FY19 Appropriations Bills: US Geological Survey

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Publication date: 
6 July 2018
Number: 
82

House appropriators are proposing a 2 percent spending uptick for the U.S. Geological Survey, while Senate appropriators propose maintaining the current funding level for the agency.

House and Senate appropriators have soundly rejected the Trump administration’s proposed deep cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey in fiscal year 2019, instead opting to preserve the 6 percent overall funding boost the agency was appropriated in fiscal year 2018. The House proposal would provide a 2 percent budget increase for USGS, while the Senate proposal would hold funding steady at $1.1 billion.

While most USGS mission areas supporting research and investigations would see funding increases, one major exception is House and Senate appropriators’ proposed 5 and 12 percent decreases, respectively, for the Natural Hazards mission area. These decreases partly reflect the end of one-time funding provided this fiscal year for infrastructure, including the buildout of a West Coast earthquake early warning system and upgrades to volcano monitoring stations and instrumentation.

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FY19 spending proposals for U.S. Geological Survey

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Further details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. Additional funding direction and policy guidance can be found in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports that accompany the bills and a side-by-side comparison of report language provided at the end of this bulletin.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the spending bill that funds USGS on June 6, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version on June 14. Neither the House nor Senate have yet scheduled full chamber votes on their respective bills.

Land Resources

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees both propose a 4 percent increase for the $152 million Land Resources mission area, previously called “Climate and Land Use Change.”

Satellite development and operations. They also both direct that increase go to the $93 million National Land Imaging program for the continued development of the ground system for the USGS-NASA Landsat-9 satellite. The House report specifies $12 million for maintenance, hardware, and a software refresh of satellite operations, while the Senate report simply states that the Landsat-9 program is to be “fully funded.” NASA is responsible for Landsat-9 satellite procurement and launch, scheduled for 2020, while USGS is responsible for the ground systems and operations.

Climate Adaptation Science Centers. Both committees reject the administration’s request to cut funding for the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, which conduct research and engage natural resource managers on the impacts of climate change. Instead, the appropriators propose to maintain total funding for the centers at $25 million.

Natural Hazards

The House and Senate reports propose cutting funding for the $179 million Natural Hazards mission area by 5 percent and 12 percent, respectively. These decreases reflect the end of a one-year funding boost that Congress provided the Earthquake and Volcano Hazards programs in fiscal year 2018 for infrastructure and equipment upgrades.

Earthquake hazards. The House proposes to maintain level funding for the Earthquake Hazards program at $83 million, while the Senate proposes an 11 percent cut.

ShakeAlert earthquake warning system. Both committees reject the administration’s proposal to suspend implementation of the $13 million ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system and express concern about the “lack of knowledge” on the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest. Congress provided a $3 million increase for ShakeAlert in fiscal year 2018, along with an additional $10 million to support capital costs associated with its buildout.

The House report provides another $3 million increase for the program and an additional $5 million for capital costs. The Senate report, on the other hand, would maintain funding at $13 million and provide no new funds for capital costs.

Seismic monitoring. Both committees specify $5 million in infrastructure funding to support deferred maintenance and upgrades to the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which monitors national earthquake activity. 

Senate appropriators also seek to maintain the $1.4 million provided in fiscal year 2018 for acquisition of seismic monitoring stations currently deployed in Alaska as part of the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope USArray project. The Senate report specifies an additional $600,000 to support station adoption and integration into ANSS.

Volcano hazards. House and Senate appropriators propose to cut the $43 million Volcano Hazards program budget by 23 percent and 28 percent, respectively. The House report notes the reduction is “not a cut to the program, but a removal of the one-time infrastructure funding provided for the repair and replacement of analog systems on high-threat volcanoes,” while the Senate report states it does not continue support for $13.5 million in “volcano equipment” it provided in fiscal year 2018.

Both committees express concern that current volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities are “outdated and inadequate,” with the House report recommending $2.6 million for next-generation lahar detection systems and the Senate report specifying a $500,000 increase for the repair and upgrade of monitoring systems on high-threat volcanoes.

Geomagnetism program. Both committees reject the administration’s proposal to eliminate the $1.9 million Geomagnetism program, which monitors and models the global geomagnetism field and is a component of the U.S. National Space Weather Program. House and Senate appropriators instead seek to fund the program at its current level.

Energy and Mineral Resources

House appropriators support the administration’s proposed 5 percent boost to the $80 million Energy and Mineral Resources account, while Senate appropriators propose a larger 13 percent increase.

Critical minerals. The House accepts the administration’s $11 million request for the new Three Dimensional mapping and Economic Empowerment Program (3DEEP) that aims to characterize the nation’s critical mineral resources, while the Senate specifies $7 million.

