Senate Committee Approves Interior Spending Bill
The United States Senate appropriations committee has approved a fiscal year 2005 spending measure for the Department of the Interior and related agencies, which includes the United States Geological Survey (USGS). In the report accompanying the legislation, the committee has expressed their strong support for USGS science programs and their frustration with administration proposals that the committee thinks undermine the Survey's core science activities. The committee noted that it was "concerned that both Department of the Interior [DOI] and administration-wide priorities, as well as the Survey's administrative changes, are being balanced on the backs of the program disciplines that are the basis for the Survey's existence and its scientific reputation. The strength of the Survey's existing efforts in many program areas is deserving of additional support. The Committee has little ability to provide that support, however, when it must annually restore large sums for proposed program and project reductions that have been taken with little or no justification. The Committee urges that future budget requests place a stronger emphasis on the Survey's core programs, which have proven value and strong public support."
In all, the committee has recommended $939,486,000 in FY 05 funds, an increase of $19,698,000 over the President's request and $1,501,000 more than the FY 04 level. With respect to the Survey's biological research activities, the committee has recommended an increase of $5,217,000 over the administration's budget request but $1,708,000 below current year funding. If the committee's recommendation is approved, biological research would be funded at $172,821,000. Specifically, the committee would provide $1 million for the Northern Prairie Carbon Crediting initiative, an increase of $500,000 above the budget request. The committee also proposes $881,000 for fixed cost adjustments, an item that many policy analysts commonly think is underestimated in the Survey's budget request. The committee did concur with several proposed budget reductions, including $107,000 to transfer boat maintenance funds to the Facilities activity; $2,794,000 to transfer funds to the Survey's new Enterprise Information activity; $494,000 for a Lake Tahoe decision support system; and $194,000 from the FY 04 funding base for pallid sturgeon research. The projects that the committee continued to provide funding for are: Diamondback Terrapin research in the Chesapeake Bay; molecular biology program at the Leetown Science Center; invasive species research at Mississippi State University; research on the Mark Twain National Forest; a multidisciplinary water study at the Leetown Science Center; manatee research; fire science research program; the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem study; and support for the newly established Nebraska Cooperative Research Unit. Importantly, the committee did not adopt prescriptive House language that could have seriously hindered the future development of the National Biological Information Infrastructure program, though the language could still be pushed by the House.
With respect to the Survey's water resources research programs, the committee recommended they receive $212,948,000, an increase of $10,266,000 above the budget request and $2,766,000 below the FY 04 level. Of note, the committee restored funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes. The committee also proposed spending $119,824,000 for mapping activities, an increase of $883,000 above the budget request and $9,935,000 below the current level.
The Interior spending bill must now be passed by the full Senate and differences between the House and Senate version must be reconciled before a final measure is sent to the President.
Senate Restores Proposed House Cuts to NSF
The Senate Appropriations VA-HUD subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NSF, marked up its appropriations bill last week. The subcommittee funded NSF at $5.7 billion, the amount requested by the President. That amount is $167 million above the FY 2004 appropriation for NSF, but falls far short of the authorized amount of $7.1 billion approved by Congress two years ago.
Most critical to researchers, the Senate allotted $4.4 billion to NSF's Research and Related Activities (RRA), compared to $4.15 approved by the House this summer. Within RRA, the Senate funded the Biological Sciences Directorate at $605 million, an increase of $5.5 million, all of which is specified for the Plant Genome research project.
The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Account took the biggest hit from the Senate, which provided only $130 million of the $213 million requested. The Senate did not fund any of the three new MRE projects requested by the administration: the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), or the Rare Symmetry Violating Process (RSVP). By comparison, the House bill provided funding for IODP and RSVP. Neither bill contains construction funding for NEON in the MRE account; Congress is delaying consideration of that request until the planning process for NEON has been completed (for more information on the planning process, visit www.neoninc.org).
Congress Considers Math and Science Education Program Funding
In recent weeks the House and Senate have begun to make progress on fiscal year 2005 spending bills. Measures providing funding for math and science education programs have recently moved forward in both chambers. As noted in the 13 September AIBS Public Policy Report the House has approved legislation that would provide the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program with just over $269 million in FY 05 funding. Meanwhile, the Senate has proposed funding the program at a level of $200 million, $69 million below the administration's requested level and the amount provided by the House. In FY 2004, Education's MSP program received $149 million.
