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AGI Fiscal Year 2007 Testimony to the House Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Agencies 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

U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Agencies Appropriations
March 16, 2006


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 and NASA's Earth observing campaigns; and authorized support for NIST's and NSF's responsibilities in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).

The President's American Competitiveness Initiative calls for a doubling of physical science research funding in key federal agencies, while Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative calls for significant increases in energy research support. Both initiatives also include much needed support for education in the physical sciences and some specific incentives for education in the energy resources sector. Such initiatives are strongly supported by AGI.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 44 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 President's request for an 8% increase in the overall budget for NSF and a 6% increase for the Geosciences Directorate. We hope that the Subcommittee shares this commitment and can continue to strengthen our physical science research and education foundation through annual budget increases. Congress wisely authorized increased funding for NSF in PL 107-368, such that the total NSF budget would increase to $9.84 billion in fiscal year 2007, however, NSF only received about $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2006 and remains well short of this effective science policy objective. Although NSF remains under funded, Congress and the Administration are proposing annual increases to NSF's budget over the next seven to 10 years. AGI believes that such a forward-looking investment in tight fiscal times will pay important dividends in future development and innovation that drives economic growth, especially in critical areas of sustainable and economic natural resources and reduced risks from natural hazards.

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 an increase of 6% (~$42 million) for a total budget of about $745 million, which AGI strongly supports. We would encourage increases in funding to allow NSF to strengthen core research by increasing the number and duration of grants. Now is the time to boost Earth science education and research to fill the draining pipeline of skilled geoscientists and geo-engineers working in the energy industry; the construction industry, particularly on levees and dams; the environmental industry; the academic community, particularly on understanding natural hazards and the sustainability of our natural resources; the primary federal Earth science agencies, such as the United States Geological Survey; and in all areas of education.

NSF Major Research Equipment Account: AGI urges the Subcommittee to support the Major Research Equipment, Facilities and Construction budget request of $27.4 million for EarthScope. We also support funding of $42.88 million to complete construction of the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel, $13.5 million to begin construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and $56 million to begin construction of the Alaska Region Research Vessel.

EarthScope -- begun thanks to the previous Subcommittee's support in fiscal year 2003 -- 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 FY2007 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's 2001 report entitled "Review of EarthScope Integrated Science". All data from this project will be available in real time to scientists, students and the public, providing a tremendous opportunity for 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 a new grant program in the Geosciences Directorate called GEO-TEACH, which will support projects to improve the quality of geosciences instruction, primarily at middle to high school levels. We also support the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, a competitive peer-reviewed grant program that funds only the highest quality proposals at NSF. The NSF's MSP program focuses on modeling, testing and identification of high-quality math and science activities whereas the Department of Education MSP 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 and warned others to seek higher ground after completing an Earth science class.

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: AGI applauds the President's request for increased funding for the National Weather Service and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDI) within NOAA. The National Weather Service budget includes support for weather data buoys, strengthening the U.S. tsunami warning program, support of the Air Quality Forecasting Program, support for the Space Environment Center, support for the U.S. Weather Research Program, and continued implementation of the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Services. AGI also supports the proposed increased funding for NESDI 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. The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the Office of National Ocean Service have large proposed budget cuts to their overall budgets that would decimate vital programs related to the health and sustainability of the ocean, protecting coastlines and atmospheric research. AGI hopes that some of these large reductions can be minimized through congressional consideration of oceanic and coastal priorities in this post-Katrina fiscal year.

NIST: For FY 2007, the President's request calls for $2 million for earthquakes, wind hazards, wildfires at the urban interface and complex systems-multihazards analysis at NIST. About 70% of these funds will be directed toward the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and wind hazards. AGI strongly supports funding for NEHRP within NIST. NIST is the lead agency for NEHRP (authorized to receive $6 to $13 million over 5 years), but has never received any funding in the past. AGI strongly supports NEHRP funds for NIST and we further support the proposed increases in funding for core laboratory functions at NIST to ensure that NEHRP funds are protected.

NASA: AGI supports the vital Earth observing programs within NASA. 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 the President's Vision for Exploration, 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. The Earth-Sun System within the Science Mission Directorate funds the agency's Earth science programs. AGI strongly supports the requested increase in funding for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, which will ensure support for the launch of a new Landsat satellite and the transfer of the data to the United States Geological Survey. Unfortunately other vital Earth science programs will be cut and missions will be delayed because of proposed budget reductions within the Earth-Sun System. AGI hopes these small reductions can be restored to ensure NASA's unique Earth observations.

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: March 21, 2006

 


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