ESA Policy News: April 19

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.


On April 10, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget proposal, which includes significant increases for scientific research. The proposal sets different priorities than the proposed budgets put forward by Congressional leaders, particularly those of the House majority.

The budget takes into account spending caps instituted through the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). However, it does not take into account implementation of sequestration and compares program funding levels to those of FY 2012, before sequestration was implemented. Obama’s budget proposes to nullify budget sequestration with $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction. This would include $580 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes, $400 billion in healthcare savings, $200 billion in mandatory spending programs that would include agriculture and retirement contributions and $200 billion in discretionary savings. The remaining $430 billion would come from cost-of-living adjustments and reduced interest payments on the debt. Congress needs to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings to eliminate the existing sequester cuts.

In total, the White House FY 2014 budget request includes $142.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), a 1.3 percent increase over FY 2012. In his official message on the budget, President Obama sought to tie science investment to economic development. “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas,” he asserted. “That is why the budget maintains a world-class commitment to science and research, targeting resources to those areas most likely to contribute directly to the creation of transformational technologies that can create the businesses and jobs of the future.

The president’s budget would provide OSTP with $5.65 million for FY 2014, an increase from $4.5 million in FY 2012. In the president’s proposal, many federal agencies that invest in scientific research would garner large boosts, compared to what was enacted in FY 2012:

  • National Science Foundation: $7.6 billion (an 8.4 percent increase)
  • US Geological Survey: $1.2 billion (a 9 percent increase)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion (an 8 percent increase)
  • Department of Energy R&D: $12.7 billion (an 18 percent increase)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration R&D: $11.6 billion (a 2.6 percent increase)
  • US Global Change Research Program: $2.7 billion (a 6 percent increase)

Additional information on the White House FY 2014 budget request is available here. Information specific to the White House’s scientific research budget proposals is available here. Information specific to the White House’s proposal for STEM programs is available here.


Under the White House’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014, the US Department of Interior would receive $11.7 billion in discretionary spending, a four percent increase over FY 2012. Research and development at DOI would be funded at $960 million in FY 2014, an 18 percent increase over FY 2012.

The budget proposal would fund the US Geological Survey at $1.2 billion in FY 2014, an increase of $98.8 million over the enacted level in FY 2012. This would include $71.7 million for agency climate science programs and $18.6 million to fund research on  environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing. Other research initiatives include a $1.5 million increase in funding White-nose Syndrome research, and a $5.4 million increase in invasive species research.

The FY 2014 USGS budget also includes $180.8 million understand ecosystem functions to better manage natural resources and address hazards that affect the natural environment (a $22.5 million increase over FY 2012). For climate change and land use programs, the budget request would provide $156 million, a $14.6 million increase over FY 2012.

Additional funding for bureaus and programs under Interior’s jurisdiction include:

  • America’s Great Outdoors: $5.3 billion, a $179.8 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs: $2.6 billion, a $31.3 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Land Management: $1.2 billion, a $32.6 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management:  $169.4 million, a $71.5 million increase over FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $222.1 million, a $24.8 million increase over FY 2012.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.6 billion, a $76.4 million increase over FY 2012.
  • National Park Service: $2.6 billion, a $56.6 million increase over FY 2012.

 Additional information on DOI’s budget is available here.


The White House’s proposed budget would fund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at $8.2 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, a 3.5 percent ($296 million) cut from FY 2012.

This marks the fourth straight year the administration has proposed to lower overall funding for the agency. The administration’s budget would eliminate $54 million in funding for what it refers to as “outdated, underperforming, or duplicative EPA programs.”

EPA’s research program would be funded at $554.1 million in FY 2014, a $13.4 million reduction from FY 2014. Specific agency research initiatives would see funding increases and decreases within this overall reduction. STAR Graduate Research Opportunity Fellowships would be reduced by $16.4 million, drinking water research would be reduced by $2.3 million and research on beaches would be reduced by $1.1 million. Hazardous chemical disposal research would be increased by $4.1 million, climate change research would be increased by $3.2 million, green infrastructure research would be increased by $1.8 million and biofuel production research would be increased by $1.3 million.