Facilities

Both committees reject the administration’s proposed 6 percent cut to the $120 million Facilities account, opting to preserve the 20 percent increase provided in fiscal year 2018. The House report specifies $12 million for the ongoing relocation of non-laboratory personnel from the USGS facility in Menlo Park, California, to NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, as well as $15 million for deferred maintenance and capital improvement initiatives. The Senate report more broadly directs continued funding for “facility transition” and expresses concerns about “deteriorating conditions” at facilities. It calls on the agency to submit an “assessment on the facilities in need of repair with cost estimates and innovative proposals for resolving potential issues.”

Report language

The following expandable tabs offer side-by-side comparisons of language from the House and Senate appropriators' reports on USGS.

Land Resources

House: The Committee recommends $158,299,000 for Land Resources. The recommendation includes an additional $5,800,000 for the continued development of a ground system for Landsat–9 and provides the $11,905,000 needed for the maintenance, hardware, and software refresh of satellite operations. Within funds provided for the National Land Imaging program, $4,847,000 is included for the National Civil Applications Center and $1,215,000 for Remote Sensing State grants.

Senate: The bill provides $158,299,000, a $5,800,000 increase above the enacted level, for the Climate and Land Use Change program. Within these funds, Landsat 9 is fully funded, the America View program receives $1,215,000, and funding for the eight regional science centers is provided at the negotiated annual agreement levels.

Earthquake early warning system

House: The Committee strongly supports the Earthquake Hazards program and includes a $3,200,000 increase for base staffing necessary to support the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). The Committee recommends $16,100,000 for continued development and expansion of the ShakeAlert West Coast earthquake early warning (EEW) system and $5,000,000 in infrastructure funding for capital costs associated with the buildout of the ShakeAlert EEW. Additionally, the recommendation includes $5,000,000 in infrastructure funding for ANSS deferred maintenance and modernization.

The Committee is concerned about the lack of knowledge and offshore real-time instrumentation available for the Cascadia subduction zone. Our scientific understanding of earthquakes and the ocean environment will benefit from the wealth of offshore data that should be collected. The continued development of an early earthquake warning system for the Cascadia region would help prepare for and mitigate the negative human and economic impacts to the Pacific Northwest.

Senate: Within the Earthquake Hazards program, the Committee continues to support the early earthquake warning event characterization activity and expects the base level of $12,900,000 for an earthquake early warning prototype to continue.

Regional earthquake monitoring

House: The Committee commends the Survey and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the successful transition of EarthScope stations in the Central and Eastern U.S. Network (CEUSN) and includes $800,000 for the program. Fiscal year 2018 funding included $1,400,000 for the adoption of EarthScope US Array seismic stations in Alaska from the NSF. The Committee encourages continued coordination between the Survey and NSF, and supports a transition plan cost schedule with the same terms the agencies were able to arrange for the CEUSN.

Senate: The Committee also expects the base level of $800,000 for the Central and Eastern U.S. Seismic Network to continue. The Committee is concerned about the lack of knowledge and real-time instrumentation available for the Cascadia subduction zone; therefore, the Committee encourages the continued development of a system for Cascadia that will help prepare for and mitigate the negative human and economic impacts in the region in the event of a major seismic event.

Earthquakes have enormous potential to cause catastrophic casualties, damage, economic loss, and disruption. The Survey’s Advanced National Seismic System [ANSS] helps the Nation prepare by providing a framework to build out and maintain strong monitoring capabilities across all areas of the country. The Committee understands the National Science Foundation [NSF] has supported temporary seismometer deployments across the United States for the EarthScope USArray project and that once the project is complete in a specific area the seismometers may then be available for other entities to adopt. The Committee has expressed support for the adoption of these seismic stations through the direction of implementation plans and included $1,400,000 for the purchase of stations in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill. The Committee continues the $1,400,000 and includes an additional $600,000 for the continued adoption and integration of stations into the ANSS. The Survey is directed to report back to the Committee within 60 days of enactment of this act on the status of the acquisition of this equipment from NSF along with a report outlining the expected future cost of operation and maintenance of the stations. The Committee continues the $1,000,000 for regional seismic networks which are working to incorporate and use the EarthScope data and expects this funding to continue according to the same methodology used in fiscal year 2018.

The 2018 omnibus appropriations bill included $10,000,000 in capital costs for earthquake early warning and $13,500,000 for volcano equipment, which is not continued. Base funding for the volcano hazards program is included along with an increase of $1,540,000 for the operation of the equipment purchased with the one-time capital infrastructure funding. The Committee directs the Survey to report back within 180 days of enactment of this act on a timeline for installation of the new equipment and a cost schedule regarding the operation and maintenance of the new equipment. The Committee continues the $5,000,000 to advance the ANSS.

