Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting DRAFT Report

November 23, 2002
AGI Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia

An agenda with links to background materials and summary of action items accompanies this report.


Murray Hitzman, Chair, Golden, CO
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia, SC
Joseph Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston, VA
Emery Cleaves, Association of American State Geologists, Baltimore, MD
Marie Dvorzak, Geological Science Information Society, Madison, WI
Judy Ehlen, American Rock Mechanics Association, Alexandria, VA
Peter Folger, American Geophysical Union, Reston, VA
Lou Gilpin, Geological Society of America, Mill Valley, CA
Blair Jones, The Clay Minerals Society, Reston, VA
Tom Reed, Seismological Society of America, Springfield, VA

Tim West, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA

David Applegate, AGI GAP Director
Margaret A. Baker, AGI GAP Staff Associate
Larry Kennedy, 2002-2003 AGI Congressional Fellow
Marcus Milling, AGI Executive Director
Annette Veilleux, AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern

1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business
After introductions, the meeting began with the approval of the report from the April 2002 committee meeting. Applegate briefly reviewed the GAP finances, noting that this year marks the 10-year anniversary of the program. Applegate expects that member society contributions to the program this year will be close to last year's levels. Contributions peaked in 1998 and since then, the percentage of Societies contributing has decreased in part due to the stock market and the economic environment. [Note: For 2002, voluntary member society contributions totaled $77K, down from $80K in 2001 and $92K in 2000.]

2.0 Current AGI Government Affairs Program Activities

2.1 Staff Presentations
Applegate provided an overview of the recent talks that GAP staff have given including one to the National Research Council Committee on Earth Resources earlier in the week on implications of the election for geoscience-related issues. Others include invited talks at the University of Utah and meetings of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Geological Society of America, and Energy and Geoscience Institute.

2.2 Coalition Activities
The 2003 edition of the Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) will be held on April 2-3, and the intention is to hold the next committee meeting around these dates. Applegate briefly discussed the long-standing coalitions that AGI has been involved with over the last few years, including the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), the Math/Science Education Partnership Coalition, and the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group that puts together CVD. Included in the meeting folders for Committee members was the fiscal year 2003 statement for the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), a new coalition that AGI is considering participation in. Baker added that CNSR is a coalition to support basic and applied research and development at the Department of Defense (DoD), and the question is how much defense-related geoscience is included in the defense research accounts. The Virtual Geoscience Agency project should help provide additional information in this regard.

Cleaves asked if CNSR had intentions on advocating for the newly formed Department of Homeland Defense, to which Baker responded that CNSR will maintain its DoD focus. Cleaves then commented on concerns regarding the transfer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Department of Homeland Defense.

Ehlen provided information on the type of research currently supported at DoD, including geoscience research at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She also added that DoD funding is increasingly being provided to universities and research groups to do basic research.

Committee Action Item: Review the CNSR information and provide GAP staff with input on whether or not to join the coalition.

2.3 Member Society Support Activities
AGI staff provided logistical and information support for a number of member societies, including visits by GSA leaders, the AIPG Washington fly-in, the AASG Liaison Committee biannual meeting, and the AAPG energy summit held on Capitol Hill in September.

2.4 Summer and Semester Internships
Applegate introduced Annette Veilleux, a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at El Paso, who is serving as the current AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern. He went on to say that Charna Meth, who recently completed her Master's degree at the University of Texas at Austin, will be joining GAP at the end of January as the AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Geoscience Policy Intern. Applegate then talked briefly about the range of activities that former interns have pursued and the importance of support from the AIPG Foundation and AAPG to its continued success.

2.5 Virtual Geoscience Agency Prototype
Baker provided a short presentation on the prototype of the Virtual Geoscience Agency (VGA), a project that was initiated by a group at the Department of Energy's Basic Energy Science Office and then turned over to AGI for full-scale development. The VGA database currently has close to 300 geoscience programs. A questionnaire was sent out to the programs included in the VGA to check the accuracy of the information. A full prototype of the VGA web site will be available at the end of January.

