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AGI Fiscal Year 2006 Testimony to the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee

Testimony Submitted by
Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
in support of Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations for the
National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

United States Senate
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations
April 20, 2005


To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

The American Geological Institute (AGI) supports fundamental Earth science research sustained by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This frontier research has fueled economic growth, mitigated losses and sustained our quality of life. The Subcommittee's leadership in expanding the federal investment in basic research is even more critical as our nation competes with rapidly developing countries, such as China and India, for energy, mineral, air and water resources. Our nation needs skilled geoscientists to help explore, assess and develop Earth's resources in a strategic, sustainable, economic and environmentally-sound manner. AGI supports full funding as authorized for NSF's EarthScope project and Research and Related Activities; full funding for NOAA's Tsunami Warning Network; authorized support for NIST's and NSF's responsibilities in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and continued support for NASA's Earth observing campaigns.

AGI supports the Coalition for National Science Funding, which encourages increases in total funding for NSF and the NEHRP Coalition, which encourages full funding for NEHRP within NSF and NIST. In addition, AGI supports funding for Earth science education through NSF's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program. Earth science education helped to save lives during the tragic Indian Ocean tsunami and will be important for future hazard mitigation in the United States and elsewhere.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 42 geoscientific and professional societies representing more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other Earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice for shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment.

NSF

We applaud the NSF's emphasis on funding the long-neglected and critically under funded physical sciences and hope that the Subcommittee shares this commitment to the physical sciences, including the geosciences. Enhanced and essential funding should remain broad enough to ensure the multidisciplinary nature of today's science, mathematics, engineering, and technology research. Congress wisely authorized increased funding for NSF in PL 107-368, such that the total NSF budget would increase to $7.378 billion and the Research and Related Activities budget would grow to $5.543 billion in 2005. NSF only received $5.473 billion in 2005 and remains under funded. AGI would strongly support an increase of NSF's total budget to $6 billion in FY2006 and we believe that such a wise and forward-looking investment in tight fiscal times will pay important dividends in future development and innovation that drives economic growth.

NSF Geosciences Directorate

The Geosciences Directorate is the principal source of federal support for academic Earth scientists and their students who are seeking to understand the processes that ultimately sustain and transform life on this planet. The President's budget proposal requests a small increase of 2.2% ($14.9 million) for a total budget of $709.1 million. Within this directorate the Earth Sciences Division's budget would increase 3.4% or $5.1 million from $149.0 million to $154.1 million. AGI fully supports this increase to fund EarthScope's operation and maintenance budget. We would encourage increases in funding to the authorized level for the Research and Related Activities account, to allow NSF to strengthen core research by increasing the number and duration of grants. The NEHRP Coalition also requests that Congress appropriate the full funding level contained in the reauthorization for FY 2006 of $39.1 million dollars for NEHRP responsibilities at the NSF.

NSF Major Research Equipment Account: EarthScope

AGI urges the Subcommittee to support the Major Research Equipment, Facilities and Construction budget request of $50.62 million for EarthScope. Taking advantage of new technology in sensors and data distribution, this multi-pronged initiative will systematically survey the structure of Earth's crust beneath North America, imaging faults at depth, hidden faults and other structures that may be hazardous or economically-valuable. The FY2006 request includes continued support for deployment of three components: a dense array of digital seismometers that will be deployed in stages across the country; a 4-km deep borehole through the San Andreas Fault, housing a variety of instruments that can continuously monitor the conditions within the fault zone; and a network of state-of-the-art Global Positioning System (GPS) stations and sensitive strain meters to measure the deformation of the constantly shifting boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates in an area susceptible to large earthquakes and tsunamis.

EarthScope has very broad support from the Earth science community and received a very favorable review from the National Research Council, which released a report in 2001 entitled "Review of EarthScope Integrated Science". All data from this project will be available in real time to both scientists and students, providing a tremendous opportunity for both research and learning about Earth. Involving the public in Earth science research will increase appreciation of how such research can lead to improvements in understanding the environment, utilizing natural resources and mitigating natural hazards. EarthScope can also provide a mechanism to integrate a broad array of Earth science research data in a unified system to promote cross-disciplinary research and avoid duplication of effort.

