Trump Budget Cuts USGS by 15%, Restructures Climate Research

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Publication date: 
8 June 2017
Number: 
76

President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget requests a 15 percent funding cut for the U.S. Geological Survey and proposes deep cuts for all mission areas except Energy and Mineral Resources. Climate research is slashed and restructured into a new Land Resources mission area.

President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request for the U.S Geological Survey proposes a 15 percent decrease in funding below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Bill Werkheiser, the acting director of USGS, said in a budget briefing last month that to balance USGS priorities within budget constraints “there was barely a program that wasn’t touched” and that “there’s not a cut that we made that wasn’t difficult to make.”

The $922 million request proposes to restructure the Climate and Land Use Change mission area as a new Land Resources mission area while slashing its budget by 24 percent. By contrast, the Energy and Mineral Resources mission area would receive a small 1.8 percent increase.

The chart below illustrates the proposed funding cuts to USGS mission areas. More detailed budget information is available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker, and the full USGS budget document is available here.

fy18-usgs-request.jpg

USGS FY18 Budget Request Change in Funding
Click to enlarge

The administration’s proposed restructuring of the current Climate and Land Use Change mission area as a new Land Resources mission area would purportedly allow the agency to focus on “a narrower set of scientific activities to meet priority stakeholder needs.” The Climate Variability sub-activity would be eliminated and associated programs — including Carbon Sequestration and the Climate Science Centers —  would be consolidated into the Land Change Science program.

As part of the realignment, climate programs would be subject to especially steep cuts. The proposal eliminates four of the eight regional Climate Science Centers (CSCs), renaming them Climate Adaptation Science Centers, and cuts $11 million from Climate Research and Development activities.

House members on both sides of the aisle recently sent a letter to leaders of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee urging them to fully fund the CSCs, saying that the centers “have helped natural and cultural resource managers assess climate-related vulnerabilities in their local jurisdictions as a first step in enhancing preparedness.”  

A continuing priority for USGS is the USGS-NASA Landsat 9 satellite, for which the administration requests an additional $22 million to advance development of the satellite’s ground system in order to meet a 2021 launch date. However, the request also reduces support by $9 million for all other satellite operations, including “noncritical system maintenance and software refresh within archive operations, and distribution of satellite data other than Landsat.”

Other highlights

Land Resources (currently Climate & Land Use Change)

  • National Civil Applications Center: Eliminates support for the National Civil Applications Center, which collects, stores, and provides access to classified remote sensing imagery to federal civil agencies in support of their missions; and halts operations at two data storage centers in Reston, Virginia, and Denver, Colorado.
  • AmericaView State Grants: Terminates the AmericaView State Grant program that supports"the use of Landsat and other public domain remote sensing satellite data through applied remote sensing, K-12 and higher STEM education, workforce development and technology transfer.”
  • Biologic carbon sequestration: Terminates the biologic carbon sequestration program.
  • Geologic carbon sequestration: Transfers geologic carbon sequestration activities to the Energy Resources Program and down-scopes activities to “monitor and evaluate induced seismicity associated with geologic CO2 storage, evaluate the geochemistry of produced groundwater and the potential for CO2 leakage from the injection zones, [and] develop economic models for CO2 storage in saline formations and associated with enhanced oil recovery operations.”

Natural Hazards

  • ShakeAlert: Terminates implementation of the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the U.S., and eliminates funding for external partners.
  • Regional earthquake monitoring: Reduces support by $800,000 for regional earthquake monitoring, hazard assessment, and research in areas of moderate seismic risk.
  • National Volcano Early Warning System: Suspends the implementation of the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS).
  • Volcano monitoring networks: Suspends the maintenance of volcano monitoring networks, reducing monitoring activities for the Yellowstone region and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Global Seismographic Network: Suspends deployment of 15 to 20 sensors that replace outdated equipment.
  • Geomagnetism Program: Terminates the Geomagnetism Program, a component of the U.S. National Space Weather Program.

Core Science Systems

  • Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science: Eliminates support for the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science and related grants.
  • 3D Elevation Program: Defers completion of national coverage for the 3D Elevation Program for five years, delaying the complete acquisition of “light detection and ranging (lidar) data to enhance landscape-scale, three dimensional maps for the Nation” until 2033.
  • National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program: Reduces support for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, terminating earthquake seismic hazard assessments occurring in central Virginia.
  • USGS libraries: Reduces support by $3 million, eliminating public access to USGS libraries, reducing online journal subscriptions by at least 50 percent, and potentially closing all four library locations.

Science Support

  • Youth outreach: Reduces support by $12 million for administration and management services, terminating youth outreach activities.
  • Information Services Program: Reduces support by $3.6 million for the Information Services Program, which affects "investment in information infrastructure, increasing risk of system failures and loss of science data.”

About the author

awolfe [at] aip.org
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