The following report provides a brief summary of the most recent action on appropriations; an overview of the budget process; appropriations legislation of interest to geoscientists, including Agriculture (USDA); Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies (NOAA); Energy and Water (DOE); Interior and Related Agencies (USGS, MMS, DOE Fossil); Labor, HHS (Department of Education), and VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies (includes NASA, EPA, NSF).
Most Recent Action
The Fiscal Year 1999 (FY99) appropriations process has ended, along with the 105th Congress. Only five appropriations bills were signed into law in the normal manner. The eight remaining bills were bundled together in an omnibus bill that was finally signed into law on October 21, after five continuing resolutions kept the government operating after the October 1 beginning of FY99.
The Fiscal Year 1999 (FY99) congressional budget process began with the release of the Administration's budget request on February 2. Both the April Political Scene column and a special Government Affairs Update provide more information on the requests for the geosciences, which overall would increase. Many of these increases, however, need to be offset because under spending caps established in last summer's historic balanced budget agreement, only part of the increase can come from the normal appropriations process. The Administration suggested offsetting these increases by using revenues from a predicted tobacco settlement. Because prospects for passing legislation to implement the settlement appear bleak, Congress will either not be able to fund these increases or will finance these research programs at the expense of other domestic programs.
Once the President announced his budget, the House and Senate Budget Committees began work on a budget resolution. As described by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), a budget resolution is "a fiscal blueprint, a guide, a roadmap" for spending. In early April, the Senate passed its budget resolution for fiscal year 1999. Like the President's request, the Senate resolution (Senate Resolution 209) would balance the budget for the first time in 30 years and contains similar funding levels to last year. The good news for science is that the Senate passed an amendment introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to double federal spending on civilian science and technology between FY 1998 and FY2008. The bad news is that the language is non-binding, only expressing "the sense of the Senate," and that the actual numbers in the resolution tell a different story, cutting non-defense R&D by more than $3.5 billion from current levels between FY 1999 and FY 2003. This level is $37 billion less than called for in S. 1305, the bill closely associated with the spirit of the Bingaman amendment.
The House, however, did not pass its resolution (House Resolution 284) introduced by Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio) until June 5. The House resolution -- which was not introduced until mid-May -- would cut more than $100 billion over five years and specifies four goals: pay down the federal debt, save Social Security, eliminate the "marriage penalty" tax, and shrink the federal government by 1 percent. Controversy among Republicans runs rampant, as moderates criticize it for making too many cuts and conservatives believe it does not allow for enough tax cuts. In addition, the bill sets spending levels much lower than the Senate or Administration budgets. It calls for cuts of $2.1 billion in the Natural Resources and Environment function, $1.5 billion in Agriculture, and cuts to the Energy and Transportation functions.
Usually, the Senate and House conference their resolutions to reach agreement on a final version to guide the appropriations process. Once the resolution is reached, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee allocate funds, known as 602(b) allocations, to each of its 13 subcommittees to draft appropriations bills. Once these appropriations bills are completed, they must be passed by the subcommittee, Appropriations Committee, and appropriate chamber of Congress respectively. Once a bill has passed both Houses of Congress, the House and Senate will conference to reach agreement on differences in their bills. The final version will be presented to the President for his signature or veto.
Because the House resolution was announced so late, the Senate went ahead and allocated funds to the appropriations subcommittees, who are now working on appropriations bills. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) aims to have eight of the thirteen appropriations bills on the Senate floor starting the week of June 1. Geoscience-related subcommittee allocations break down as follows:
In a separate process of developing an omnibus reconciliation bill, the House and Senate Budget Committees draft legislation to make changes in mandatory spending, such as entitlements and sales of government property. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee draft tax cut legislation. Once differences between the houses are reconciled, the bills are presented to the President for his signature or veto.
This year, the House and Senate never came to agreement on the budget resolution, primarily due to disagreements over the size of a tax cut. In late September, the House passed an $80 billion tax cut, but no Senate action had taken place as of October 1st, the start of the new (1999) fiscal year.
