March 31, 2004
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) requests that Congress appropriate at least $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2005 funding for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). This funding level would restore cuts to important science programs proposed by the administration, provide a modest but much needed inflation adjustment, and allow implementation of important new science and information dissemination initiatives.
The USGS provides independent, high-quality data, information, research support and assessments needed by federal, state, local and tribal policymakers, resource and emergency managers, engineers and planners, researchers and educators and the public. Because of the agency's combination of biological, geographical, geological, and hydrological research programs, USGS scientists utilize cutting-edge interdisciplinary research techniques to answer significant questions about earth processes that impact human quality of life.
United States Geological Survey scientists do not work in isolation. Through the agency's nearly 400 offices located in every state and partnerships with over 2,000 federal, state, local, tribal, and private organizations, the USGS has built the capacity to draw on additional research expertise. For example, through the cooperative research units program USGS scientists are stationed on university campuses. This proximity to academic researchers helps bring additional intellectual and technical resources to bear on the natural resource problems USGS seeks to understand. The value of cooperative research units extends beyond their immediate research productivity, however. Cooperative research units are an essential component of our national education and training infrastructure. These research units enable future natural resource managers to gain the skills and experience government agencies need. Furthermore, cooperative research units are one of USGS' mechanisms for providing data and technical assistance to decision-makers.
Natural resource managers require reliable, relevant, and timely information. The USGS Biological Informatics Program through initiatives such as the National Biological Information Infrastructure is another example of how the agency is meeting the needs of the resource management community. The Biological Informatics Program develops and applies innovative technologies and practices to the management of biological data, information, and knowledge resulting from research, thereby increasing the value of that research to scientists, planners, decision-makers, educators, students, and the public. Increased funding for the USGS would enable the Biological Informatics Program to continue on-going activities and begin to implement new initiatives that the resource management and research communities have identified as important for addressing national priorities.
Other USGS biological research programs gather important data and information that academic, private sector, or other government scientists do not collect. For instance, a clear national priority is the prevention and mitigation of future losses resulting from non-native species invading new environments. USGS research is helping guide our understanding of how invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, brown tree snake, or tamarisk, colonize new environments. Decision-makers, whether working for the National Park Service or a hydroelectric utility, utilize USGS science to develop action plans for combating invasive species.
Infrastructure is vital to science. Increasingly, coordinated networks of databases and data gathering instruments are required to answer the questions that public policymakers and scientists are asking. For example, environmental toxicologists or ecosystem scientists may use real-time data from the USGS network of streamgages to learn how quickly a pollutant travels through a watershed, impacts downstream fisheries, or enters a community's drinking water supply. An emerging need is for increased federal investment in natural history collections such as museums and herbaria. These institutions contain irreplaceable collections of the genetic diversity of our nation; information that helps to answer questions about invasive species, or how species have responded to changing environmental conditions. Unfortunately, much of this information is not accessible. With an increased investment in USGS science programs, agency personnel and their partners could begin to develop new technology that enables scientists to better utilize this valuable information.
In the FY 2005 appropriation, Congress can also support USGS science by ensuring that adequate funds are provided to cover "uncontrollable costs," items such as salary and benefit increases. The Department of the Interior FY 2005 budget request does not adequately address these expenses. The Department of the Interior's budget indicates that $17.2 million is needed to cover these expenses. Unfortunately, only $9.1 million has been requested. If the $17.2 million needed is not appropriated, program managers may be forced to curtail important work in order to meet these commitments.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request. If you require additional information, please contact Dr. Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500 or