May 31, 2017

USGS Sees 15% cut in President’s FY18 Request

Posted by cbunge

USGS’ topline budget saw a 15% cut in President Trump’s FY18 budget request, which would fund the agency at $922.2 million.

Large Cuts to USGS Climate Programs

The largest cut came out of the Land Resources mission area, which also received a title change from its previous name, “Climate and Land Use Change”. According to a USGS press release, this name change reflects the mission area’s “actual problem-solving focus on meeting the practical science needs of land managers.” Land Resources, which oversees the agency’s climate change research, Earth observation, and remote sensing programs,  saw a decrease of 24% in the Trump budget.

The budget request also would eliminate the mission area’s climate research activities, including research into how land-use change is affecting global greenhouse gas emissions. Models or data sets tracking how landscapes, wildlife, and fisheries are being affected by climate change would be killed. Additionally, the budget calls for the elimination of four of eight regional Climate Adaption Science Centers, causing the four remaining centers to realign in order to cover the nation and potentially reducing activities by 50%.

The budget does provide an increase of $22.4 million for Land Sat 9 Ground System development in order to support the launch date of FY2021, but eliminates or reduces funding for additional Landsat 9 related projects. For example, the budget eliminates the AmericaView State Grant Program, which support the use of Landsat data and other public domain remote sensing satellite data through applied remote sensing research, and substantially reduces funding for Science, Research and Investigations that would significantly slow the development of new information products for land managers across the country.

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Majority of USGS Mission Areas Receive Substantial Cuts

The Natural Hazards mission area received a 19% cut in the President’s budget, with significant cuts to the Earthquake Hazards Program. The budget calls for the elimination of the Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast, which would end efforts to implement the ShakeAlert warning system, and eliminate funding to academic partners, ultimately decreasing the ability to warn populations about coming earthquakes.

The Volcano Hazards Program also received substantial cuts with the suspension of implementation of the National Volcano Early Warning System, preventing scientists from closing monitoring gaps on Very-High-Threat volcanoes in the contiguous U.S. Additionally, the budget calls for the elimination of USGS’ Geomagnetism Program, an element of the U.S. National Space Weather Program. This would reduce the accuracy for NOAA and US Air Force forecasting of solar storms that affect electrical grids, global communications, and satellite data.

Additionally, the USGS Water Resources mission area received a 19% cut in President Trump’s budget. The budget calls for reductions for the National Water Quality Program, by suspending studies that focus on contaminants, nutrients, carbon and sediment are transported and delivered along water sources. With these cuts, the ability to forecast future changes in water quality will be delayed 5-10 years, suspending the production of critical information that water resource mangers need.

Energy and Minerals Resources Received a Smaller Cut

The smallest cut came from the Energy and Mineral Resources and Environmental Health Mission Area, with a 3% cut. This is likely due to the administration’s priorities in supporting an “America First” energy policy. The mission area will focus on assessing energy resources and provide data and tools to inform energy policy and resource management, as well as improving our understanding of the distribution of the Nation’s critical mineral resources. However, the budget calls for large cuts to science that supports our understanding of contaminants in water, food and the environment, potentially increasing vulnerability to these hazards.

For more, see the USGS budget highlights and full budget request here.

Concerned about these cuts? You can do something right now. The President’s budget is just a suggestion, Congress has the ultimate say in how our government is funded. Take 5 minutes and speak up for the USGS by sharing with your legislators why this agency is critical to America’s scientific enterprise.