Last year -- for the first time -- the President was allowed to use a line-item veto. Within five days of signing a bill, the President could veto certain items in the appropriations and tax bills. If Congress wanted to reinstate the item, they could pass a separate bill. On June 25, 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that this law, promoted by House Republicans in their 1994 Contract with America and embraced by President Clinton, was unconstitutional.
The House and Senate completed a conference on the agriculture spending bill, but the bill was vetoed by the President for not including enough emergency funding for farmers. The bill -- with an additional $1.7 billion in aid -- was passed as part of the omnibus bill on October 21. Conservation programs, carried out by the office of Natural Resources Conservation Services, received $693 million, above the FY98 level of $633 million. The National Research Initiative increased to $119 million. The Agriculture Research Service also increased to $782 million.
The excitement over the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998-- which was signed into law in June and provides additional money for agricultural research programs -- was quickly damped as the Senate and House Appropriations Committees redirected that money towards other programs. The House passed HR 4101, the Agriculture Appropriations bill, by a 373-48 vote on June 24. The Senate passed S 2159 on July 16. Both the House and Senate bill cut allocations for the Dept. of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and zeroed out funding for the Fund for Rural America, which includes research and education funding. The Administration had requested $752 million for conservation operations. The House recommended $641 million and the Senate recommended $638 million, $8 million and $5 million above FY98 respectively.
The Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill was passed as part of the omnibus bill. NOAA received $2.166 billion, $164 million over FY98. A more detailed breakdown of the budget is available on the NOAA website. The Sea Grant program received a 2 percent increase to $57.5 million, $4 million of which is earmarked. The law provides $253 million for the National Ocean Service and $560 million for the National Weather Service. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) account received $287 million, up $10 million over FY98. Within OAR, $15 million was provided for Interannual and Seasonal Climate Research, $63 million for Climate and Global Change Research, and $446 million for Atmospheric Programs. The National Undersea Research Program received $14 million, $1.7 million of which is marked for the JASON program. Within the Department of Commerce, $3.5 million is provided for a Commission on Ocean Policy to review U.S. policies related to oceans and coastal activities subject to authorization.
By strategic plan categories, Advance Short Term Warning and Forecasting Services, which comprises about half of NOAA's budget, increased to $1.273 million. Seasonal to Interannual Climate research, which focuses on El Nino, received $111.4 million, $6 million above the President's request and FY98 level. Decadal to Centennial Climate Change slightly increased over FY98 ($0.1 million) to $88.3 million. Promoting Safe Navigation increase $5 million over FY98 to $97.3 million. Building Sustainable Fisheries increased dramatically ($38 million) over FY98 to $398.8 million. Recovering Protected Species increased $8 million over FY98 to $80.1 million, and Sustain Healthy Coasts increase by $20 million to$263.7 million.
On July 23, the Senate passed S. 2260 (S. Rpt. 105-235), its version of the FY 1999 Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill. The bill provides $2.2 billion for NOAA, above the Administration's request of $2.1 billion. The committee also appropriated $3.5 million for establishing a Commission on Ocean Policy as approved by the Senate in S.1213, the Oceans Act of 1997. This summary of the bill is provided by EESI:
The committee recommends $285.8 million for the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research account, above the FY '98 mark of $277 million and Clinton's request of $251.2 million. Climate and air quality research is provided $130.8 million, another boost over Clinton's requested $123 million and this year's $114 million. About $67 million is provided for climate and global change research. Atmospheric programs are granted $46.9 million, over Clinton's level of nearly $45 million but under the FY '98 level of $47.7 million.
The National Ocean Service is set to receive $261.8 million, above President Clinton's request of $247 million and the FY '98 figure of $241 million. Ocean resources conservation and assessment needs are provided $94 million, an increase over Clinton's $80 million request and the $76 million FY '98 level. Ocean and coastal management programs are to receive nearly $85 million, also above Clinton's proposal for $83 million and this year's $75 million mark.
The National Weather Service is allotted $565.6 million, just above Clinton's $564.4 million request and over the $520 million set for 1998. Spending for operations and research is $503 million for FY '99, over the FY '98 mark of $467 million.
The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service is given $105.3 million, more than the administration's $100 million level but under the FY '98 level of $134 million. Environmental observing systems accounts are set at $54.5 million.