Programs that focus on several key US water bodies would also see funding increases under the president’s budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would receive $300 million in FY 2014, a $500,000 increase over FY 2012. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program would receive $73 million, a $15.7 million increase over FY 2012. Wetlands programs would receive $27.7 million, an increase of $6.5 million over FY 2012.

Additional information on EPA’s budget is available here.


This week, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held hearings to review the White House’s scientific research priorities in its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

During the morning of April 17, the committee heard from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren on the administration’s proposed research initiatives, including one to consolidate and reorganize federal agency Science, Technology, Engineering  and Mathematics (STEM) education programs so that they are primarily implemented under the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). That afternoon, the Research Subcommittee met with NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett and National Science Board Chairman Dan Arvizu to discuss NSF’s FY 2014 budget request.

Among committee leadership, there was bipartisan support for science and the general mission of NSF. Majority committee leaders expressed qualified support for the agency. “The NSF has great potential to help American science flourish and thus contribute to our economy and the well-being of our country,” asserted Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “Our focus should be on how the federal government, including the NSF, can maximize the returns from taxpayer-funded research,” he continued.

However, committee Republicans took issue with certain initiatives, such as increased funding for climate research through the administration’s Global Change Research Program and investments in alternative energy research. There was also a general sentiment among Republican committee members that there is a need to weed out studies which appear frivolous at first glance. In his opening statement for the afternoon hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Buchson inquired, “Do we really need a study entitled ‘The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice’?”

To view the OSTP hearing, click here. To view the NSF hearing, click here.


On April 12, Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Department of Interior. Jewell will be responsible for 70,000 employees and a wide range of initiatives that include federally protected lands, fish and wildlife preservation, energy development and various conservation initiatives.

The Senate confirmed Jewell April 10 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 87-11. All Democrats and Independents supported the nominee. Republicans who voted against her included John Barrasso (WY), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Enzi (WY), Deb Fischer (NE), Mike Johanns (NE), Mike Lee (UT), Mitch McConnell (KY), Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC) and David Vitter (LA). Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) had temporary placed a hold on the nominee out of concern over whether Interior would support Idaho’s sage grouse management plan. Sen. Risch removed the hold when outgoing Interior Secretary Salazar sent a letter to the state government, clarifying the agency’s support for the plan.

Secretary Jewell commented on her new role in a DOI press statement: “Our public lands are huge economic engines for the nation,” she said. “From energy development to tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. I look forward to working with you all to ensure that we are managing our public lands wisely and sustainably so that their multiple uses are available for the generations to come.”


On April 16, the Obama administration released its plan for implementing its National Oceans Policy initiative. The plan outlines a strategy to improve coordination between federal agencies in the management of ocean and coastal resources as well as improve dissemination of scientific information for the betterment of industry and communities.

The goals of the plan include improving forecasting of ocean conditions to protect public safety, improving severe storm and sea level data sharing, improving prioritization in regional marine planning, habitat restoration and improving capability to predict various impacts of climate change. The plan also includes a goal to develop regional marine plans by 2017.

For additional information on the plan, click here.


On April 11, 2013, biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting over 55 congressional offices to talk about how federal investment in science research yields benefits to society.  Organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), co-chairs of the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC), this springtime event helps raise awareness among policymakers about federal science programs, from NSF to NOAA to USDA. ESA’s President Scott Collins and this year’s four ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipients, Matthew Berg, Lindsay Deel, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie and Carlos Silva were among the 30 participants.

ESA President Scott Collins, together with AIBS President Joe Travis, presented the BESC Congressional Leadership Award to 2013 recipients Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and David Reichert (R-WA). Both Members of Congress have been steadfast supporters of key science legislation such as the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358) as well as various legislative efforts to maintain science’s role in informing biological policy decisions.

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories about how federal funding aids their research, how their work helps them advance their professional development and benefits the communities in which they reside. While firm commitments to support science funding varied office to office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received welcome receptions from Congressional staff and elected officials and were able to use their local commonalities to relate with the policymakers.

For more on the congressional visits, click here.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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