Policy News from ESA’s Public Affairs Office

A Bi-Monthly Publication of the Ecological Society of America
Special Budget Edition

In this Issue:

  • Bush budget priorities for fiscal Year 2009
  • Agency Snapshots

BUSH BUDGET PRIORITIES FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009 The Bush Administration unveiled its proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2009 federal budget on February 4, 2008 . The proposed budget reflects the Bush Administration’s continued emphasis on defense and security as well as on bolstering the physical sciences.

In a budget briefing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget Director for Natural Resources, Science, and Energy Jim Bates noted that mandatory spending is overwhelming the rest of the federal budget (mandatory programs including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid amount to 53 percent of the total budget. In contrast to mandatory programs, discretionary programs must every year go through an appropriations process that is kicked off with the release of the President’s budget proposal).

OSTP Director Marburger talked about the “serious problem of the continuous erosion of the physical sciences,” something he said the Administration was showing continued commitment to reversing with its American Competitiveness Initiative. Marburger also bemoaned the significant growth in congressional earmarks and unrequested grants noting that this is especially prevalent at the Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration but not at the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.

The agency ‘snapshots’ below offer brief updates on the budget status for selected agencies. By April, an analysis of the proposed budget will appear in an American Association for the Advancement of Science publication available online, which will include a chapter–Biological and Ecological Sciences in the FY 2009 Budget–prepared by the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

The President’s budget proposal marks the official beginning of the new appropriations round, with Congress soon gearing up to respond to and adjust what the Administration has proposed for FY 2009. Technically, a new budget for fiscal year 2009 should be finalized by October 1, 2008 , but that ‘deadline’ has not been met in a long time. Witness the fiscal year 2008 budget, which wasn’t signed into law until December 26, 2007 . As a result, agencies such as NSF are still working on their current (fiscal year 2008) budget plans, which likely won’t be finalized until April. This is why proposed FY 09 budgets are compared to “estimated” 2008 levels below.


National Science Foundation

Director Arden Bement opened the NSF briefing by noting the agency’s deep disappointment with the fiscal year 2008 budget, saying “We are reaching the limits of our ability to do more with less.”

The FY 2009 Budget Request proposes a 14 percent increase for NSF to $6,854 billion. Reflecting the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative, the physical and computer sciences would receive the highest increases, while the biology ( BIO ), geosciences, and social sciences would receive relatively low increases. In real terms, funding for BIO Directorate remains flat at 2003 funding levels.

The development of the National Ecological Observatory Network ( NEON ) which had been slated to receive funding through NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, is slated to instead continue to be significantly ($6 million proposed for FY 09) funded in its design phase through the BIO Directorate.

The Education and Human Resources account is proposed to increase by 8.9 percent over the FY08 estimate to $790 million. Graduate Research Fellowships, which support the broad array of science and engineering disciplines across all fields, would increase significantly over the estimated 2008 level, by nearly 30 percent.

A new NSF-wide initiative is the Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment, slated at $10 million. The initiative aims to increase fundamental understanding of Earth’s freshwater systems and provide the scientific basis for decision-making about water resources.

Budget documents: http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2009/index.jsp

Department of Agriculture-National Research Initiative ( NRI )

The competitive grants program of the NRI is proposed for $256.5 million for fiscal year 2009, up from the estimated $190.9 million it is receiving for fiscal year 2008 (basically unchanged from the previous year).

Budget documents: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/about/offices/budget.html

Department of Agriculture-Forest Service

The fiscal year FY 2009 Forest Service budget request totals $4.109 billion in discretionary
appropriations, an 8 percent decrease from FY 2008 enacted level and a 5 percent decrease from FY 2007 levels. The agency’s budget includes Ecosystem Services Demonstration Projects aimed to advance market-based conservation. Proposed are up to five such projects that restore, enhance, and protect ecosystem functions on National Forest System lands.

Budget documents: http://www.fs.fed.us/aboutus/budget/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The agency requests $4.1 billion for fiscal year 2009, including $724 million for the National Marine Fisheries Service, of which $32 million would support implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. The National Ocean Service is slated for $477 million, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would receive $383 million, including $10 million for climate and weather research.

Budget documents: http://www.noaa.gov/budget/index.html

Department of Energy- Office of Science

FY09 Request: In keeping with the American Competitiveness Initiative, the Department’s Office of Science would receive a nearly 19 percent increase over the 2008 estimate to $4.7 million.

Budget documents at: http://www.cfo.doe.gov/crorg/cf30.htm

Department of Interior

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

President Bush proposed a fiscal year 2009 budget of $968.5 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a decrease of $38 million from the FY 2008 enacted level. Overall, this budget includes $34.9 million in program increases and $15 million in fixed costs, offset by $87.8 million in reductions.

Biological Research: Biological Research and Monitoring has a proposed budget of $145 million, a $4 million increase from enacted the FY 2008 level. The National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) has a proposed reduction of $2.9 million. The NBII would be downsized to perform only basic information dissemination functions for data and information currently available. Current data would be maintained, but limited or no new data would be added to NBII focus areas. The proposed reduction would impact programs such as the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, Fire Research and Management Exchange System, National Resource Monitoring Partnership, Geospatial One-Stop, and Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

Water programs: The National Streamflow Information Program has a proposed funding of $23.8 million, including an increase of $3.7 million to upgrade 350 streamgages with real-time telemetry and to reinstate 50 discontinued streamgages in 2009. The President’s FY 2009 budget reduces funding to the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program by $10.9 million, for a total FY 2009 program of $54.1 million. Hydrologic Research and Development has a proposed budget of $11.9 million, which is a decrease of $3.5 million from the FY 2008 enacted level.

Oceans Science: Coastal and Marine Geology is funded at $47.4 million. The proposed budget includes an increase of $7.0 million for oceans science in support of the Department’s Ocean and Coastal Frontiers Initiative and for completing the work started in 2008 on the U.S. Ocean Action Plan.

Global Change: The 2009 budget reflects a restructuring to create a Global Change activity and sustains $5.0 million of the $7.4 million increase in 2008 for climate change science. The 2009 request of $26.6 million includes $21.6 million in base funds to continue current global change research, $4.0 million to establish a pilot program in Alaska for a national climate change network, and $1.0 million for climate change adaptation studies.

Budget information: http://www.usgs.gov/budget/2009/2009index.asp

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The President’s $2.2 billion FY 2009 budget request for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) includes $1.3 billion in discretionary funds and $946.9 million in permanent appropriations largely provided to states for fish and wildlife restoration and conservation. The $1.3 billion FY 2009 discretionary budget request represents a reduction of $64.6 million compared to the FY 2008 enacted level, with most reductions resulting from lowered proposed spending in construction and land acquisition.

Budget information: http://www.fws.gov/budget/

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA request for fiscal year 2009 is $7.1 billion, essentially the same budget amount requested by the Administration for fiscal year 2008. The enacted amount for fiscal year 2008 came to $7.5 billion, but since a high of $8.4 billion in fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget has been shrinking.

Budget documents at: http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/budget/index.htm

Sources: Miscellaneous federal agency budget briefings and agency web pages