On August 6, the House passed HR 4276, which provides a marginal increase in overall spending for NOAA to a total of $2.01 billion, by a 225-203 margin. The following summary is provided by EESI:
Report language cites as the most significant increases in NOAA spending the $93 million for navigation safety programs, an 11 percent increase over the request; the $70 million for clean water programs, a 17 percent increase over the FY '98 level that includes $8.8 million exclusively for research on harmful algal blooms; and the $439 million for weather satellites, a $110 million increase over FY '98.
The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research account is funded at $254.8 million, above the $251.2 million administration request but below the $277.5 million FY '98 figure. Climate and air quality research is cut from $114.8 million this year to $111.7 million next year; the GLOBE program is zeroed out. Atmospheric programs are granted the White House-planned $45 million, down from FY `98's $47.2 million, while ocean and Great Lakes programs are cut from $100.4 million in FY '98 to $85.3 million in FY '99.
The National Ocean Service is allotted $244.9 million, splitting the difference between the $241.9 million FY '98 figure and the $247.4 million White House proposal. Ocean resources conservation assessment programs are cut from $76.5 million in FY '98 to $73.6 million in FY '99, while ocean and coastal management programs are hiked from $74.8 million to $78.5 million.
The National Weather Service is allotted $551.7 million, below the $564.4 million administration proposal but above the $520.2 million FY '98 level. Operations and research funding is hiked from $467.3 million to $489.5 million, and the extra satellite money is provided in another account.
The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service is given $104.2 million, more than the White House-requested $100.4 million but well below the $134.7 million FY '98 figure. Environmental observing systems accounts are kept level from FY '98 at $50.3 million, while environmental data management systems are hiked from $46.3 million this year to $52.4 million the next.
The Energy and Water bill was signed into law on October 7. Overall DOE funding rose $524.7 million over the FY98 level to a total of $16.4 billion, which is still below the Administration's request of $17 billion. DOE science programs increased by $217 million over FY98 to $2.7 billion. Solar and renewable energy increased $20 million to $365 million. Nuclear funding jumped from $243 million in FY98 to $284 million. Basic energy sciences received $809 million, which includes funding for the Spallation Neutron Source. The Bureau of Reclamation received $617 million. Appropriators did not fully fund either of the President's Climate Change initiatives under their control; they provided $19 million of the requested $24 million for the nuclear energy research initiative and did not provide any funding for the nuclear energy plant optimization initiative.
The Senate passed the FY99 Energy and Water appropriations bill ( S. 2138; Senate Report 105-206) by a 98-1 vote on June 18. During the debate, the Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) and William Roth (R-DE) that increased funding for solar and renewable energy over the Appropriations Committee recommendation by approximately $59 million. Other recommendations by the committee held fast.
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed the $21.3 billion FY99 Energy and Water appropriations bill on June 4. The committee recommended $16.7 billion for the Department of Energy, substantially above last year's allocation of $15.84 billion but below the President's request of $17 billion. The Bureau of Reclamation would receive $861 million, $73 million less than the budget request but $32 million above FY98.
The Senate bill provides the President's full request of $836.1 million for the Basic Energy Sciences program that includes basic research in the geosciences, $167.9 million more than in FY 1998. The bill provides all but $5 million of the Administration's request for DOE's high-level nuclear waste disposal program (principally the Yucca Mountain Project), funding it at $375 million. Reflecting the aggressively pro-nuclear stance of subcommittee chair Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), the DOE Nuclear Energy account fared well, receiving $280.7 million, compared with $243 million in FY98. Even in a Senate that has opposed many of the Administration's climate change initiatives, the committee approved the Administration's two nuclear programs proposed in the Climate Change Initiative- the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative ($24 million) and the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization ($10 million).
In the subcommittee bill, solar and renewable energy programs took a big hit. The subcommittee recommendation of $345.5 million for renewables is almost $100 million under the President's request of $437 million and below the FY98 level. This low funding level caused Senators Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.) and William Roth (R-Del.) to circulate a Dear Colleague letter seeking support for their amendment which would raise funding for renewables closer to the Administration's request, by adding $59 million to the account. The amendment passed during the Senate floor debate.
