Web Extra  Friday, August 9

Congress chastises Bush budget for USGS

Before Congress left Washington and took its August recess, it voiced some strong words against the president's budget proposals that would have reduced or eliminated funding for key geoscience agencies and initiatives. Passing appropriations legislation that restores funding for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the House of Representatives and Senate made it clear in the accompanying report that they would not tolerate future cuts to Department of the Interior science programs.

"Officials at the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] seemingly believe that the Department of the Interior no longer needs science on which to base natural resource policy decisions. This is not the position of the Congress as articulated in previous Interior bills," states the House Report 107-564. "The Committee strongly urges the Department and OMB to continue to fund these critical science programs in the base budget in future years." The Senate report language contained similar sentiments about the need to fund the work of the USGS, noting its broad constituency of public support.

In the House appropriations bill, funding for the USGS would total $928 million, a close to 7 percent increase over the president's request. The Senate request was similar, calling for $927 million. Overall, the House and Senate bills provide USGS geologic programs $235 million and $239 million respectively, with an emphasis on mapping.

Released in February, President Bush's budget for fiscal year 2003 had proposed large funding cuts for USGS water research programs, including a transfer of the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program (Toxics) into the National Science Foundation (NSF). At the time, John Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, explained that the OMB treated Toxics as a program that supported science but was somewhat outside the mission of the USGS.

Congress, however, strongly objected to that idea. It not only rejected the proposed Toxics transfer, but also gave USGS water programs a total of $210 million in both the Senate and House bills, an 18 percent increase over the Bush administration's request. In response, the OMB wrote that they were "disappointed that the [Appropriations] Committee ignored the proposed transfer of $10 million for toxic hydrology research funding from the U.S. Geological Survey to the National Science Foundation."

The House and Senate bills also increase funding to the National Water Quality Assessment Program and keep funding about level from last year for the other water programs.

Similarly, congressional appropriations committees expressed disapproval of proposed cuts to the Department of Energy. The House and Senate committees recommended a near doubling of funding for natural gas exploration over the budget request, and increased funding for the Office of Fossil Energy. "More than [$93 million] in programmatic increases above the budget request were necessitated by the Department's proposed early termination of valuable research projects, many of which, in the opinion of the Committee, are central to our Nation's energy security," states the Senate report.

The House bill would provide $664 million to the fossil energy program and the Senate version would give $641 million. Funding for petroleum research, however, still came in at less than half of last year's allocation. Neither branch of Congress has passed DOE appropriations.

While the full House of Representatives passed the Interior appropriations bill on July 17, the full Senate left for recess before voting. When Congress returns to session this fall, the full Senate will vote on its version of the bill and then the two branches will come together to forge a compromise. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Read the stories at the links below for more background information and for more on other appropriations votes.

Lisa M. Pinsker


AGI Government Affairs

Bush budget would reshuffle geoscience, Web Extra, Feb. 5
USGS water research threatened, Geotimes, April, 2002
Senate boost NSF geoscience funding, Web Extra, July 26

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