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FY2007 NASA Appropriations (3-20-06)

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 to conduct space and aeronautical research, development, and flight activities for peaceful purposes designed to maintain United States preeminence in aeronautics and space. NASA's unique mission of exploration, discovery, and innovation is intended to preserve the United States' role as both a leader in world aviation and as the pre-eminent space-faring nation. It is NASA's mission to: advance human exploration, use and development of space; advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the Solar System and the Universe; and research, develop, verify and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies. The geoscience community is most interested in the Earth science observations conducted within the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration Division at NASA.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 NASA Appropriations Process

Account

FY06 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)
NASA (total)
16,623.0
16,792.3
16,709.0 
16,757.2 
16,247
Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration
9,721.3
10,524.4
10,482 
10,488.8
10,075
-- Science Mission Directorate
5,253.7
5,330.0
5,404.8
not specified
5,251 
---- Solar System Exploration
1,582.3
1,610.2
not specified 
not specified 
1,582
---- The Universe
1,507.9
1,509.2
not specified
not specified 
1,506
---- The Earth-Sun System
2,163.5
2,210.6
not specified
not specified 
2,163

* Numbers are approximate and may change.

President's Request

The administration is requesting a total of $16.6 billion for NASA's fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget, an overall increase of 3.2% from FY2006. In keeping with the President's "Vision for Space Exploration," the biggest boost goes to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, which will receive an increase of $928 million in order to develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle by 2014. In NASA's budget document they state "NASA is confident this budget provides sufficient funds to support the operational availability of these systems by no later than 2014. However, it is NASA’s goal to have these critical vehicles available to the Nation as soon as possible after the Space Shuttle completes it mission to assemble the International Space Station in 2010. This budget also supports industry initiatives to supply commercial services to low Earth orbit." The $928 million increase is compensated by a large decrease in Space Shuttle funding (about $720 million would be cut from FY 2006 appropriations) as well as cuts in aeronautics research and education programs.

The request for the Science Mission Directorate shows a slight increase to $5.33 billion, up 1.5% from the FY2006 enacted level. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin noted that "NASA's budget for space and Earth science has seen significant budget increases for over a decade, far surpassing any growth in NASA's top-line budgets during those years. For FY 2007-2011, we cannot afford such growth for science within the context of a top-line budget that is growing at essentially the rate of inflation. Thus, NASA's science budget will grow by 1.5 percent in FY 2007 and 1 percent thereafter between 2008 and 2011."

Of the $5.33 billion requested for the Science Mission Directorate, $2.2 billion is devoted to the Earth-Sun System, which houses the agency's Earth science programs. The biggest change is a $137.8 million (84%) increase to the Earth Systematic Missions program. This increase reflects in large part the Landsat Data Continuity Mission's transition from formulation to development beginning in March 2007, which is accompanied by a $71 million funding increase. The goal of this mission is for NASA to develop an independent spacecraft to collect the required land surface data and deliver its data to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). An additional increase of $38.4 million is requested for the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project due to a two-year delay in its launch date from October 2006 to April 2008. Launch dates have also been delayed for the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (from April 2008 to June 2008) and the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (from June 2010 to December 2012).

The largest cuts in the Earth-Sun System budget request are in the Applied Sciences and Explorer programs. Although the Explorer budget is nearly halved by a $56.5 million (43%) cut, most of the decrease reflects a transition from development to operations for the Aeronomy of Ice in Mesophere (AIM) and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) missions. The remainder of the Explorer request would provide $40.2 million for the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, a new program that will map the boundary of the solar system.

Funding requests for other programs within the Earth-Sun System show relatively minor changes from FY2006. Living with a Star, which studies the effects of the Sun's variation on the Earth, would lose $12.9 million (5%). Earth-Sun research, focused on climate prediction, weather, and natural hazards, would decrease by $3.7 million (0.4%). The Earth System Science Pathfinder program would gain $19.6 million (14%). The increased funding would provide mission operations funds for CloudSat and CALIPSO (both launching in 2006 after a one-year delay) as well as development funding for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Aquarius. Finally, the request includes a small increase of $0.6 million (2.6%) for education and outreach with the Earth-Sun System program.

NASA budget documents are available online.

House Action

On June 29, the House completed its work on the fiscal year 2007 spending bill for the Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies (H.R. 5672), which includes funding for NASA. The House would provide $16.7 billion for the agency, about $83 million less than the President's request. The Science, Aeronautics and Exploration program would receive $10.5 billion, about $42 million less than requested.

