The Senate delivered some good news to the geoscience community yesterday, boosting the funds for National Science Foundation (NSF) research activities in the geosciences by 12.3 percent above last year's allocation. The Senate-proposed budget rejects the Bush administration budget's controversial program transfers to NSF, and gives funding to Earthscope -- a scientific survey to study the structure of and physical processes that control the North American continent.
In the president's budget plan, NSF would have received $691.1 million for research in the Geoscience Directorate, a 5 percent increase from spending last year. However, nearly 4 percent of that increase would have come from a proposed transfer of three programs from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), rather than from core programs. But the Senate rejected these transfers, calling for NSF to receive a transfer-free $684.5 million dollars for research activities in the geosciences. "In lieu of the transfer, the Committee is directing that the funds provided be used to augment high priority research activities in the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences," says the Senate bill.
In last year's request, President Bush did not recommend any new start-up initiatives for the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account, but this time around he requested $35 million funds for Earthscope for the coming fiscal year. The Senate met this request by allotting $20 million for Earthscope. Earthscope is the first geoscience initiative to ever request money from the MRE account, which funds high-price research equipment being used over several years. Historically, the MRE account has largely gone to fund large-scale physics and astronomy projects. The only Senate contingency is that, as the only new program in the MRE account, Earthscope can only receive funding if NSF hires a Deputy Director for Large Facility Projects, a position the agency has been trying to fill for the last year.
NSF spending falls under the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies (VA/HUD) appropriations bill. The $91.4 billion in total VA/HUD funds covers spending for housing, veterans and science programs, including the EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Senate bill would provide $8.3 billion for the EPA and $15.2 billion for NASA. FEMA's pre-disaster mitigation and flood-map modernization programs would receive just over $300 million under the Senate bill.
In the last several weeks, the Senate and House appropriations committees have also passed appropriations bills for the Department of the Interior, providing a substantial increase from the Bush budget in funding USGS programs. While the full House has passed its Interior apporpriations, the full Senate has yet to vote. Visit the Geotimes Web site in the next few weeks for more on USGS funding.
Lisa M. Pinsker
Bush Budget would reshuffle geoscience, Web Extra, Feb. 5
Earthscope: Reassembling a Continent in Motion, April 2002
Turning a Request into Reality, Political Scene, April 2002