Overview of Fiscal Year 2008 Appropriations

Choose an agency on the bar below to view AGI's analysis of the President's request for key geoscience-related agencies as well as detailed program and account information. Each of the appropriations pages provides a summary table, an overview of the budget request, and congressional action on the agency or department.

As in years past, AGI will provide testimony to several subcommittees on programs of importance to the geoscience community.

You can also keep up-to-date with the Library of Congress Table on Current Status of FY 2008 Appropriations Bills and the AAAS Analysis of R&D in the FY 2007 Budget. As in years past, the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Project website has information on trends in federal research and development funding, including information on the president's request, congressional budget resolution, 302(b) allocations, and each science-related appropriations bill.

FY08 Omnibus: Final Budget Passed with Cuts to Non-defense Spending

After a very long year with a new, yet slim Democratic majority in Congress squaring off for the first time with a seasoned, seventh year Republican President on fiscal priorities for 2008, all of the non-defense discretionary spending was wrapped in a massive omnibus and signed into law by President Bush on December 26, 2007. The omnibus includes $555 billion for 11 appropriation bills, $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $11.2 billion in emergency funds for veterans ($3.7 billion), drought relief ($1 billion), wildfire suppression ($300 million) and other priorities. The Department of Defense appropriation bill, which provides $460 billion, was handled separately and agreed to on November 8, 2007 and signed into law (Public Law 110-116) by President Bush on November 13, 2007.

The completion of the 2008 budget comes almost three months after the October 1st, 2007 start of fiscal year 2008 and required four continuing resolutions to keep the government functioning. The main battle was over $22 billion in additional discretionary spending that Congress approved, but President Bush refused to consider.

Congress passed a mini-omnibus of the two next largest bills (Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education plus Military Construction and Veterans Affairs) with extra spending (about $215.4 billion in total and $10 billion more than the President's request) at the same time as they passed the massive Department of Defense bill. Both measures were sent to the President on the same day, hoping for his signatures. Instead President Bush vetoed the mini-omnibus and Congress failed to override the veto on November 16, 2007. After a Thanksgiving recess, some heated rhetoric and no remaining options, Congress cut about $22 billion from the 11 appropriation bills to satisfy the President's requested budget level and the omnibus became law.

The total budget is $2.9 trillion with discretionary spending taking about a third of the budget ($460 billion for defense and $555 billion for non-defense). For those who wish to compare spending with other key economic indicators, the gross domestic product is about $13.97 trillion for the third quarter of 2007 and the total national debt as of January 2, 2008 is $9.2 trillion. The 110th Congress passed a joint resolution raising the statutory limit on the national debt from $8.9 trillion to $9.8 trillion (H.J. Res 43) in May 2007, anticipating the rising debt.

Two other characteristics of this year's budget worth noting are the earmarks and conference reporting. The 12 discretionary spending bills include 11,043 earmarks worth about $14.1 billion. The cost of earmarks in fiscal year 2008 was reduced by about 50 percent compared to the last approved budget for fiscal year 2006 (9,963 earmarks worth $29 billion) and fulfills a Democratic majority promise to reduce earmarks (or at least their costs). The 110th Congress required the authors of earmarks to put their names on projects, which not only helps to identify earmarks, but probably to stem some specified spending.

Regarding the conference reports that typically accompany bills and provide guidance on congressional intent beyond the concise legislative language, the 110th Congress prepared an additional report entitled "Joint Explanatory Statement to Accompany Consolidated Appropriations Amendment." This report indicates that the language in the Senate and the House conference reports is approved and should be interpreted accordingly, unless the joint statement is different and thus overrides these conference reports.

Anyone looking for additional guidance on congressional intent in its budgetary allocations will need to look at all three reports and there may still be some budget battles ahead because of the atypical joint statement as well as the rush to complete the huge omnibus. Indeed, President Bush, unhappy with earmarks, has threatened to cancel some of them. He has asked the Office of Management and Budget to look into the Administration's authority to alter or ignore specific earmarks, especially earmarks that were only included in conference reports rather than in the actual legislation.

For the full text of the omnibus and the related reports please visit Thomas and link to their extensive appropriations section, http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app08.html

The Bureau of Economic Analysis press release on December 20, 2007 summarizes the gross domestic product for the third quarter of 2007

Information on the national debt is available from the Treasury Department.