Volcanic Hazards program

House: The Committee recommends $32,766,000 for the Volcano Hazards program, of which $1,500,000 is provided for base staffing needs and $1,500,000 is for seismometer and radio telemetry modernization. The reduction from fiscal year 2018 funding is not a cut to the program, but a removal of the one-time infrastructure funding provided for the repair and replacement of analog systems on high-threat volcanoes. The Survey is directed to keep the Committee informed on progress made with the additional funding provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115–141).

The Committee remains concerned that systems and equipment used to monitor, detect, and warn the public of volcano and seismic hazards, including lahars, and earthquakes on high-threat volcanoes in the U.S., are outdated and inadequate to address the substantial risks, and recommends $2,645,000, including $1,645,000 in infrastructure funding, for necessary work on next-generation lahar detection systems at very high-threat volcanoes.

Senate: The 2018 omnibus appropriations bill included $10,000,000 in capital costs for earthquake early warning and $13,500,000 for volcano equipment, which is not continued. Base funding for the volcano hazards program is included along with an increase of $1,540,000 for the operation of the equipment purchased with the one-time capital infrastructure funding. The Committee directs the Survey to report back within 180 days of enactment of this act on a timeline for installation of the new equipment and a cost schedule regarding the operation and maintenance of the new equipment. …

The Committee remains concerned that systems and equipment used to monitor, detect, and warn the public of volcanic and seismic hazards, including lahars and earthquakes on high-threat volcanoes, are outdated and inadequate to address the substantial risks posed by those natural hazards. The Committee includes an additional $500,000 for the Survey’s plan to repair, upgrade, and expand monitoring, detection, and warning systems and equipment on high-threat volcanoes.

Landslide Hazards program

House: The Committee recommends $3,688,000 for the Landslides Hazards program, with a $150,000 increase above the fiscal year 2018 enacted funding level provided to advance tools and methods for post-wildfire debris flow hazard assessments and early warning.

Senate: The Committee is also concerned about the potential landslide risk to certain communities and directs the Survey to report back to the Committee within 180 days of enactment of this act outlining a research strategy to identify at-risk communities in each State.

Geomagnetism program

House: The USGS Geomagnetism program is part of the U.S. National Space Weather Program (NSWP), an interagency collaboration that includes programs in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation. The program provides data to the NSWP agencies, oil drilling services companies, geophysical surveying companies, and electrical transmission utilities. The Committee funds this program at the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and expects this work to continue.

Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health

House: The Committee recommends $106,900,000 for Energy, Mineral Resources and Environmental Health.

The Committee supports the Survey’s efforts to develop a Three Dimensional mapping and Economic Empowerment Program, to improve the topographic, geological, and geophysical mapping of the United States and provides $10,598,000 for this program. The Committee understands the Survey is still in the process of finalizing its proposed prioritization and implementation plan, and directs the program to brief the Committee on the plan and funding break-out once it is finalized.

The Committee understands the Secretary is in the process of reviewing the list of critical minerals the Survey compiled in accordance with Presidential Executive Order No. 13817, and encourages consideration of phosphate rock for the importance of phosphate fertilizer availability for agriculture and food security. The Committee supports the continued operations of the Environmental Health program. The recommendation funds Containment Biology at the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and provides a $200,000 increase to the Toxic Substances Hydrology program.

The Committee supports the continuation of USGS research on understanding the prevalence of toxins in the nation’s natural bodies of water by expanding its understanding of cyanobacteria and toxins in stream and wetland ecosystems, and directs no less than $1,750,000 to these efforts. USGS is encouraged to participate in interagency efforts to expedite the development and deployment of remote sensing tools to assist with early event warning delivered through mobile devices and web portals.

Senate: The bill provides $113,638,000 for Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health programs, an increase of $10,800,000 above the enacted level. The Committee includes $3,800,000 for the implementation of Secretarial Order 3352 and encourages the Survey to continue to work on the U.S. domestic mineral base survey.

The Committee supports the direction in Executive Order 13817 and Secretarial Order 3359 to improve topographic, geological, and geophysical mapping, and provides $7,000,000 for the new critical minerals initiative. The Committee expects the Survey to work collaboratively with State geological surveys to focus resources toward completing its core task of geologically surveying regions of the country that have high quality mineral and energy resources that remain unmapped at a useable scale such as the Arctic mineral belt which includes the Yukon Tanana Uplands. The Committee’s expectation also includes that the Survey will consult with State geological surveys to update and conduct new evaluations of oil and gas resources in low-permeability reservoirs as in previous years.