The Science Directorate would receive $5.4 billion, about $75 million more than requested. The House indicated that the additional funds would be distributed to research ($50 million), Europa mission ($15 million), and Terrestrial Planet Finder ($10 million). The House did not specify how much each theme within the Science Directorate should receive, however, they requested that any abrupt termination of funding be eliminated. The House report states:

"The Committee expects that the increase provided for research and analysis will be allocated in an equitable fashion among all themes of the Science Mission Directorate: Solar System Exploration, the Universe, and the Earth-Sun System. The Committee is concerned about the damage to our nation's research institutions that can result from the abrupt and unexpected termination of peer-reviewed scientific research grants. The Committee expects that NASA will avoid such actions in the future, to the extent possible. When negotiating terms of university research grants, NASA should include close-out provisions that retain adequate flexibility for the agency, while at the same time providing sufficient mechanisms for minimizing adverse impacts on university educational and research programs."

The House also expressed concern about the available supplies of plutonium-238 needed for power sources for missions such as Europa. They requested an update from NASA on how they are handling this problem and the report language states:

"A critical factor that will affect the future missions NASA can initiate is the availability of power sources for probes that cannot rely on solar energy because they are traveling too far from, or too close to, the Sun. An Europa mission and the Solar Probe are examples. Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) are required for these spacecraft. For the past several years, Russia has been supplying the plutonium-238 (Pu-238) needed for U.S. RPSs because U.S. supplies are depleted. Now, Russia's own supplies are running dry. In addition, NASA has curtailed a major part of its technology development for advanced RPS devices. Therefore, NASA, in consultation with the Department of Energy and other appropriate agencies, shall submit a report to the Committee no later than August 31, 2007 on these issues. The report shall address the status of U.S. development of advanced RPS devices; a detailed explanation of what steps are being taken to ensure an adequate supply of plutonium-238 for spacecraft missions; and an indication of how many RPSs, of what design and capabilities, will be available for use, and when, to permit effective planning for future missions."

The House Appropriations subcommitte for Science, State, Justice and Commerce is chaired by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA); other members include Reps. Taylor (R-NC), Kirk (R-IL), Weldon (R-FL), Goode (R-VA), DeLay (R-TX), Culberson (R-TX), Alexander (R-LA), Mollohan (D-WV), Serrano (D-NY), Cramer (D-AL), Kennedy (D-RI) and Fattah (D-PA).

Senate Action

The Senate did not complete action on the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007 before the 109th Congress adjourned on December 15, 2006. Instead Congress passed four continuing resolutions to keep the agencies affected by this bill running on either fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved funding levels, whichever was the lower amount of the two. See the continuing resolution action below for more details on how the fiscal year 2007 budget was eventually finished by the 110th Congress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee did complete its work and placed its appropriations report (Rpt. 109-280) on the Senate legislative calendar on July 13, 2006. Based on this report, NASA would receive $16.757 billion.

The United States Senate will be considering funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), other members include Senators Gregg (R-NH), Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Bond (R-MO), Mikulski (D-MD) (Ranking Member), Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Murray (D-WA), Harkin (D-IA), and Dorgan (D-ND).

Continuing Resolution Action

The 110th Congress Finishes the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The Senate passed a year-long continuing resolution for the 9 unfinished appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 (H.J. Res. 20) on February 14, 2007 without any significant changes to the House version of this continuing resolution (see below). The President signed the bill into law (Public Law 110-5) on February 15, 2007. All federal agencies, except the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, will have their budgets defined by this continuing resolution through September 30, 2007. Departments with potential unstipulated funds have 30 days to inform Congress how they will distribute these funds.

House Passes Fourth Continuing Resolution with Some Increases for Science and Education

Even though the President released his fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th, Congress still has to finish work on the budget for fiscal year 2007. The nascent 110th Congress decided in January to consider passing another continuing resolution for the full year rather than try to pass 9 separate appropriation bills leftover from the 109th Congress.

On January 30, 2007, the House passed a new continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 20) that would fund most of the government at the lowest of two possible levels either the fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved levels. The resolution worked out jointly by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV) added some adjustments that would increase funding for some research and education. The resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks and hopes to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process is put in place.

