Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE

The President's Fiscal Year 2001 Budget: Part 1 -- NSF and USGS


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

IN A NUTSHELL: On Monday, President Clinton released his Fiscal Year 2001 budget. As expected from the president's earlier remarks, science funding was up substantially in most agencies. For the geosciences, the big winners were the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey. Science at NOAA and EPA also fared well. The Department of Energy would see modest increases for geoscience-related programs. NASA's Office of Earth Science received a cut, presumably so that the agency could focus more attention on getting its Mars missions to work and getting the International Space Station back on track. This update includes NSF and USGS. A subsequent update will include the other agencies. And remember, this is just the president's request. Realizing increased funding for the geosciences will take a concerted effort by the geoscience community to convince Congress that this is a worthwhile investment.


National Science Foundation

Even before the budget was released, President Clinton announced that he was requesting a 17.5 percent increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2001. The total request is $4.6 billion, up from $3.9 billion in FY 2000. Within that total, the research budget is up 19.7% to $3.5 billion.

For the past decade, funding for the Geosciences Directorate (GEO) at NSF has been virtually flat in constant dollars. That has been especially true for the Earth Science Division (EAR), where the bulk of solid earth science research is funded. That trend could change dramatically this year if Congress grants the President's budget request for NSF. The president's budget for FY 2001 includes a 19.5% increase for GEO, including within that a 16.6% increase for EAR, a 17.7% increase for the Atmospheric Sciences Division, and a whopping 22.2% increase for the Ocean Sciences Division.

By the numbers, GEO is up $95.2 million to $583.0 million. EAR is up $16.9 million to $118.51 million. Ocean Sciences is up $49.2 million to $270.5 million, and Atmospheric Sciences is up $29.2 million to $194.0 million.

About two-thirds of the increase is tied to NSF-wide initiatives: Biocomplexity in the Environment ($39.5 million in new money), Information Technology Research ($16.6 million new), Nanoscale Science and Engineering ($7.8 million new), and 21st Century Workforce ($1.6 million of which $0.4 million is new). Except for the last one, GEO was not included in any of these initiatives last year.

The earth sciences would also benefit from a request in the NSF-wide Major Research Equipment budget for the Earthscope initiative. This account is separate from the GEO account and would direct $17.4 million to launch the USArray and the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD). Planning will continue for the remaining two components: the Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO) and the satellite-based Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) mission. This request is the first for the earth sciences in the Major Research Equipment budget, effectively doubling the EAR budget increase.

USArray consists of a dense array of high-capability seismometers deployed in a step-wise fashion across the US. The seismic deployment will be accompanied by geologic, geochronologic, geochemical, and related research to provide a complete picture of the structure and evolution of the North American continent. According to the budget documents, "SAFOD, consisting of an instrumental borehole through the San Andreas fault with cores taken at intervals, will enable the direct observation of the physical and chemical processes controlling deformation and earthquake generation within a major, active plate-bounding fault zone."

Polar research also receives a sizeable boost. The US Polar Research budget would increase 17% to $222.8 million. However, funding for the US Antarctic Logistical Support Activities is flat at $62.6 million.

The Education and Human Resources Directorate stands to receive a 5% boost to $760.0 million. Included within that is a 3.9% increase for Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education; a 20.8% increase for Undergraduate Education; a 14.4% increase for Graduate Education; and a 6.0% increase for Human Resource Development. No breakdowns were provided for what percentage of these accounts goes to support geoscience education.

U.S. Geological Survey

The good news continues with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which has requested a 10% increase to $895.4 million. That is the largest increase the Survey has ever requested. All four divisions would receive new money with the largest amount going to the National Mapping Division, up $28.6 million or 22.5%. The Biological Resources Division request is up $21.9 million or 16%. The Geologic Division (GD) request is up $13.6 million or 6.4%, and the Water Resources Division (WRD) request is up $11.8 million or 6.3%. USGS Director Chip Groat emphasized that the bulk of the increases are focused on the Survey's core activities, a focus that should sit well with Congress, which has criticized the Administration in recent years for seeking to branch the USGS out in new directions at the expense of core functions.

Under the theme "Safer Communities," the Survey is proposing an increase of $7.1 million for developing real-time warning capabilities in the national earthquake monitoring network ($2.6 million), volcano monitoring in Alaska ($0.5 million), and the national streamgaging network ($4 million). These increases build on smaller increases last year and are the first steps toward achieving the goals set forth in recent USGS reports calling for major upgrades to the earthquake and streamgage networks.

Over half of the proposed increase in the Survey's budget is tied to funds for state and community-level planning partnerships, which in turn are designed to support the Interior Department Lands Legacy initiative's goals of open space and sustainable growth. The Community/Federal Information Partnerships (C/FIP) initiative includes $7.5 million for geologic mapping grants to "expand, in cooperation with State Geological Surveys, the development of the Internet-based National Geologic Map Database and the production of National Spatial Data Infrastructure-compliant digital geologic map data that meet community needs to address hazards, resources, and environmental management issues." The budget also would transfer $0.5 million for the Great Lakes Mapping Coalition from the National Mapping Division to the Geologic Division. Other C/FIP increases include $0.5 million for energy resources data for communities, $2 million for water information, $10 million to collect and increase access to spatial data and maps, $2 million for improved Internet access to USGS geospatial data, and $8 million to overlay biologic datasets with other USGS geospatial data.

Another $10 million would go to the National Mapping Division "to develop decision support systems to help America's communities respond to issues posed by urban growth." National mapping also would receive $5 million to assume long-term management responsibility for the LANDSAT 7 program from NOAA. The Survey has requested $10 million to provide predictive modeling tools and decision support information for natural resource managers (total includes at least $1.2 million from GD and $2.7 million from WRD). Finally, $15 million is requested to provide science support to the other Interior bureaus, particularly the land management agencies (total includes at least $2.0 million from GD and $3.3 million from WRD).

The USGS is declaring the Ohio View project a success and seeking to redirect its funding to other parts of the country. This pilot project to deliver earth science data in real-time to a consortium of Ohio universities was added to the Survey's budget by House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH). It is not clear how he will respond to this redirection. Overall, the Survey's budget appears to include approximately $7 million in cuts removing congressionally earmarked projects in Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii, and several other states. Other decreases target "lower priority" projects, including a $2.5 million cut to hydrologic research and development, a $2.8 million cut to water data collection and management projects, and a $2.5 million cut to coal availability and recoverability studies.

Additional budget information will be available shortly at AGI's website:

Sources: NSF, USGS

Special update prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

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

Posted February 8, 2000

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