The Senate bill would provide funding equal to the requested amount for High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Basic Energy Sciences. For Fusion Energy Sciences, the Committee would provide an amount equal to FY 1998 funding, and greater than the request. The Committee also suggests bringing these four programs together with several others under a newly renamed "Office of Science Research." The report accompanying the bill recommends full funding for the construction of the Spallation Neutron Source . It also recommends $10,000,000 to continue the Department's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR] Program.
The House passed H.R. 4060 (H. Rpt. 105-581), the Energy and Water Development spending bill, on June 22 in a form very similar to that proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. The subcommittee provided $16.2 billion for the Department of Energy ($305 more than FY98) and $762.8 million for the Bureau of Reclamation - - both of which are below the Administration's request and the Senate appropriation.
The bill provides $779.1 million for the Basic Energy Sciences program, an amount $110.9 million more than in FY 1998 but $57.0 million less than the President's request and the Senate level. Funding for high-level nuclear waste disposal is set at $350.0 million, the same as in FY 1998 but $30 million less than the request. The House bill does not share the Senate's support for nuclear energy, denying funding for one the President's proposed climate change projects, the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization, and only providing $5 million of a requested $24 million for the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative. Overall, the bill cuts the nuclear energy budget by $15.3 million below the FY 1998 allocation to $227.8 million. The committee only provided half of the $27 million requested by DOE's Office of Energy Research for the President's Climate Change Technology Initiative.
The House subcommittee was more generous to solar and renewable technologies than its counterpart in the Senate, increasing funding by $5.1 million over the current fiscal year to $351.4 million.
After much debate, the Interior and Related Agencies bill was passed as part of the omnibus appropriations bill. Many of the "anti-environmental" riders were dropped during negotiations with the Administration, but several important riders remain. The bill delays an MMS oil valuation rule from taking effect for 8 months, includes one-year moratorium on hardrock mining regulations pending completion of study by the National Academy of Sciences, and provides $40 million to purchase the Baca Ranch in New Mexico, which contains the Valles Caldera.
The USGS will receive $797,896,000, higher than both House and Senate figures, but lower than the Administration request of $806,883,000. The Geologic Division received $237,854,000. The final numbers for the other divisions include $161,221,000 for the Biological Resources Division; $137,577,000 for the National Mapping Division; and $207,586,000 for the Water Resources Division. All were above FY98 levels.
The Bureau of Land Management will receive $1.191 billion, slightly higher than FY98. Minerals Management Service will receive $124 million, down from $150 million in FY98.
Fossil energy research covered in the bill is $384 million, one million above the Administration request. Within fossil energy, oil technology received $48,616,000; coal research received $123,143,000; and natural gas research received $115,202,000.
The Interior and Related Agencies bill (H.R. 4193, House Report 105-609) passed the House on July 23 by a 245-181 margin. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt held a press conference to denounce the bill, saying: "This is worse than 1995. Back then they tried to gut the Clean Water Act, shut down National Parks, and eviscerate the Endangered Species Act. They failed. The American public rose up and stopped them cold. This time, they're trying to do the same thing by starving our parks, refuges, public lands, science, Indian schools and natural resources. And they're doing it quietly without any debate." Fossil energy R&D lost $5 million from the committee recommendation after several amendments during the floor debate. An amendment by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cut $50 million from fossil energy, but it was mostly restored in amendment by Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH) that took $90 million from oil overcharge escrow accounts and gave $45 million each to fossil energy R&D and energy conservation programs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Interior bill (S.2237, S.Rpt.105-227) on June 25. The bill was pulled from the floor on September 19, after several Senators attempted to attached unrelated legislation to it, including Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho), who sought to add S. 1180, his Endangered Species Act revision, to it.
Among the items of interest to geoscientists, the Senate report includes a provision calling on Interior Secretary Babbitt to issue a report "assessing the need for a unified Federal policy on the collection, storage, and preservation of...fossils." More below.