The adjustments would include a proposed 6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for the National Science Foundation, so the agency would receive an increase of $335 million for a total budget of $5,916.2 million and $4,665.95 million would be allocated for Research and Related Activities, a 7.7 percent increase for that account. The Office of Science in the Department of Energy would receive a 5.6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for a total budget of $3,796.4 million. The Office would see a $200 million increase plus $130 million of previously earmarked funds that can be re-allocated for other purposes. Also within the Department of Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources program would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million to accelerate research and development activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

No adjustments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were included in the joint resolution, so NOAA and NASA would have flat budgets. However, some funds for research and development would be available because earmarks would be eliminated. In addition, the resolution specifies funding levels for NASA's science mission as follows: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $10 billion, of which $5.2 billion would be for science, $890 million would be for aeronautics research and $3.4 billion would be for exploration systems.

The U. S. Geological Survey would receive $977.6 million, which includes a restoration of the President's requested cut to the Mineral Resources Program (about a $22 million increase) and a small increase over the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Smithsonian Institution would receive $533 million, a decrease compared to a budget of $618 million for fiscal year 2006. Congress did specify, however, that the Smithsonian would not be required to fund a specific grant for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers or the reopening of the Patent Office Building. This may free up some funds for research, infrastructure and fixed costs.

The resolution also would include increases for Pell Grants for undergraduate education, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in every state, for parks and other lands to cover budget shortfalls and for the Forest Service/Wildland fire management account to meet shortfalls caused by the intense 2006 wildfire season.

The legislation now must be considered by the Senate and then if necessary voted on again by both chambers. If the legislation passes, it would then need to be signed by the President. The current continuing resolution expires on February 15th, so Congress does not have much time left. If Congress is unable to pass this legislation or some amended resolution, the government will shut down the day after Valentine's Day.

More information about the federal research and development budget for fiscal year 2007 is available at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

New 110th Congress Considers Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The 110th Congress, which started their first session on January 4, 2007, has indicated that they plan to extend the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the 109th Congress for the full year, rather than trying to work out a new budget for the 9 unfinished bills. This means that the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have started FY 2007 without the potential budget increases proposed by the President and the previous Congress. The 109th Congress had supported the President's American Competitiveness Initiative by increasing funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by 15 percent, the National Science Foundation by almost 8 percent and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories by 21 percent in appropriations work.

These proposed increases will be lost if the CR is extended for a full year. The 110th Congress has indicated that it might consider "limited adjustments" to some appropriations when they bring forward a new CR that will be extended until September 30, 2007. Adjustments might include bringing all programs to at least their FY 2006 funding levels to avoid some of the steep cuts proposed by the House or Senate or providing specific funding increases for some specific programs.

If the CR is extended for a full year without any adjustments, here is how federal agencies that support Earth science research and development would be affected. The National Science Foundation would see a reduction in funding of about $439 million and this reduction would translate into a loss of about 800 new research grants for FY 2007. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be funded at the House-proposed level of $3.4 billion, which is $288 million below the President's request, almost $1 billion below the Senate-proposed level and more than $500 million below the FY 2006 budget. Such a significant reduction for NOAA would impede progress for core programs, such as the National Weather Service functions and stifle the development of new programs, such as the National Water Quality Monitoring Network, a national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the implementation of the recently updated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive almost the same funding as they received in FY 2006 with no significant increases or decreases to research and development funding.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a useful summary of the affect of the CR on the FY 2007 budget for research and development (R&D) that is available online. The AAAS analysis concludes that the federal investment in basic and applied research funding will decrease for the third straight year, that the federal investment for development is increasing, and that the increases for research and development will go primarily to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense research and development budget for FY 2007 is a record-breaking $76.8 billion, thanks to a 4.8 percent increase (about $3.5 billion). The Department of Homeland Security research and development funding will be slashed by 22 percent, giving them a FY 2007 budget of about $1.0 billion.

Please see the American Association for the Advancement of Science, R&D Budget and Policy Program for more details on the federal budget for R&D.

Third Continuing Resolution: December 8, 2006 to February 15, 2007

The 109th Congress returned from the mid-term election recess and was unable to complete any of the unfinished appropriation bills. Only the appropriations for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security were finished in September and only these large departments started fiscal year 2007 on October 1, 2006 with new budgets. Before turning out the lights, Congress did pass another continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 102) through February 15, 2007. The continuing resolution (CR) means that all of the other federal agencies will be funded at the lowest funding level of three options, the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House approved FY 2007 budget or the Senate committee approved FY 2007 budget.

