By the time this article is published many of the front page Washington issues will have run their course or will be relegated to the inner pages of most newspapers.
I will therefore, focus this column to two issues that have been and will probably continue to be on the screen in Washington for the remainder of this year and on into the future. Those items are:
- The 2007 federal budget.
- Legislative initiatives that foster the maintenance and growth of the scientific community.
First, the annual budget cycle for the federal agencies.
While the bulk of the budget planning and program definition for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy have been under way for some time, outsiders – including much of AAPG’s membership – are not privy to the guidance provided within the executive branch. In fact, other than the groans, moans and smiles (rare) from the individuals inside the agencies, no comprehensive perspectives are available to the public at large until the president makes his State of the Union address.
This year there have not been any smiles! That part of the federal budget called discretionary funds, which underwrites upstream programs at DOE and DOI, also is the source of funding for items like hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast. Each of the appropriating committees in the Congress is allocated funds to place on the various programs for which they have oversight responsibility. Obviously, it is difficult to argue against hurricane relief and other efforts to restore infrastructure in the devastated Gulf Coast area. However, within that slice of the pie allocated to committees with geoscience R, D&D program responsibility, there is likely to be fewer dollars to spread among existing and new programs.
The time-sensitive issue for AAPG and its members is to review the pertinent budget sections and decide where and how they can express support for the important geoscience initiatives. In past years, individual members and the Association, usually represented by the president, have provided testimony in support of funding for oil and natural gas programs as well as other geoscience initiatives across the federal agencies.
This year the urgency may be greater than any year in recent memory.
Second, and perhaps more important in the long term, is science education legislation moving forward separately in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
On the Senate side is an initiative led by several members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The legislative package is titled “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Through Energy Act of 2006” (PACE). The PACE Act, broadly addresses science and technology issues raised in a recent report by the National Academy of Science titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.”
The proposed language can be found at http://energy.senate.gov/public
/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueItems.View &IssueItem_ID=31. If enacted, this initiative would be managed through the Department of Energy and the national laboratories.
On the House side, the Energy and Mineral Schools Reinvestment Act (EMSRA), with language that was initially included in the Budget Reconciliation Act, and which may subsequently be presented as a stand alone bill by the House Resources Committee.
The Reconciliation bill language can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:1:./temp/~c109oX4ms B:e811377:.
In contrast, EMSRA focuses on the disciplines involved in exploration and production for energy and mineral resources. The legislation makes it national policy to preserve and foster the geoscience institutions that produce the human capital necessary for economic, energy and minerals security.
Support from this legislative proposal would be derived from OCS and federal lands royalties that currently flow to the general fund in Treasury. The proposed language includes both authorization and an identified funding stream to ensure program continuity and designates management of the program to the Department of the Interior.
GEO-DC is keenly aware that these issues are high interest items among Association members. I encourage members to keep current on the progress of these budget and policy initiatives.
As the budget and legislative process matures, this column will devote space to updating the membership. Membership inquiries and expressions of interest are encouraged.
I can be contacted at [email protected], (703) 575-8293.