The Administration had issued a veto threat for the bill as it stood in both houses.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the $13.46 billion Interior spending bill (S.2237/ S. Rpt. 105-227) on June 25, a level similar to the House but below the Administration and FY98 levels. Funding for the USGS would be $772.1 million, less than the House and Administration request. MMS was allocated $123.4 million, almost one million more than the House, but less than the Administration request or current funding level. The committee recommended $376 million for fossil energy R&D, including $116 million for coal research, $112 million for natural gas research, and $49 million for oil technology research.
Within the USGS, the Geologic Division is allocated $235.7 million, approximately $2 million more than the request. That increase includes $1.7 million for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program "in order to maintain level funding for the STATEMAP, EDMAP, and FEDMAP programs." Funding for both the earthquake hazards program of external cooperative agreements and the global seismic network are continued at the FY98 level, as proposed in the Administration budget. The committee recommends $197 million for WRD, $154 million for the Biological Resources Division, and $135.8 million go the National Mapping Division. The Committee did not provide funding for the Disaster Information Network
Among the many riders to this bill that have caused the Administration to threaten a veto, an amendment by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) places a moratorium on implementing the oil valuation rule proposed by the Department of the Interior until October 1 ,1999. Senator Hutchison had already prohibited implementation of the rule in this fiscal year through a rider in a supplemental spending bill.
Another rider affecting geoscientists is one that will delay DOI's implementation of a hardrock mining rule until at least 2001, by delaying a final rule until the National Academy of Sciences issues a report on the current state and local environmental regulations on mining on federal lands.
Buried in report language accompanying S. 2237 is a provision that calls on the Secretary of the Interior to issue a report on "assessing the need for a unified Federal policy on the collection, storage, and preservation of...fossils." The report is to be developed in "consultation with appropriate scientific, educational and commercial entities." The provision was inserted at the request of Senators Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, both South Dakota Democrats.
In the last Congress, Johnson (then in the House) introduced legislation to govern fossil collection on public lands. That bill, H.R. 2943, failed to make any headway. An update from December, 1996 is available on the AGI web site at: http://www.agiweb.org/legis104/fosslupd.html.A staffer for Johnson noted the Department of the Interior's opposition to efforts in the last Congress, and stated that this provision gives the Department of the Interior an opportunity to control the direction that this issue takes.
The provision appears in explanatory language for the "Departmental Management, Salaries and Expenses" account. The House version of the Interior appropriations bill does not contain a similar provision. The text of the provision:
"Under current public laws, including the Federal Land Management Policy Act of 1976, Federal land management agencies are given the authority and the mandate to protect public resources, including those of scientific value. These resources include fossilized paleontological specimens, which provide valuable clues to the Earth's history. The Committee is aware that no unified Federal policy exists regarding the treatment of these fossils by the affected Federal agencies, and is concerned that the lack of appropriate standards may lead to the deterioration or loss of these fossils and the permanent loss of a valuable scientific resource.
"Therefore, the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with appropriate scientific, educational and commercial entities, should develop a report assessing the need for a unified Federal policy on the collection, storage, and preservation of these fossils. Agencies to be consulted in the development of this policy should include, but not be limited to, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Forest Service, and the Smithsonian Institution. The Committee encourages the Secretary to assess the need for standards that would maximize the availability of fossils for scientific study. The Committee expects the Secretary to submit the report to Congress for review no later than February 1, 1999. In addition, the report should evaluate the effectiveness of current methods for storing and preserving fossils collected from public lands."
The House Appropriations Committee passed H.R. 4193 (House Report 105-609), its $13.4 billion Department of the Interior spending bill on June 25, following a June 18 subcommittee markup of the bill. That figure is $800 million below the President's request and $700 million less than FY98. The US Geological Survey would receive $774.84 million, less than the president's $807.23 million proposal but higher than FY98's total of $759.16. The House version allocates $235.6 million for the Geologic Division. Report language "directs the USGS to continue the National cooperative geologic mapping program ...at the 1998 level," restoring a massive cut in the Administration request. The report states that the committee agrees with the Administration's request for a Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN), but FEMA -- not the USGS -- should be the lead agency. The report continues: "The Committee believes that the Survey's highest hazards-related priority should be to continue to upgrade its various hazards monitoring networks to acquire quality hazards information. In this light, the Committee urges the Survey to refine its proposal for a real time hazards initiative. By March 31, 1999, the Survey should provide a comprehensive report to the Committee detailing the resource requirements for a Survey-wide real time hazards initiative." The House recommends $200.7 million for Water Resources Division (WRD), but does not provide any funds for parts of the Administration's Clean Water Action Plan that were to be funded out of WRD. The committee recommends $138.9 million for the National Mapping Division.