One quirk of the current CR is that congressionally-designated FY 2007 funding for specific projects (earmarks) are not specified, allowing the funds designated for these earmarks to be used for other projects. This gives federal agencies with earmarks some flexibility in transferring funds to alleviate shortfalls in core programs.

H.J. Res. 102 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

Second Continuing Resolution: November 17, 2006 to December 8, 2006

The 109th Congress was unable to reach any agreements or compromises on the 9 unfinished appropriations bills and passed a second continuing resolution to keep the government funded at some level before adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday.

H.J. Res.100 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

First Continuing Resolution: October 1, 2006 to November 17, 2006

The 109th Congress adjourned on September 29th with lots of work left to complete when they return after the mid-term elections for at least one lame duck session from November 13-17. The biggest task to complete is the fiscal year 2007 budget for much of the federal government. Congress is likely to try to combine many separate bills into one large appropriation bill called an omnibus and if this happens, then policymakers are also likely to try to balance budget priorities for such an omnibus by applying a small rescission (probably about 1%) across all programs. It is also possible that Congress will not be able complete their budget work in November and may return for an additional lame duck session in December.

Congress passed only two of 12 fiscal year 2007 appropriation bills - one for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one for the Department of Defense. The DHS appropriations bill contains a continuing resolution for the other appropriation bills that have not been completed. The resolution extends to November 17 and maintains the funding of all government agencies, except DHS and DOD, at the lower value of three possible levels: the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House-approved funding or the Senate committee approved funding. The House completed work on all 11 of their appropriation bills, however, the 12 Senate bills have not been considered by the full chamber and thus remain with their respective committees.

Appropriations Hearings

  • March 2, 2006: House Science Committee Hearing on "NASA's Science Mission Directorate: Impacts of the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Proposal"

House Science Committee
Hearing on "NASA's Science Mission Directorate: Impacts of the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Proposal"

March 2, 2006

Witnesses:
Dr. Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
Dr. Fran Bagenal, Decadal Survey for Sun-Earth Connections and Professor, University of Colorado
Dr. Wesley Huntress, Jr., Decadal Survey for Solar System Exploration and Director, Carnegie Institute of Washington Geophysical Laboratory
Dr. Berrien Moore III, Co-Chairman, Decadal Survey for Earth Sciences and Professor, University of New Hampshire
Dr. Joseph H. Taylor, Jr. NL., Co-Chairman, Decadal Survey for Astrophysics and Professor, Princeton University

The House Science Committee held a hearing on March 2, 2006 to discuss the administration's funding request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate. Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) opened the hearing by calling funding for the directorate "the most controversial and problematic aspect of NASA's proposed fiscal 2007 budget." Committee leadership from both parties emphasized the importance of NASA's science programs, with Boehlert calling science "the most successful aspect of NASA, one that … helps make the U.S. a world leader." Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) added that "NASA's science programs have amply demonstrated the wisdom of the nation's investment in them" and that the administration's proposed cuts "run directly counter to the spirit and intent of the President's own American Competitiveness Initiative."

Dr. Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate began her testimony with details of the agency's fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request. The $5.33 billion science budget, which includes $1.53 billion for Earth science programs, is an increase of 1.5 percent over the FY 2006 allocation. Cleave also touched on one of the most controversial aspects of the request: cuts to the directorate's research and analysis (R&A) funds. "The 15 percent reduction in R&A funding is directly related to… our desire to maintain a balance in the science and engineering workforces and an adequate number of missions to support them," Cleave stated. She added that the agency is willing to "work with the community to solicit their input on these programmatic issues."

The remaining witnesses represented the four decadal surveys conducted by the National Academies to determine the scientific priorities in NASA-funded fields. All four witnesses agreed that cutting R&A funding is a mistake. Dr. Joseph Taylor, Co-chair of the Decadal Survey for Astrophysics expressed disappointment that the request terminates funding for the nearly-completed Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), defers indefinitely the high-priority "Beyond Einstein" program, and drastically cuts funding to small, low-cost Explorer Missions. Taylor also noted that the cuts will primarily affect younger researchers, post-doctoral scholars, and graduate students, increasing the likelihood that young scientists will leave the field. "I believe that the field of astronomy can sustain itself through lean budgetary times if there is opportunity on the horizon, but this budget proposal… does not provide the positive view of the future that will keep members of the community engaged and attract bright young people to the field," Taylor said.