Committee Action Item: Provide GAP staff with alternate names for this project.

Staff Action Item: Provide Committee members with URL to provide input on the prototype when available.

Applegate added that the Department of Energy has tentatively agreed to provide funds to support a dedicated intern to help maintain the VGA. Gilpin suggested the inclusion of a glossary of acronyms and terms as something to add to the website. Another suggestion from the group was that VGA also include information on how to contact individual earth scientists. Milling suggested inclusion of national laboratories along with state and university controlled core repositories in the VGA. Cleaves commented on the inclusion of a provision in the conference-energy legislation that deals with data preservation. The discussion then turned to the complex issues facing universities and state surveys in preserving data. Applegate wrapped up the discussion by noting that the National Research Council's report on data preservation has spurred interest on Capitol Hill and that there is bipartisan support to try to insert a provision regarding the issue into a final energy policy bill.

Staff Action Item: Add acronym glossary and agency directories to VGA. Explore inclusion of data repositories into structure.

2.6 Distribution of E-mail Updates/Reviews
Another way that GAP serves the member societies is through distribution of e-mail updates and monthly reviews of geoscience policy developments. The basic distribution from GAP includes all member society presidents, executives, and Member Society Council representatives plus the state geologists and public affairs committees at AAPG, AGU and GSA. In addition, individual societies pass these along to their membership through their own listserves and publications.

Committee Action Item: Identify additional individuals in your society who should be receiving these e-mails, e.g. public affairs committees or councils. We already have plans to include presidents-elect.

3.0 Looking to the 108th Congress

3.1 Election Impact on Geosciences
Applegate gave a PowerPoint presentation, available on the committee's web site, providing an overview of how the November elections will affect the geosciences. He noted that the biggest post-election unknown is the treatment of the fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations, which Congress failed to pass before adjourning. Despite a presidential budget request that cut many geoscience-related programs, Congress restored and even recommended boosting funding for many of these programs. Since the 107th Congress did not pass any of the civilian funding bills, the 108th Congress will need to take them up first thing in January before the latest continuing resolution lapses. Applegate suggested that despite the fact that the 107th Congress recommended putting funds back into geoscience programs, there is no guarantee these funds will be provided in the final version or that FY 2004 will be much of an improvement over last year's budget request. The White House is pressing for a full-year continuing resolution that would leave the government funded at FY 2002 levels with no new starts (such as EarthScope at NSF).

Discussing the new committee leadership in the 108th Congress, Applegate noted that the most dramatic change among committee chairmanships in the Senate is likely to be the Senate Environment and Public Work Committee, where Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will take over the chairmanship from Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT). He then went on to talk about the current status of control over the House and Senate appropriations committees. The chairmanships of the House Interior and Related Agencies and the Energy and Water subcommittees are up for grabs due to retirements. He also mentioned that Republican control of both chambers does not guarantee that the appropriations process will run more smoothly -- Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) has had previous clashes with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mitchell Daniels and is not likely to rubber-stamp the presidential budget request.

Applegate also noted that comprehensive energy policy legislation is expected to come up again early in the new Congress with new Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) taking over from his fellow New Mexican, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). As it currently stands, the remaining issues in the energy conference are electricity deregulation (particularly the renewable portfolio standards), climate change, ethanol, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration, and tax provisions.

The last issue that Applegate discussed was the role of the geosciences in the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He raised the issue of how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be affected by its incorporation into the new agency. Jones asked if there was language connecting water resources to bioterrorism to which Applegate replied that there was none that he was aware of in the legislation establishing DHS. Cleaves and Briskey noted the important role of FEMA in flood maps and hazard mitigation and the fact that state emergency agencies depend on federal support.

Hitzman initiated a discussion on the issue of geospatial data in DHS. At a meeting the previous day with Tom Weimer, the deputy assistant secretary of the interior for water and science, it was learned that the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) is taking the lead in providing the homeland security group with domestic mapping, a responsibility that historically has belonged to USGS. Hitzman noted that Weimer also mentioned that Department of the Interior (DOI) agencies want more out of the USGS, making it difficult for OMB to support increases for the USGS. Cleaves asked about the status of the department's strategic plan, the preparation of which included several forums in which AASG and others participated.

