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AGI Fiscal Year 2008 Testimony to the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee


Testimony Submitted by
Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
in support of Fiscal Year 2008 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 Commerce, Justice and Science and Related Agencies Appropriations
April 26, 2007


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 and environmentally-sound manner and to help understand, assess and reduce our risks to natural hazards. AGI supports full funding as authorized for NSF; 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 a nearly 8% increase in the overall budget for NSF. We hope that the Subcommittee shares this commitment and can continue to strengthen our physical science research and science education initiatives through annual budget increases. Although NSF remains under funded, Congress and the Administration are proposing annual increases to NSF's budget over the next 5 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 about 6% (~$47 million) for a total budget of about $792 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 research and education 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.

The President's request for fiscal 2008 asks for $240.84 million for Atmospheric Sciences, $163.3 million for Earth Sciences, $329.29 million for Ocean Sciences and $58.57 million for Innovative and Collaborative Education and Research (ICER) within the Geosciences Directorate. In the Atmospheric Sciences, the almost $14 million increase will augment the Climate Change Science Program, the Weather Research Program, the Space Weather Program, atmospheric observing facilities and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Much of the geosciences research budget is for understanding that is critical for current national needs, such as climate change, water and mineral resources, energy resources, environmental issues and mitigation of natural hazards and we ask the Subcommittee to strongly support these essential investments.

AGI also supports the $11.4 million request for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the about $21.6 million for EarthScope. Both programs provide important research and instrumentation support for understanding earthquakes and earthquake engineering to help reduce the potential damaging effects of earthquakes on property, lifelines, economic growth and most importantly on the lives of Americans.

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 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, water and environmental stewardship.
" 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 asks that these large reductions be minimized through congressional consideration of oceanic and coastal priorities.

NIST: For fiscal 2008, the President's request calls for as much as about $5 million for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). 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 received only a small portion of funding in the past year. 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 reductions can be restored to ensure NASA's unique Earth observations.

We strongly urge the Subcommittee to return spending levels for Earth science within NASA to FY2000 levels (eliminating a 30% cut over the past 6 years) and implement the priorities of the National Academies Earth Science and Applications from Space Decadal Survey.

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: April 27, 2007

 


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