Dr. Fran Bagenal, a member of the Decadal Survey for Sun-Earth Connections echoed Taylor's concerns. She noted that it "doesn't make sense" to cut NASA's "smallest and most productive" missions. In particular, she voiced concerns that delays in the Explorer program will lead to a gap of at least 6 years without any launches. In the past, Explorer's launch rate was roughly one mission per year.

Dr. Wesley Huntress, a member of the Decadal Survey for Solar System Exploration, stated that cuts in the FY 2007 budget would defer the Europa Orbiter mission, a flagship mission that has the highest science priority in this decade. He also noted significant delays and cancellations in the Mars program. Huntress expressed disappointment that the "solar system exploration enterprise has been mortgaged" in order to fund human exploration. "Instead of drawing on the strengths of both [robots and humans], this budget pits one versus the other and undermines the Vision [for Space Exploration] rather than promoting it," Huntress said.

The final witness to testify was Dr. Berrien Moore, Co-chair of the Decadal Survey for Earth Sciences that will be released later this year. Moore emphasized the effects the budget reductions will have on the scientific community. "I am equally concerned about the impact of program delays on the morale of scientists within and outside of NASA and the health of the specialized workforce that is necessary to maintain core competencies," he said. "The prior deterioration of the NASA Earth Science program… has already had an adverse impact on our ability to attract scientists or engineers. This situation will only grow worse unless there are significant improvements to the FY '07 budget proposal."

Boehlert's questions for the panel focused on determining the appropriate balance of funds within the budget proposal. He asked the witnesses if, given the current proposed funding level, they would be willing to delay or scale-back their flagships missions in order to provide additional funds for R&A accounts and smaller missions. Taylor, Bagenal, and Huntress all responded that they would do so as long as the scientific community agreed. Moore called cuts to Earth science R&A "disastrous" but also noted that the flagship mission for the Earth sciences, the Global Precipitation Measurement, has already been delayed by two and a half years. He expressed the need to find another way to fund R&A activities, possibly by reassessing funding for the Landsat mission.

Representatives Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Al Green (D-TX) voiced concerns about the decision to eliminate SOFIA. Hall quoted SOFIA as being 90 percent complete and over-budget by $200-$300 million, which he compared to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). JWST is funded in the FY 2007 budget despite being over-budget by roughly $1 billion while still in the formulation phase. Cleave explained that SOFIA is not necessarily being eliminated. Rather, the project is being reviewed in order to determine whether it will result in adequate science return. Taylor emphasized that SOFIA is still a science priority within the astrophysics community.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked witnesses whether funding NASA's science program is as important as funding the energy research necessary for the U.S. to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Bagenal noted that NASA technology has led to a number of energy spin-offs, particularly in terms of increased energy efficiency. Moore added that NASA scientists are more concerned with the allocation of funds within NASA, and in particular the diversion of money from NASA's science programs to the shuttle. Rohrabacher also questioned whether NASA's efforts to catalog near-Earth asteroids receive adequate funding in the budget proposal. Cleave stated that this is an ongoing program that is funded in the science and exploration directorates.

Boehlert asked each scientist to comment on the most significant science question that the scientific community won't be able to answer in a timely fashion if the FY 2007 budget request is implemented. Huntress responded that the budget would hinder progress in the planetary science community on determining whether "we're alone." In the field of astrophysics, Taylor described delays in the detection of gravitational waves and the exploration of "dark energy" in the universe. Bagenal noted that delays to Explorer will cause NASA to "continue losing innovative methods" used to study heliophysics. Moore described a more general trend, reiterating that NASA is "at a tipping point," and that if the science budget continues to decrease, undergraduate and graduate students are going to stop choosing careers in Earth and space sciences.

Gordon ended the hearing by calling it "the most depressing hearing I have sat through." He added that the committee is "going to have difficulty putting NASA back together."

To access the witness testimony, the opening remarks of majority Representatives Boehlert and Calvert, and an archived webcast of the hearing, click here.
To access the opening statements of minority Representatives Gordon and Udall, click here.

-JAF

Sources: NASA Budget Information website, American Institute of Physics, and hearing testimony.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Jenny Fisher, AGI/AAPG 2006 Spring Intern and Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs.

Last Update March 20, 2007.


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