SPECIAL UPDATE: House Appropriators Provide Big Boost for NSF

(Posted 10-8-02)

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

IN A NUTSHELL: After months of delay, the House subcommittee that oversees spending for the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, EPA, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has drafted its version of a funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2003, already one week old. The as-yet-unnumbered bill would provide NSF with $5.42 billion, nearly a 13% increase over FY 2002. The EarthScope project would receive $40 million, twice the amount allocated by the Senate and $5 million above the President's request. Research accounts at NSF would receive $4.1 billion (up over 15%) within which the Geosciences Directorate would receive $701 million (up 15%). A committee press release provided overall numbers for the other agencies mentioned above, which are included in this update. Details for those agencies will be posted on the AGI web site as they become available. AGI encourages geoscientists to thank members of the House Appropriations Committee for their generosity.


On October 7th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies released its fiscal year (FY) 2003 spending bill (as yet unnumbered). The bill has been delayed on the House side due to its low allocation -- the total amount available to the subcommittee for all programs within their jurisdiction. The counterpart bill, S. 2797, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 25th. Despite this initial action on the long-stalled House VA-HUD bill, it is unlikely to progress much further before the November elections. E&E Daily reports that subcommittee chairman Rep. James Walsh (R-NY) has said that he "hoped House GOP leaders would allow for a floor debate after the Nov. 5 election, during a lame-duck session, and then have the measure to President Bush before the New Year." Walsh admitted, however, that even that scenario was rosy.

The bill would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $5.42 billion, an increase of $614 million (12.8%) over the enacted FY 2002 level, $395 million above the amount requested by President Bush, and $70 million more than the Senate bill. The Research and Related Activities account would receive $4.1 billion (up 15.3%); the Major Research Equipment and Facilities (MRE) account would receive $159 million (up 14.9%); and Education and Human Resources would receive $910 million (up 4.1%). According to the draft report accompanying the bill, increases in research funding should be allocated by NSF giving "the highest priority to increasing research opportunities for investigator initiated research in the core scientific disciplines."

NSF Major Research Equipment Account: EarthScope

Within the MRE account, the bill would provide initial funding for the EarthScope project at $40 million, which is $5 million above the president's request. The Senate provided $20 million of the $35 million requested as part of its overall $79 million for that account, half what the House proposes to spend on MRE projects. EarthScope is now poised to become the first-ever MRE project for the earth sciences.

The report states that the increased figure for EarthScope is part of an "alternative request" that provides more level funding over the life of the project: $40 million in FY 2003 (year one), $42 million in year two, $40 million in year three, $39 million in year four, and $37 million in year five. Benefits of this approach include "significant cost savings over the long-term operation and maintenance of the facility, and providing higher quality data through the acquisition of instrumentation with uniform technical characteristics."

The bill also would fund presidentially requested MRE amounts of $13.6 million for the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, $9.7 million for the Large Hadron Collider, $30 million for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and $6 million for South Pole Station construction. The Terascale Computing System would receive $10 million, half the request. Other MRE projects not requested but funded by the House include $25.5 million as the final installment to complete the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER) and $24.7 million for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The bill does not fund the request to initiate the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), but the report notes that the decision was made "without prejudice," allowing limited resources "to fully fund ongoing projects as well as begin funding for one new research effort, the EarthScope project."

NSF Research: Geosciences Directorate

Within NSF, the Geosciences Directorate (GEO) would receive $701 million, a 15% increase over FY 2002. The Senate bill would provide $684 million. The President's budget had requested $691 million for GEO, the bulk of which came from proposed transfers of programs from EPA, NOAA and USGS. Existing GEO programs would have received only a 1.2% increase over FY 2002. As was the case in the Senate bill, the increase for GEO does not include any of the administration's proposed program transfers. According to the House report: "Each of these programs works well within its current framework and the Committee has not been convinced that such transfer as proposed in the budget submission will either enhance the individual programs or benefit the ongoing programs of the Foundation."

Specific allocations for the three divisions within GEO -- Earth Sciences, Ocean Sciences, and Atmospheric Sciences -- are not yet available but will be posted on the AGI web site at a later time.

NSF Polar Programs

Funding for the NSF research account includes $254 million for the U.S. Polar Research Program and $70 million for Antarctic Logistical Support activities. The report includes an extensive section on the Office of Polar Programs (OPP), noting that an increase of $18.3 million above the president's request "has been provided to enhance the ongoing research effort as well as to provide additional necessary resources for operations, research support and logistics, and science and research grant support. In addition, the Committee requests that the OPP prepare and deliver to the Committee at the earliest date possible a report outlining the work that needs to be performed to upgrade these facilities as well as the estimated short- and long-term costs involved with such upgrades…. Upon completion and delivery of such report, OPP may utilize available resources provided herein to begin planning, design, pre-construction and/or construction activities related to such necessary upgrades." The report goes on to approve preparations for a "mechanical traverse capability between McMurdo Station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station."


Among the other agencies funded by the bill, NASA would receive $15.3 billion, an increase of $398 million over FY 2002 and $300 million above the request. No specifics yet on the Office of Earth Science.

EPA would receive $8.2 billion, up $126 million over FY 2002 and up $583 million from the president's request. Within that total, Superfund would receive $1.4 billion ($153 million over FY 2002 and $150 million above the request). Quoting from the House Appropriations Committee press release: "The Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program is funded at approximately the President's request and last year's level of $73 million. Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds are funded at $850 million, $25 million more than last year and the budget request. Clean Water State Revolving Funds are funded at 1.3 billion, nearly $100 million above the request. Funds State Air Grants at $217 million, while Section 106 water grants are increased to $195 million and section 319 non-point source pollution grants jump to $250 million."

FEMA would receive $1.8 billion for Disaster Relief. No specifics yet on mitigation and flood mapping.

As more information becomes available for these agencies, it will be posted at

Special update prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: House Appropriations Committee, Coalition for National Science Funding.

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

Posted October 8, 2002

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