NSF Support for Earth Science Education

Congress can improve the nation's scientific literacy by supporting the full integration of Earth science information into mainstream science education at the K-12 and college levels. AGI strongly supports the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program as it has existed at NSF. This is a competitive peer-reviewed grant program and funds are only awarded to the highest quality proposals. Shifting the MSP program entirely to the Department of Education would mean that all MSP funds would be distributed to states on a formula basis. This would provide no incentive for top researchers to continue to participate in this important program and would limit the flexibility of states to target areas of greatest need. The NSF's MSP program focuses on modeling, testing and identification of high-quality math-science activities whereas the Department of Education program does not. The NSF and Department of Education MSP programs are complementary and are both necessary to continue to reach the common goal of providing world-class science and mathematics education to elementary and secondary school students. AGI opposes the transfer of the MSP from NSF to the Department of Education.

  • Improving geoscience education to levels of recognition similar to other scientific disciplines is important because:
    Geoscience offers students subject matter that has direct application to their lives and the world around them, including energy, minerals, and water.
  • Geoscience exposes students to a diverse range of interrelated scientific disciplines. It is an excellent vehicle for integrating the theories and methods of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics.
  • Geoscience awareness is a key element in reducing the impact of natural hazards on citizens -- hazards that include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. For example, lives were saved in the tragic Indian
  • Ocean tsunami by a 12 year old girl who understood the warning signs of an approaching tsunami because of her Earth science class and warned others to seek higher ground.
  • Geoscience provides the foundation for tomorrow's leaders in research, education, utilization and policy making for Earth's resources and our nation's strategic, economic, sustainable and environmentally-sound natural resources development.

NOAA

Within NOAA's National Weather Service, some of the proposed increases are for improving the U.S. Tsunami Warning Network. President Bush requested $24 million over 2 fiscal years ($14.5 million in FY05 and $9.5 million in FY06) to add 32 detection buoys (7 for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Basin and Gulf of Mexico and 25 for the Pacific Ocean), procure 38 new sea level monitoring/tide gauge stations, and to provide comprehensive warning coverage. AGI supports full funding for this program. AGI also supports the proposed increased funding for the development of the geostationary operational environmental satellite (GOES-R) and the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). Both satellite systems will maintain a global view of the planet to continuously watch for atmospheric triggers of severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, flash floods, hailstorms, and hurricanes.

NIST

In 2004 President Bush signed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) reauthorization (P.L. 108-360). This legislation reauthorized NEHRP for another five years and authorized $176.5 million in spending spread over four agencies (NIST, FEMA, USGS and NSF). As the lead agency, the law says NIST is eligible to receive up to $11 million for NEHRP in FY06. No funds were requested for this program in the President's FY06 budget. AGI strongly supports $11 million for NIST to carry out its NEHRP responsibilities and we further support adequate funding for core laboratory functions at NIST to ensure that NEHRP funds are protected.

NASA

AGI supports the Earth observing programs within NASA. NASA has a unique capability to provide observations of our planet. Currently the topography of Mars has been measured at a more comprehensive and higher resolution than Earth's surface. While AGI is excited about space exploration and values aeronautics research to help build better aircraft, we firmly believe that NASA's Earth observing program is effective and vital to solving global to regional puzzles about Earth systems, such as how much and at what rate is the climate changing. Among Earth science programs, the Earth Systematic Missions program is slated for a $118 million (40%) cut, stalling the Glory Mission, which was planned to address climate change. We hope this Subcommittee will be committed to full funding of the Earth Systematic Missions program.

I appreciate this opportunity to provide testimony to the Subcommittee and would be pleased to answer any questions or to provide additional information for the record. I can be reached at 703 379 2480 ext. 228 (voice), 703 379 7563 (fax), rowan@agiweb.org, or 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.

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

Posted: May 12, 2005

 


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