American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


October 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 following update reports on a call by the scientific community for a doubling of federal spending on research in the coming decade, the President's recently announced position for the upcoming Kyoto conference on climate change, and additional progress towards closure on the fiscal year 1998 appropriations process. The update also reports on AGI's announcement of a new Congressional Science Fellowship for the geosciences, AGI Government Affairs Program activities at the GSA Annual Meeting, and a rundown on new government affairs postings on the AGI web site.

AGI, Member Societies Join Call for Decade of Investment
At a Capitol Hill press conference on October 22nd, scientific community leaders and several senators were on hand for the release of a "Unified Statement on Research" that calls on Congress and the President to support a doubling of federal funding for research in the next decade. American Physical Society President D. Allan Bromley described the unified statement as a call for a renewed commitment to investment in science and technology. The statement was endorsed by 106 organizations, including AGI and six of its member societies, that collectively represent over 3 million scientists and engineers. At the press conference, the geosciences were represented by AGU President Sean Solomon. This show of unity by the scientific community is an outgrowth of an effort this spring in which nearly 50 scientific organizations called for a 7 percent increase in federal research spending for fiscal year 1998.

The senators, led by Phil Gramm (R-TX), were on hand to announce the introduction of S. 1305, the National Research Investment Act of 1998, which calls for a doubling of federal support for most non-defense research in ten years. Gramm is the bill's principal sponsor, and he was joined by co-sponsors Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and most notably Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). The presence of Domenici, who chairs the powerful Budget Committee as well as the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Energy, bodes well for the bill's future impact. Although similar to the unified statement, the bill does not include defense research nor does it include research in the Department of the Interior, reflecting Gramm's continued concern over the former National Biological Service, now the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. Failure to include Interior is a major shortcoming of the bill, shared by Gramm's similar S. 124, and AGI will seek to have the bill amended to include that department.

In a separate science-boosting development, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) testified the following day before the House Budget Committee on the topic of what do with a budget surplus. With the final deficit for fiscal year 1997 at $22.6 billion (down from a projected $126 billion), the prospect of budget surpluses is not unthinkable. Gingrich outlined his three priority areas as science, defense, and transportation. It must be noted, however, that they came after reduction of the national debt and tax relief. At the same hearing, House Science Committee Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA) testified in support of his "Investment Budget," which would increase federal science and technology spending by 5 percent for each of the next five years.

Appropriations Winding Down
Congress passed a second continuing resolution that allows agencies without completed appropriations bills to continue operating through November 7, the target date for completion of the remaining bills and for congressional adjournment. It appears that all the bills have a shot at being completed by the deadline. The VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill that funds NSF, EPA, and NASA was signed by the President on October 27. Both the House and Senate have passed the Interior and Related Agencies and Agriculture bills, which now must be signed by the President. Finally, conference on the Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill continues, but debate on one of the most controversial issues, the Senate proposal to transfer funds from K-12 education programs into block grants, has ceased. Conferees have decided to not to adopt block grants. The Eisenhower Professional Development state grants program will therefore not lose its designation for teacher enhancement activities in science and math and will be funded at $335 million, $25 million more than originally proposed by the House or Senate.

Climate Change Heating Up
President Clinton released his long-awaited position on climate change on October 22, less than two months before the start of the Kyoto conference. He presented a three-pronged approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: adopt a binding commitment to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 with a commitment to further reduce emissions (albeit by an unspecified amount) by 2017; embrace flexible mechanisms for meeting these limits, with the option of using joint implementation systems in other countries; and include developing countries as part of any agreement. GAP has been following congressional and administrative debate on climate change and has a detailed summary available on the AGI website.

AGI Announces New Congressional Science Fellowship
Recognizing the value of increasing the number of scientists working on Capitol Hill, AGI will sponsor a new Congressional Science Fellowship for the geosciences in 1998. Funding for the fellowship is being provided by the AGI Foundation with support guaranteed for at least three years. The successful candidate will spend a year (September 1998 - August 1999) in Washington working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or a congressional committee. The fellowship represents a unique opportunity for postdoctoral and experienced masters-level geoscientists to gain first-hand experience with the federal legislative process and make practical contributions to the effective and timely use of geoscientific knowledge on issues relating to the environment, resources, natural hazards, and federal science policy. The AGI Fellow will join fellows sponsored by member societies AGU, GSA, and SSSA. The fellowships are coordinated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

GAP Activities at GSA Annual Meeting
The GAP Advisory Committee met on Saturday, October 18th during the GSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. Discussions centered on the program's draft strategic plan, which will be revised and distributed to member society leadership for their comments in November. Minutes from the meeting will be made available on the web in the coming weeks. GAP staff also met with the boards of several member societies, including GSA, NAGT, SEPM, and AASG. GAP contributed information to the GSA Geology & Public Policy Committee's exhibition booth, which featured a computer and printer and sample letters to encourage GSA members to write to their members of Congress. Over 70 letters were generated, making the effort a success that other societies may want to emulate.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
At their Salt Lake meeting, the GAP Advisory Committee set a tentative date of February 27-28, 1998 for their next meeting at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. That meeting would take place directly after the science community-wide Congressional Visits Day activities on February 25-26, which committee representatives are urged to attend as well.

November 17		NRC/AGI International Geoscience Forum	Washington DC
December 8-12		AGU Fall Meeting			San Francisco CA

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


(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 November 4, 1997

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