Staff Action Item: Circulate the Department of the Interior's strategic plan to committee members and Member Society leadership for comments when it becomes available.

The discussion then returned to the issue of NIMA and the availability of maps if NIMA controlled the access to geospatial data. Folger suggested that this issue was one that would generate a great deal of interest within the community. There was then a quick discussion on the fact that geospatial information is already becoming more difficult to get in the past-9/11 environment. Hitzman discussed the role of the Federal Geographic Data Committee.

Staff Action Item: Report back to the committee on the geospatial data issue then consider additional action. [Note: Report by Maeve Boland circulated to committee earlier this month.]

3.2 USGS Coalition
Applegate and Hitzman talked briefly about their meeting with Weimer and his reaction to the idea of creating a coalition to support the USGS. Applegate noted that he wrote on the issue in the October 2002 issue of Geotimes. He went on to say that he hopes to use some of the appropriations report language from the House and Senate that shows strong support for the USGS. The timing of the launch of the coalition is in part due to the current view at OMB that the USGS's mission is to provide support to its sister agencies at DOI in managing federal lands. This view disregards much of the work that USGS does with states, communities, and other non-DOI agencies. Applegate noted that this mismatch of mission suggests that the coalition should be cross-cutting but posed the question of how broad the coalition should be. Folger added that at the core is the issue of whether the coalition should include issue-advocacy groups or just scientific and professional societies.

A discussion then ensued in which the sentiment was that the coalition should have a two-tiered membership, with the first tier of professional/science societies and universities and the second tier being loosely affiliated advocacy and industry groups. The first tier would be the "core" group in the coalition. Reed asked what the main goal of the coalition was to which Applegate responded that the main goal will be to increase funding and visibility of the USGS. Applegate also mentioned that the coalition would include groups interested in all the divisions at the USGS -- geology, mapping, water, and biology. Jones suggested that environmental health groups should also be represented in the coalition.

Committee Action Item: Provide names and suggestions of groups to contact about joining a USGS coalition.

Staff Action Item: Move forward with building coalition.

3.3 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Update
Applegate briefly discussed the most recent events with the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. The caucus has released two new fact sheets, one on drought and one on flood map modernization. The caucus also sponsored a lunch briefing in June on emergency warning systems. The caucus work group of supporting organizations coordinates with both the National Research Council's Natural Disasters Roundtable and the White House National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Natural Hazard Reduction. He also noted that the problem of getting offices on Capitol Hill re-motivated on the issue of natural hazards since 9/11 has slowed progress in building the number of members on the caucus. Folger, who co-chairs the work group with Applegate, noted that the work group is looking to add "new blood" by possibly adding additional chairs to the caucus. Applegate said that the work group is working with federal agencies and other interested groups to get a wide circulation of the Princeton hazards map that was shown to the committee at its April meeting.

4.0 AGI Congressional Science Fellow
AGI's 2002-2003 Congressional Science Fellow, Larry Kennedy, provided a brief summary of his background and experiences in the fellowship so far. He arrived in Washington from his home in Reno, Nevada at the end of August to begin an intensive two-week orientation organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Placement followed orientation. After a series of interviews with different offices, Kennedy chose to work for his home-state senator on mining (he spent nearly 20 years in the mining industry) and other public land and environmental issues. Earlier in November, Kennedy attended the GSA annual meeting in Denver, where he spoke to the AGI Foundation.

5.0 Non-Federal Policy Issues

5.1 Education Policy Initiatives
Applegate opened this portion of the agenda by commenting on the transition in the coverage that AGI's Government Affairs Program provides from solely federal issues to including state and international issues, mainly in response to Member Society interests and the growing number of international members in these societies.