MMS would receive $122.52 million, less than the Administration request of $128.5 million and FY98 allocation of $143.6 million. The Bureau of Land Management would receive $1.155 billion.
Although most DOE programs are funded in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, several fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior subcommittee. The subcommittee provided $630.25 million for energy efficiency and conservation program, above the FY98 level of $591.1 million but far below the Administration's requested $773.5 million. Reps. Jon Fox (R-Pa.) and David Skaggs (D-Colo.) offered an amendment that would increase funds for energy conservation programs by $70 million, but it was defeated 212-213. Funding for other energy programs includes: fossil energy (includes clean coal) $320 million; Strategic Petroleum Reserve, $160 million and Energy Information Administration, $68 million.
The Labor-HHS-Education was passed as part of the omnibus bill. The Eisenhower Professional Development Program received the Senate appropriation of $335 million, the same as FY98. The bill includes more than $1 billion to hire more teachers to reduce classroom size, but did not include funding for school construction and national testing for fourth and eighth graders in reading and math.
The Senate Labor-HHS-Education bill, S. 2440, was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on September 3. The Senate bill funds the Eisenhower Professional Development program at the FY98 level of $335 million. It does not combine Eisenhower funding into a block grant like the House bill.
On July 20, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Labor-HHS spending bill, H.R. 4274 (H. Rpt. 105-635). It would kill many of the education initiatives proposed by President Clinton in his 1998 State of the Union address, including the Goals 2000 reform efforts and reduced classroom size. The bill would allow states to combine funding for the Eisenhower Professional Development Program and Goals 2000 into an Education Block Grant to use as they see fit. The subcommittee also reduced funding for Eisenhower, from the FY 98 level of $335 million to $285 million.
The House and Senate completed their conference on October 1, and the bill was signed into law on October 21. The President's Council on Environmental Quality received the House appropriation of $2.675 million, which is $100,000 higher than the Senate plan but much lower than the $3.0 million administration request.
National Science Foundation
Education and Human Resources received $663 million, up 5 percent. Within EHR, a $13.5 million increase above the budget request was provided for undergraduate and graduate minority activities. The Major Research Equipment account received $90 million, same as FY 1998. The Polar Cap Observatory was not funded. Instead, an additional $17 million was provided to accelerate ongoing modernization activities at the South Pole research station.
The final report language does not include Senate earmarks to establish research centers at "non top 100" universities, but instead contains language for NSF to take steps to "enhance the resources available" to a broader range of institutions, and "to review the need for the establishment of new centers to meet the purposes as proposed by the Senate, and review the desirability and feasibility of establishing a new and separate pool of resources to benefit doctoral I and II institutions as defined by the Carnegie Foundation."
The report also cites a National Research Council report, "Opportunities in Ocean Science," and instruct NSF to "counsel with the National Ocean Leadership Council and the Office of Management and Budget, to define ocean science initiatives that will help realize the economic and environmental benefits described in the report."
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Environmental Protection Agency
On July 17, the Senate passed S. 2168 (Senate Report 105-216), the FY99 VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies appropriations bill. Although a number of amendments were adopted to the bill, none directly affected the NSF funding recommendations made by the Senate Appropriations Committee back on June 11. In addition to the funding for NSF, NASA, and EPA discussed below, the bill provides $5 million for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and $1.354 billion for FEMA, including $846 million for disaster relief.
National Science Foundation
For NSF, the Appropriations Committee is recommending a total FY99 appropriation of $3.644 billion -- $215 million or 6.3% more than the FY98 level but $129 million less than the President's request. For Research and Related Activities, the committee is recommending an appropriation of $2.725 billion -- an increase of $179 million over last year's level, but $122 million less than the request for FY99. Within this account, the committee recommended increasing the budget request for arctic logistics support by $24 million.