The Committee encourages the development of a convergent system that integrates sensors that can be used proactively for contaminant sensing across a wide range of needs such as agriculture, oil and gas, water resources, and infrastructure. The Committee directs the Survey to report back within 90 days of enactment of this act on how the Survey may enter into partnerships to develop a system for the integration of sensors.

Water Resources

House: The Committee recommends $231,123,000 for Water Resources. The recommendation rejects reductions to Research and Development to Advance Water Science, formerly the National Research Program, which would reduce research at USGS Water Science Centers across the country. Regional Groundwater Evaluations in the Coastal Lowlands and California Coastal Basin Aquifers, and the Groundwater Model Development, Maintenance, and Sustainability program are funded at fiscal year 2018 levels. …

Stream gages are crucial to early warning and flood damage reduction efforts across the United States. The Committee recommends $86,673,000 for the National Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program. This includes a $12,500,000 increase above the fiscal year 2018 enacted funding level for infrastructure investments in the stream gage network. Within 60 days of enactment of this Act, the Survey is directed to provide the Committee with a report on the Next Generation Water Observing System, explaining the limitations of the current water monitoring system and the enhancements and modernization needed. The report should include the costs to implement the system over a ten-year period and the costs to operate and maintain the system. Groundwater monitoring activities are funded at the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. …

The Water Resources Research Act was designed to provide more effective coordination of the nation’s water research by establishing Water Resources Research Institutes at universities in each State, Territory, and the District of Columbia. These institutes provide vital support to stakeholders, States, and Federal agencies for long-term water planning, policy development, and resource management. The program is funded at the fiscal year 2018 enacted level of $6,500,000.

Senate: The bill includes $220,054,000 for Water Resources, an increase of $2,500,000 above the enacted level.

The Committee expects the base level of $1,000,000 for the U.S.-Mexico transboundary aquifer project and $4,000,000 for the Mississippi Alluvial plain project to continue. The Committee also expects the funding included in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill for research on shallow and fractured bedrock terrain to be continued. The groundwater monitoring network is to be maintained at enacted levels.

The Committee expects the Survey to install streamgages on certain transboundary rivers and have provided $1,500,000 for this activity along with an additional $1,000,000 for the Federal priority stream gage network. The Committee supports having a cost effective stream gage strategy and encourages the Survey’s efforts in this regard as they move forward with the Next Generation Water Observing System and other efforts, including pilots in reference watersheds. …

The Water Resources Research Act remains at the enacted fiscal year level of $6,500,000.

Core Science Systems

House: The Committee recommends $119,102,000 for Core Science Systems. The recommendation includes $25,397,000, a $1,000,000 increase over the fiscal year 2018 enacted level for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program.

The Committee encourages the Survey to continue research to advance the understanding of short and long-term mechanisms that trigger a karst and to expand the information contained on the current website.

The recommendation includes $69,654,000 for the National Geospatial Program, with a $1,500,000 increase for 3DEP National Enhancement and a $300,000 increase for the US Topo program to shift map production toward dynamic product-on-demand mapping. Landscape level assessments for Chesapeake Bay, Alaska Mapping and Modernization, Geospatial Research, 3DEP Technical Support, and 3DEP Program Functions are funded at fiscal year 2018 enacted levels.

Senate: The bill includes $118,062,000 for Core Science Systems, an increase of $1,760,000 above the enacted level for the 3D Elevation Program [3DEP] program. The Committee expects the base level of $7,722,000 to be continued for the 3D Elevation: Alaska Mapping and Map Modernization. The Committee is aware of advanced, commercialized LiDAR technologies that have been used extensively by the military for years that have high utility for aerial imaging in support of topographical surveys with improved foliage penetration, and greater data density and detail at lower cost than conventional LiDAR. The Committee encourages the Survey to better utilize such advanced technologies for the nation-wide 3DEP to the maximum extent possible and to report back to the Committees within 180 days of enactment of this act.

Menlo Park facility transition

House: The recommendation includes $120,383,000 as requested. This includes $12,454,000 for the Menlo Park facility transition and retains the $7,884,000 fiscal year 2018 infrastructure funding increase for deferred maintenance and capital improvement.

Senate: The bill includes $120,091,000 for facilities, deferred maintenance and capital improvement, equal to the enacted level. The Committee has continued funding for the Menlo Park facility transition, but remains concerned about the cost of this transition as well as the deteriorating conditions at other facilities. The Committee directs the Survey to submit a spend plan for the additional funding provided along with a facility assessment on the facilities in need of repair with cost estimates and innovative proposals for resolving potential issues within 180 days of enactment of this act.

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