5.1.1 Challenges to Teaching Evolution
Applegate provided a brief overview of the events surrounding the inclusion of pro-Intelligent Design (ID) explanatory language in the report accompanying the No Child Left Behind Act that passed in January 2002. Originally introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), the language was stripped from the actual legislation but remained in the accompanying report, which is not a part of public law. Applegate also discussed the upcoming vote in Ohio, the first test-case for the ID report language, where members of the Ohio delegation have misrepresented the fact that the report language is not binding. A final vote in Ohio is scheduled for the end of the month, where the final version does not include the initial ID language but has weakened the science standards. Applegate also briefly discussed the school board vote in Cobb County, Georgia that includes pro-ID language in the science standards. He noted that the AAAS has released a new statement on ID and teaching evolution. He wrapped up his comments by saying that the biggest challenge for GAP is how best to remain involved in an issue that is mainly a state and local issue and requires action by individual geosciences. As a federation of societies, AGI does not have individual members and must work closely with Member Societies to reach down at the grassroots level.

Hitzman noted that GSA is currently working to build a list-serve. Gilpin went on to say that GSA also has a new statement on evolution. The new list-serve is up and running but not yet set up to handle local-access issues. Applegate added that other Member Societies -- AGU, AIPG, NESTA, and AAPG -- have similar capabilities to get information out to membership based on geographic location. The conversation then turned briefly to discuss how scientists can best counter ID supporters without feeding into the stereotype of dogmatic scientists and how they could show that the current ID debate is not working through the standard scientific system of peer-review.

5.1.2 Earth Science Graduation Requirements & Curriculum Standards
Milling gave an overview of action in Texas to remove geosciences from the state's science curricula. In response to the events in Texas, a group of geoscientists have, with AGI support, worked to reinstate the geosciences in the curricula. The Texas Board of Education has formed a committee to look at how best to correct the issue. Applegate noted that other states are taking similar actions, mostly due to budget cuts and to meet assessment tests mandated for students and teachers.

Astwood talked about how NESTA worked at the local level to fund the development of an earth science test. Gilpin noted that there was a similar setup in Kentucky to help pay for students to take the ASBOG test. Applegate added that the Texas group is keeping detailed records on how they have approached the issue to be used by groups that face a similar challenge.

Milling told of his experience with the events in Texas and noted that a report on how to correct the problem is due out in May 2003. He then went on to say that AGI is currently developing a booklet on why the earth sciences are important in elementary and secondary science curricula. The final version is expected shortly after the new year. AGI will widely distribute the booklets, especially to the state science education coordinators.

News of the booklet initiated a discussion on the issue of training and producing earth science educators. Milling mentioned that AGI is sending out a survey to all geoscience departments to determine if they are involved in any type of geoscience-teacher programs. Ehlen asked if anyone has looked at the hiring side of the issue. Jones noted that a major problem is the certification process for educators. Cleaves added that there are also the continuing education courses and courses at community colleges as ways to educate more of the general public about the relevance of the earth sciences to everyday decisions.

Staff Action Item: Send committee members a copy of the AGI Why Earth Science booklet when it is released.

5.2 IUGS Working Group on Public Affairs
Applegate briefly noted that the IUGS Working Group on Public Affairs has been asked to craft a statement on evolution. Otherwise, he is seeking suggestions on how to make the working group a useful entity.

6.0 Member Society Collaboration and Input

6.1 Reports from Member Societies
Briskey (SEG) -- SEG has no major issues at the current time, but Briskey circulated an editorial from the day's Washington Post about the creation of life and scientific ethics. He noted a personal interest in discussing the role of the geosciences in this debate. Hitzman responded that AAAS is taking the lead on this issue and that he suggests that GAP continue to follow the issue and the progress of the AAAS workgroup.

Gilpin (GSA) -- GSA's Committee on Geology and Public Policy (G&PP) has the list-serve up and running. Currently, it is distributing GAP materials and other updates of interest to policy-minded GSA members. GSA is also in the process of creating a new section on geoscience policy, having collected the necessary number of signatures at the annual meeting. Gilpin noted that G&PP is looking forward to working with this new section to enhance activity in public policy. G&PP also has initiated a new public policy lecture tour. The first speaker available for talks is Dan Sarewitz, a former GSA fellow who is now head of Columbia University's Center for Science Policy and Outcomes. There was then a brief discussion on specialty conferences that GSA is sponsoring in the coming year. Gilpin wrapped up his comments by saying that there is a new position statement on geologic mapping and that Jack Hess, the new GSA Executive Director and a former congressional fellow, has a strong interest in public policy, so there are likely to be many more position statements released in the future.

