In the middle of last month, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his fiscal year 2017 budget. As expected, and in keeping with his campaign promises, the president asked for significant increases to military spending as well as border protection and immigration enforcement. The increased spending was partially offset with proposed spending cuts to federal agencies and programs.
The U.S. government’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So, we are already six months into the FY2017 budget, with the government operating under a continuing resolution, a deal struck last year to continue funding government operations at FY2016 levels through April 28, 2017.
Without further action by Congress to provide spending authorization and appropriations ahead of the expiration of the continuing resolution later this month, the U.S. government will shut down. It doesn’t happen often – though the threat of a shutdown emerges annually, it seems – and is unlikely to happen this year. But to avoid this outcome, Congress must decide how and how much the federal government will spend through Sept. 30, and the president has to sign the bill into law.
And it is in this environment that everyone with an interest in how the federal government spends its money becomes very active on Capitol Hill, letting representatives and senators know about their proposals for how the government should spend these tax dollars.
Legislators, too, have their own ideas of how to prioritize federal spending, so over the next several weeks we’ll be treated to furious jockeying and posturing to come up with a spending plan.
Our policy work here at AAPG is focused on helping policymakers understand the importance of various federal programs and why they should be funded.
The Association itself does not seek federal grants and contracts, but many of our Members, particularly in academia, do. And this is particularly true of graduate students, many of whom have their thesis and dissertation research funded through federal grants. These folks are the next-generation geoscience workforce, and federal spending supports the nation’s educational and research infrastructure.
An Association of Associations
We don’t take on the responsibility of educating policymakers alone. Instead, we cooperate with other geoscience societies and organizations through the Geopolicy Working Group (GWG). And AAPG has joined with the American Association of State Geologists, American Geosciences Institute (AGI), American Geophyscial Union, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the Geological Society of America, the National Groundwater Association, and the Soil Science Society of America to create “Geoscience Policy Recommendations for the New Administration and the 115th Congress.”
The document is being delivered to policymakers across Washington, D.C., and outlines the vital roles geoscientists play throughout society, focusing on five themes:
- Enhancing national and homeland security
- Increasing economic prosperity
- Securing resources and strengthening national infrastructure
- Supporting strong and resilient communities
- Growing a dynamic workforce
Each of these themes has specific policy proposals to meet the stated goals and links those to federal programs that support these endeavors. The list of programs is wide-ranging, including:
- Earth systems observation, data collection, and analysis
- Investments in the U.S. icebreaker fleet
- Natural hazards and water usage research
- Energy research and development programs, including minimizing environmental impacts of energy development
- Ocean planning initiatives
- Agricultural and soil science
- Mineral commodities information from discovery to disposal to maintain economically vital mineral supply chains
- Geoscience research funding to train and develop the next generation geoscience workforce
You can download the document from the AGI Critical Issues website.
And, I should say that not every association or society engaged with GWG explicitly supports each of the policy proposals made in this document, or even has a particular position on each. But collectively, they represent the shared priorities of the broader geoscience community, representing more than 250,000 geoscientists.
We’re stronger when we combine our efforts and speak with a common voice.