For the Major Research Equipment account, the committee is recommending the budget request of $94 million. It has, however, once again specifically denied funds for the Polar Cap Observatory. For Education and Human Resources, the committee has provided the budget request of $683 million.
The committee appears to concur with the National Science Foundation's assessment that the NSF is not the appropriate place for a National Institute for the Environment (NIE). Report language states: "The Committee concurs with the Foundation's view that environmental research is an important area that should be strengthened. The Committee believes that this objective can be accomplished without the creation of additional bureaucratic structure. The Committee looks forward to forthcoming proposals from OSTP, NSF, and the National Science and Technology Council concerning a national science and technology strategy for the environment, which was recommended in the NSF's April report to the Committee." The House report language does not mention the NIE.
Some in the science-policy community have raised a red flag over report language accompanying the bill. Although not legally binding, the instructions in the report have the virtual force of law - agencies that ignore these instructions can face repercussions in next year's appropriation. Traditionally, NSF has received relatively few restrictions on how it distributes research funding. Last year, the Senate included an earmark of $40 million for plant genome research but even then, the research itself was to be distributed on the basis of peer review.
A recent American Institute of Physics update summarizes the new Senate report language and sounds a cautionary note. The report demands that NSF provide "quantifiable goals and milestones" in compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. Given the difficulty of identifying short-term outcomes from basic research, this provision has raised concern. The committee also urges NSF to use its Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence initiative to address "demonstrated personnel needs of information technology firms for expanded education and training at three university-based centers," specifying that support should be focused on "universities and colleges that do not normally fall within the top 100 of NSF's survey of universities and colleges receiving Federal research support." Later, the report directs NSF to establish applied molecular biology centers similarly targeted to non-"top 100" universities and colleges. Other report language urges NSF to provide appropriate support to Hawaii and Alaska in developing the Next Generation Internet program.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Appropriations Committee agreed with the subcommittee's recommendation of $7.4 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately $50 million more than provided last year but $380 million lower than the administration request. It denied all of EPA's requested $650 million increase for Superfund, instead keeping funding even with this year's $1.5 billion. The increase had been approved in the FY '98 spending bill contingent on program reauthorization by May 15 of this year. When that failed to happen, the administration on May 18 sent appropriators an amendment cutting the link and inking the extra money, but the document was ignored. Brownfields fared much better, coming up just $1 million shy of the $91 million proposal.
Another major administration initiative was almost equally cold shouldered. EPA requested $230 million for climate change programs. Not only did the subcommittee grant just $25 million of the requested $116 million increase, it adopted report language providing no funds to support the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
The subcommittee approved $93 million of the $153 million requested for EPA's role in the Clean Water Action Plan. Some $50 million of the increase is for additional nonpoint source grants. Other water programs came out the clear winners in the bill. EPA proposed cutting the clean water state revolving fund (SRF) $275 million, from $1.350 billion in FY '98 to $1.075 billion next year. The panel made up the difference and more, allotting $1.4 billion. Similarly, EPA proposed hiking the drinking water SRF from $725 million to $775 million, only to be bettered by $25 million by the subcommittee.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The committee recommended $13.615 billion for NASA, $150 million more than the President's request, but $33 million less than the current year. The committee established a separate account for the controversial International Space Station, funding it at $2.3 billion. The committee also rearranged accounts regarding science and technology by dividing the 'Science, aeronautics, and technology (SAT)' account into an 'Aeronautics, space transportation, and technology' account and a 'Science and technology' account. The committee recommended $4.257 billion for the Science and technology account, which contains funding for activities "associated with space science, Earth science, life and microgravity science, mission communications, and academic programs that were formerly funding in the SAT account." The Senate recommended $1.397 billion for Earth science activities, with report language supporting initiatives such as commercial remote sensing, space-borne radar, oil and mineral exploration, and environmental research aircraft and sensor technology.