Dvorzak (GSIS) -- GSIS continues to be concerned about access and preservation of all forms of data. The group is especially concerned about the decision of OMB to outsource government printing from the Government Printing Office (GPO) to private industry, meaning that many of these sources are not going into the federal repository system. Dvorzak also commented on the recent National Research Council (NRC) report on data preservation. The previous day, she met with Linda Gundersen at the USGS to talk about the citation of non-article sources such as fossil collections. Gundersen made reference to the formation of a committee to review citation practices.

Ehlen (ARMA) -- ARMA is a new member of AGI and is still working out the organization's approach to public policy issues. Ehlen added that she plans to take back information from this meeting to the ARMA leadership to inform them of current actions. She noted that the group may be interested in a position statement on K-12 education.

Cleaves (AASG) -- AASG continues to strongly support the USGS national cooperative geologic mapping program. Cleaves noted that there are two new state geologists -- Nick Tew in Alabama and Steve Mabee in Massachusetts. Many state surveys are not doing well because of the tight budgets that most states are currently working under. There is also the problem of cuts in federal monies for many cooperative programs. Cleaves mentioned that there is a new NRC report on landslide hazards. He concluded by talking about the concern that AASG would have if NIMA became the lead agency for domestic maps and geospatial date as well as the continuing concerns of the privatization of these activities.

Astwood (NAGT) -- NAGT deals primarily with local and state issues relating to science education with the exception being its support of the federal Eisenhower program. Astwood went on to discuss the problem that many colleges do not recognize high-school earth science as being a laboratory science for purposes of meeting entrance requirements, making it more difficult to promote earth science at the high school level. Despite the inclusion of earth science in state and national standards, there is a decrease in schools offering it. Astwood also noted that there is also the need to improve earth science teaching at the elementary school level, but that the decreasing funds available specifically to science educators makes teacher training a major issue. He give a brief overview of the morphing of the Eisenhower math and science professional development programs into the new Math Science Partnership (MSP) program at the federal level. The previous day, he had met with staff from Rep. John Spratt's (D-SC) office who said that Spratt would support a "Dear Colleague" letter about increasing funding for the MSP program.

Jones (CMS) -- CMS is currently focused on its journal and the process of developing electronic publication. The society is working closely with the Mineralogical Society of America. Clay minerals are an important interface with biological systems and as such clay mineralogists are involved in many environmental issues relating to remediation and human health.

6.2 AGI Strategic Plan Revision
Applegate introduced the topic by saying that AGI Past President Russ Slayback is chairing a committee to revise the AGI strategic plan. Hitzman is serving as the committee's representative to the strategic plan committee. Copies of the GAP section of the previous strategic plan (November 1995) were circulated to GAPAC members, including notation from Applegate and Hitzman on suggested changes. Several committee members suggested changes and a revised version was to be circulated to the group.

Staff and Committee Action Item: Send committee members an electronic copy of the GAP section of the strategic plan for further review with suggestions required as soon as possible. [Note: This was done and the revised version based on committee members' comments sent to the AGI strategic plan revision committee.]

7.0 Wrap Up
In closing, Applegate reminded members that the SET Congressional Visits Day is scheduled for April 2-3, 2003. GAP staff will circulate an e-mail to find a meeting day close to the April CVD dates. Applegate also requested that members send suggestions for topics of interest for the next meeting. Dvorzak suggested that there be a discussion on the recent RAND report on federal investment in research and development that is being used by the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.

Committee Action Item: Send suggestion to GAP staff of topics of interest for the next meeting's agenda.

Staff Action Item: Email members to survey for a date near CVD to hold the next GAPAC meeting.

The meeting adjourned.

Summary of Action Items

Committee Action Items:

Staff Action Items:

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

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