by Kasey White, Director for Geoscience Policy, Geological Society of America

Photo Credit: Lindsay Davis

Over the span of just a few days, the FY 2018 appropriations process moved closer to completion and the FY 2019 process kicked off. On February 9, a budget deal that raises spending caps for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019, provides $89 billion in emergency spending, and continues funding the government through March 23 was signed into law. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 raises overall spending levels previously set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  The bill provides $80 billion in new defense spending for FY18 and $85 billion in FY19. Nondefense spending levels rise $63 billion in FY18 and $68 billion in FY19.

Congress is currently working to allocate this additional money and finalize FY 2018 spending bills before March 23, the end of the current Continuing Resolution. This fiscal year began back on October 1, 2017.

The emergency-spending portion of the bill focused on relief for areas affected by recent natural disasters and includes funds to make repairs to scientific infrastructure and weather-forecasting equipment.  The bill provides the U.S. Geological Survey $42 million to repair and replace damaged equipment, conduct assessments, and collect mapping data in order to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts; the National Science Foundation (NSF) receives $16 million to repair the Arecibo Observatory;  NASA receives $81 million to repair facilities and equipment; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is allocated $400 million.

Just a few days later on February 12, the Administration released its Fiscal Year 2019 budget request, making some last-minute changes to reflect the higher spending levels in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Although most geoscience programs would see large cuts in agency budget documents, an addendum to the request would mitigate these decreases at the NSF, NASA, and Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Despite these important adjustments, many programs and missions would still see a decrease. NSF and DOE’s Office of Science would receive flat funding compared to FY17, the last finalized spending year. Within DOE, however, Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy (ARPA-E) would be eliminated and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a nearly 70% decrease. NASA and its Science Mission Directorate would grow slightly and Planetary Science would increase 22%. Meanwhile, Earth Science would decline approximately 6% and eliminate 5 missions.

Large reductions of concern remain in the proposals for the U.S. Geological Survey (21% decrease), NOAA (20% decrease), and EPA (34% decrease). The process now moves to Congress, who will focus on it after the FY 2018 bills are completed.