Meanwhile, the House has proposed spending $80 million to support the National Science Foundation's MSP grant programs, roughly $60 million less than the FY 04 level. The Senate, however, has proposed $110 million for the NSF program. Moreover, in report language accompanying the Senate proposal the appropriations committee has emphatically stated that it "rejects the administration's request to transfer the Math and Science Partnership [MSP] program to the Department of Education," a proposal advanced by the administration earlier this year. The committee further endorsed NSF's MSP program noting that it is an "important asset in providing improved math and science education by partnering local school districts with faculty of colleges and universities."
USGS Resolution Approved by Resources Committee
On Wednesday, September 15, 2004, the House Resources Committee unanimously reported out of the committee H.Res. 556, a resolution recognizing the 125th anniversary of the US Geological Survey. The resolution was introduced by Rep. James Moran (D-VA) earlier this year and now includes more than 40 bipartisan cosponsors. On Friday, September 24th, the USGS Coalition sent a letters to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Resources Committee requesting that the resolution be considered by the full House prior to its adjournment later this year.
Also on September 15th, the USGS Coalition held its first Capitol Hill reception. The event was an opportunity to provide members of Congress and congressional staff with information about the biological, geographic, geological, and hydrologic research conducted by USGS scientists. The event was attended by well over 100 individuals from Capitol Hill, the White House, Department of the Interior, and scientific societies and universities.
President Nominates New NSF Director
On September 15, the White House announced that Dr. Arden Bement, Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology and then Interim Director of the National Science Foundation has been nominated to serve as the new Director of NSF. Bement has served as Interim Director of NSF since Rita Colwell resigned earlier in the year. Following the announcement, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee, praised the nomination, citing Bement's "wealth of experience in industry, government and academia."
OMB and OSTP Issue Guidance Document for FY 2006
On August 12, The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released an updated memo on the administration's research and development budget priorities. Known as the OMB-OSTP memo, the document provides guidance to federal agencies on the administration's priorities for science and research as they draft their budgets for the following fiscal year (in this case FY 2006). This year's memo highlighted six interagency R&D priority areas: Homeland Security, Networking and Information Technology, National Nanotechnology Initiative, Physical Sciences, Biology of Complex Systems, and Climate, Water and Hydrogen R&D. According to Dr. Kathie Olson, Associate Director of OSTP, the Biology of Complex Systems priority recognizes the need for investment in non-medical biological sciences.
The memo is available at http://www.ostp.gov/html/m04-23.pdf.
Federal Register Watch: NSTC Draft Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System
Note: Each week, AIBS monitors the Federal Register for items such as those above which could significantly alter the way biological research is conducted in the United States. Notices that should be of interest to the broad biological sciences research community are compiled into the AIBS Federal Register Resource, posted online each Monday. Also available at the AIBS Federal Register Resource are tips and suggestions for submitting effective comments to federal agencies. For more information about this and other AIBS policy activities, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/.
The Draft Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System and Request for Public Comment by the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO) is available for public comment. This draft plan was prepared to address the effective use of Earth observation systems to benefit humankind.
The Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO) of the NSTC Committee on Environment and Natural Resources was established after the Earth Observation Summit for a two-fold purpose:
(1) To develop and begin implementation of the U.S. framework and ten-year plan for an integrated, comprehensive Earth observation system to answer environmental and societal needs, including a U.S. assessment of current observational capabilities, evaluation of requirements to sustain and evolve these capabilities considering both remote and in situ instruments, assessment of how to integrate current observational capabilities across scales, and evaluation and addressing of data gaps; and
(2) To formulate the U.S. position and input to the international ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) as formed at the Earth Observation Summit on July 31, 2003.
In response to the first goal, the IWGEO has prepared a Draft Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System. The draft was prepared after a year of coordination among the over 15 agencies represented. In addition, a public workshop was held on June 16-17, 2004, for the purpose of allowing representatives of the communities-of-practice to contribute information and facts on the nine societal benefits areas, which provide the focus of the plan.
Associated Technical Reports referenced as Appendix 3 of the Draft Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System are currently being updated based on comments received at the June IWGEO public meeting. When completed, these Technical Reports, along with additional background information may be found at http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov/documents.asp?s=review, or by contacting the IWGEO
The Draft Strategic Plan will be available is available for public review and can be accessed electronically at http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov/draftstrategicplan. Comments on the Draft Strategic Plan must be received by the Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations no later that the close of business on Monday, November 8, 2004 (60 days).
Address for Comments: Only electronic (e-mail) comments will be accepted, and should be sent to: IWGEOcomments@noaa.gov.
See AIBS Federal Register Resource.
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