The appropriations process begins when the President submits to Congress his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. The President's proposal is coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget under the authority of the White House. Once the president has proposed his budget with the administration's priorities, it is up to Congress to prepare a budget for the nation. Congress begins the budget process by preparing a budget resolution and holding hearings on the rationale behind the administration's proposal. While the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees and authorization committees are holding oversight hearings, the Budget committees use March and April to formulate a budget resolution.

Before April 15th, Congress must agree to a budget resolution that determines discretionary spending in the upcoming fiscal year. Meanwhile, appropriations subcommittees in the House and the Senate continue to hold hearings to gather information to determine an appropriate funding level for federal programs. After the appropriations bills are approved in committee and then by the full House or Senate, a conference committee is formed to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions. After the revised bill has been approved by the House and the Senate, it is submitted to the President for his signature.

In previous years, both the House and the Senate had 13 separate appropriations subcommittees which were responsible for drafting the individual appropriations bills. The corresponding subcommittees in the House and the Senate were responsible for the same agencies. In a 2005 reorganization and consolidation of the appropriations subcommittees, the House and the Senate created subcommittees which did not perfectly correspond to the subcommittees in the other chamber of Congress. This may cause difficulties when the House and the Senate attempt to agree on identical bills in conference. The details of this reorganization follow.

House Reorganization

This year brings a new, and hopefully more successful, organizational structure to the Congressional Appropriations committees. During the past two years, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have had a different number of subcommittees --10 in the House, 12 in the Senate -- with different jurisdictions. As a result of these changes and other issues, the last time all of the appropriations bills were approved by Congress and signed into law by the start of the federal fiscal year was 1994. This year, however, the Senate and the House will be working with 12 committees that mirror each other. The chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees expressed their hope that this streamlined approach will help the committees finish their work on time.

The 12 subcommittees:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies, chaired by Representative DeLauro (D-CT)
  • Commerce, Justice, and Science, chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV)
  • Defense, chaired by Representative Murtha (D-PA)
  • Energy and Water, chaired by Representative Visclosky (D-IN)
  • Financial Services and General Government, chaired by Representative Serrano (D-NY)
  • Homeland Security, chaired by Representative Price (D-NC)
  • Interior and Related Agencies, chaired by Representative Dicks (D-WA)
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, chaired by Representative Obey (D-WI)
  • Legislative Branch, chaired by Representative Schultz (D-FL)
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, chaired by Representative Edwards (D-TX)
  • State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, chaired by Representative Lowey (D-NY)
  • Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary, and Housing and Urban Development, chaired by Representative Olver (D-MA)

View a list of democratic ranking members and minority committee assignments online.

Senate Reorganization

Eager to begin, the 110th Senate Appropriations Committee annouced its subcommittee rosters on January 10, 2007. The Senate subcommittee structure mirrors the structure that of the House Appropriations Committee. The leaders hope that, with this common structure, the 12 appropriations bills can be completed on-time for the first time since 1994.

The 12 subcommittees:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies, chaired by Senator Kohl (D-WI)
  • Commerce, Justice, and Science, chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Defense, chaired by Senator Inouye (D-HI
  • Energy and Water, chaired by Senator Dorgan (D-ND)
  • Financial Services and General Government, chaired by Senator Durbin (D-IL)
  • Homeland Security, chaired by Senator Byrd (D-WV)
  • Interior and Related Agencies, chaired by Senator Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, chaired by Senator Harkin (D-IA)
  • Legislative Branch, chaired by Senator Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, chaired by Senator Johnson (D-SD)
  • State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, chaired by Senator Leahy (D-VT)
  • Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary, and Housing and Urban Development, chaired by Senator Murray (D-WA)

In a statement Senator Cochran said, "“From the war in Iraq, to securing our borders, to creating new job opportunities, the Appropriations Committee will work to find ways not only to meet the demands of today but also to improve the quality of life for American families for many years to come. We need to put our heads together, putting aside party labels, and work to find commonsense solutions to the problems facing the country.”

View a press release regarding the new committees and jurisdictional changes from the Senate Appropriations Committee website.

The Budget Process

Below is a diagram of the congressional budget process that first appeared in Following the Budget Process that was published in the March 1996 issue of Geotimes. It is adapted from a diagram developed by the House Budget Committee. Click on the image to open a PDF version.

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Physics, E&ENews Publications, House Committee on Appropriations, Library of Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Washington Post, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff, and Erin Gleeson, AGI/AAPG Spring 2007 Intern.

Background section includes material from AGI's Overview of Fiscal Year 2005 Geoscience Appropriations from the 108th Congress.

Last Update February 12, 2007.