The House passed the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill ( HR 4194, House Report 105-610) by a 258-164 vote on July 29. Several efforts to cut NSF funding failed. Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN) discussed reducing NSF research funding by $107 million to pay for FEMA's emergency food and shelter program but later withdrew the amendment without offering it. Another amendment was offered by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) to cut NSF's research budget by $270 million and was defeated by voice vote. In floor remarks earlier in the week, Sanford listed a number of NSF-supported grants that he thought were of dubious value and called for the Foundation's budget to be cut accordingly. These projects include research "to ATMs," "collaborative activity on poker," and "cheap talk," among others. The "ATMs" that Sanford cited are not money machines, but "Asynchronous Transfer Modes" used in high speed networking. "Poker" is not the card game, but research on social interaction used to study decision making processes. Economic models use "cheap talk" in describing the cost of information.
Amendments affecting EPA were passed. An amendment by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) restricts EPA and CEQ from using funds to "develop, propose, or issue rules, regulations, decrees, or orders for the purpose of implementation, or in contemplation of the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change." An amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) created exemption was made for educational outreach and informational seminars. In addition, the House cut $106 million from a $205 million initiative for research and voluntary climate change programs.
The House Appropriations Committee passed the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies spending bill on June 26. During the markup, Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Mark Neumann (R-WI) successfully offered an amendment which added an additional $70 million to NSF's Research and Related Activities account, bringing the account total to $2.815 billion. Within this request, the Committee decided to fund earth sciences, ocean sciences, and atmospheric sciences at no less than their FY99 request levels of $106 million, $230 million, and $170 million, respectively. The amendment brings total NSF funding to $3.697 billion, an 8 percent increase over FY98 and $53 million more than the Senate recommendation. Other appropriations are similar to those passed by the subcommittee on June 18.
National Science Foundation
For NSF, the subcommittee recommended $3.627 billion, almost a 6 percent increase over FY98, but $17 million less than the Senate request and $146 million under the President's request. The House subcommittee was more generous than the Senate to the Research and Related Activities account, funding it 8 percent about FY98 at $2.745 billion. These figures were increased by the Frelinghuysen and Neumann amendment discussed above. The subcommittee recommended $90 million for the Major Research Equipment, $4 million less than Senate and Administration. The subcommittee deferred without prejudice funding for the Polar Cap Observatory, but provided extra money for the South Pole station modernization. Report language indicates that if the issues surrounding PCO are resolved, then the subcommittee would provide funding for PCO. Finally, the subcommittee recommended $642.5 million for the Education and Human Resources account, $40 million less than Senate and Administration.
Environmental Protection Agency
The subcommittee approved $7.4 billion for EPA, $59 million more than the current level but $367 million less than the President's request. Like the Senate, the House denied the Administration's request for a $650 million increase for Superfund and kept funding level at $1.5 billion. The House also did not fully fund the Administration's brownfields request, providing only $75 million of the $91.4 million initiative. The House subcommittee also denied most the requested funds for climate change programs and prohibited the use of funds for "advocacy programs" related to the Kyoto treaty. The subcommittee only recommended funding $10 million of the proposed $116 million increase for climate change funding over the current $89 million. The subcommittee did fully fund the President Clean Water Initiative by providing $153 million for the program.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The subcommittee provided $13.328 billion for NASA, lower than both the Senate and Administration figures. The subcommittee recommended $5,541 million for the Science Aeronautics and Technology account, which provides funding for NASA research and development activities. This amount is $84 million above the President's request, but $148 million less than the FY98 appropriation. Increases were provided for space science, aeronautics and space transportation, and life and microgravity science. These increases are offset by a reduction of $59 million from earth science in uncosted carry-over. The report language states: "The Committee recommendation includes a general reduction to the budget request for earth sciences programs. The Committee remains concerned with the execution of several specific programs within earth science and with the large amounts of unobligated and uncosted carryover funds associated with this portion of the budget. The Committee recommendation includes a general reduction of $59,400,000 which is less than 10% of the uncosted carryover which existed at the end of fiscal year 1998." A summary of a House Science Committee hearing that addressed this issue of uncosted carryovers is available on the AGI website.
Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Physics, AESOP, Environment and Energy Weekly, National Science Foundation, Washington Post
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Kasey Shewey White and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program
Last updated November 23, 1998
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