for next year. The appropriators noted in their press release
that they would like to see that increase translate to additional
teachers trained in the fields of math and science.
More on the Department of Education budget at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_labor.html
Department of Agriculture
While the Conference Committee reduced
the total budget for the Department of Agriculture by 5.2%, cuts did
not extend to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or
the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). NRCS funding for FY 2004
will rise to $853 million, $33 million more than last year and $149
million more than the administration requested. Within the NRCS, the
Watershed Surveys and Planning account will receive $10.5 million,
splitting the difference between House and Senate recommendations
but vastly more than the $5 million requested by the President. In
an unexpected move, the Committee appropriated $119 million for the
Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm and Foreign Agricultural
Service and Rural Development mission areas for information technology,
systems, and services to acquire a Common Computing Environment. The
Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Account, on the other hand,
was cut by $22 million from last year. The $87 million it will receive
is still far more than the President's proposed $40 million. The ARS
will receive $1.09 billion, almost a 5% increase over last year's
funding despite the administration's request for a $48 million cut.
More on the Department of Agriculture budget at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_ag.html
Update prepared by Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program
Sources: House Appropriations Committee, House Science Committee,
Library of Congress THOMAS web site, Senate Appropriations Committee,
The Washington Post.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted December 11, 2003