American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


September 1997


This monthly update goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

The end of September is supposed to mark the finish line for the congressional appropriations process as the new fiscal year begins. It does not always work that way, and last night the President signed a continuing resolution to keep the government operating for the next three weeks while Congress finishes work on a number of spending bills, including several impacting the geosciences. In addition to a brief summary of where the appropriations process stands, this monthly update reports on efforts to preserve the Eisenhower education program, the appointment of Mark Schaefer as interim director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and passage of NEHRP reauthorization. More detailed information is available on this AGI web site.

Appropriations Status As Fiscal Year 1998 Arrives
The deadline for passage of appropriations bills for fiscal year 1998 has passed with only four of the 13 bills completed. Among geoscience-related bills, the furthest along are the Energy & Water and Defense appropriations bills -- the House and Senate have passed the conference version of both bills, which now await the President's signature. Solar and renewable energy soared to $346 million, more than requested by the President or allocated in the House and Senate bills. DOE's Environmental Cleanup efforts were allocated $5.5 billion, a level similar to FY97. DOE science programs also fared well, with overall funding of $2.2 billion, $686 million of which is marked for basic energy sciences. The defense appropriations bill is also awaiting a Presidential signature. The DOD basic research (6.1) account was funded at $1.08 billion, essentially equal to the FY97 level. Although the Administration and Senate had both sought substantial increases for this account, opposition by House appropriators won out.

Conferences on the Agriculture and VA, HUD, & Independent Agencies bills has been completed, and floor votes are expected soon. For Agriculture, conferees essentially split the difference between conservation funding levels, appropriating just over $633 million. The conferees also appropriated $101 million for watershed protection programs and $35 million for the Resource Conservation and Development Program. The VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill funds NSF at $3.429 billion, an increase of 5% over the FY97 level and $62 million more than the President's request. The Research and Related Activities account was increased 5% over FY97 to $2.546 billion. The Major Research Equipment account is funded at $109 million, $29 million more than FY97. NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) is level funded at $1.4 billion.

The conference committee on the Interior bill finished work earlier today, appropriating $759.1 million for the USGS, an increase of $19 million over FY97. Conference is expected to begin soon on the Commerce, State, and Judiciary appropriations bill, which just passed the House on September 30.

Efforts to Preserve Eisenhower Education Program
AGI sent out an alert last week after the Senate voted to eliminate the Department of Education's Eisenhower Professional Development Program, which provides funds for K-12 teachers to obtain additional training in science and math. The Senate vote came on an amendment by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) to the Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill, shifting funds from this and other education programs into block grants to states with no requirements that those funds be used for science and math education. The House version of the same bill provided full funding for the Eisenhower program at $310 million.

AGI President Ed Roy and the presidents of member societies AIPG, NAGT, ASBOG, and SVP were among the many scientific community leaders who sent letters to House and Senate conferees last week urging restoration of Eisenhower funding. In response to concerns over the Eisenhower program, Senator Gorton has submitted a revised proposal that would exclude certain programs from inclusion in the block grant, including the state grant component of the Eisenhower Professional Development program. Funds for the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, however, would still be in the block grant. The conferees have yet to vote on the block-granting issue, which has already drawn a Presidential veto threat.

Mark Schaefer Named Interim USGS Director
On September 10th, USGS Director Gordon Eaton announced that he was retiring at month's end. Last week, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced that Mark Schaefer, currently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at Interior, will serve as Interim Director. Under the terms of the appointment, Schaefer will retain his current position and return to it full-time within 120 days.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary, Schaefer has been very involved in USGS oversight for the past two years and has worked with organizations, including AGI and GSA, to develop external input into the process of integrating the National Biological Service into the USGS. He holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Stanford University. Before joining Interior in 1995, he served as Assistant Director for Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Prior to that he was with the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government and prior to that with the now-defunct Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

In a September 30th letter to National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts, Babbitt requested the Academy's recommendations for candidates to succeed Eaton. Babbitt's letter emphasizes the expanded focus of the USGS and the broad range of physical and life scientists it employs. The Academy's recommendations were requested by November 14, 1997.

NEHRP Reauthorization Passes Congress, Signed By President
On September 16, 1997 the House passed S. 910, authorizing funds for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program for fiscal years 1998 and 1999. The bill, which had passed the Senate in late July, was signed by President Clinton this morning and is now law. Among other provisions, the bill requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to study developing a second emergency training center that would serve the West Coast and continue modernization of earthquake engineering test facilities. S. 910 authorizes $103.2 million for FY1998 and $106.3 million for FY1999 with increases for research and development activities, including earthquake science, engineering, public education and mitigation. For more specific bill provisions, see AGI's NEHRP update.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
The next meeting of the GAP Advisory Committee will be at the GSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 18th from 2-6 p.m. in the Arizona Room at the Little America hotel.

October 7-10		AIPG Annual Meeting	 (Dragonetti)	Houston TX
October 16-18		AWG Annual Meeting (Shewey)		Snowbird UT
October 18-23		GSA Annual Meeting			Salt Lake City UT
October 29		Yale Colloquium				New Haven CT

New Look and New Material on Web Site
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site in August:


(Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs)

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

Uploaded October 2, 1997

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