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FY22 Budget Request: U.S. Geological Survey

JUN 24, 2021
The U.S. Geological Survey budget would increase a quarter to $1.64 billion under the Biden administration’s request for fiscal year 2022 in large part to support an array of climate change research, mitigation, and preparedness initiatives.
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Science Policy Analyst

USGS scientists conducted near-shore bathymetric surveys on Cape Cod National Seashore in February 2021.

USGS scientists conducted near-shore bathymetric surveys on Cape Cod National Seashore in February 2021.

(Image credit – Sandra Brosnahan / USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center)

President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey seeks a 25% increase to the agency’s current enacted budget of $1.32 billion. In support of Biden’s executive order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad , USGS proposes $205 million in new climate science investments, including $60 million to help launch a new cross-government Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA–C).

Detailed figures from the request are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker and highlights are summarized below. The chart depicts proposed increases for the agency’s five mission areas and its facilities account.

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Climate research

ARPA–C. The administration is proposing to house ARPA–C in the Department of Energy with several agencies pitching in funds. USGS states its initial $60 million contribution would focus on reducing “barriers between science production and user application” in the following five areas: “planning tools for habitat and biodiversity, models for drought prediction, predictive tools for fire and post-fire risk management, coastal change and vulnerability forecasts for planning and disaster response, and models to assess potential and risks for geologic storage of hydrogen, including hydrogen produced using renewable energy.”

Climate science centers. Funding for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers program would double to $84 million under the request. Of the increase, $25 million would expand work across the network of eight university-based centers, with a focus on developing “climate adaptation services” that would support natural resources management. Of the remainder, $10 million would support expanded engagement with Tribal communities and $5 million would go toward synthesizing research from the centers into nationally relevant products. USGS also notes it plans to establish a ninth center in fiscal year 2021 that will be located in the Midwest, as per congressional direction .

Emissions monitoring and sequestration. USGS seeks a $20 million increase for efforts to better characterize greenhouse gas emissions produced from activities on federal lands. The request includes $10 million to conduct a national inventory of such emissions and $5 million to develop a scenario analysis tool that helps assess tradeoffs between different options for clean energy deployment.

USGS also requests a $20 million increase for research related to biologic, geologic, and coastal methods for sequestering carbon. Among the initiatives proposed, USGS would refine regional assessments of carbon dioxide storage potential in priority geologic basins, assess opportunities for oil and gas operations to adopt carbon capture and storage technologies, and improve monitoring of carbon absorbed by ecosystems.

Natural hazards programs

The Natural Hazards mission area budget would increase 18% to $208 million under the request, expanding preparedness efforts for earthquakes, volcanos, landslides, and solar storms.

Earthquake hazards. The overall budget for earthquake monitoring and early warning programs would increase by $6 million to $93 million, with the increase evenly split between subduction zone science, IT modernization, and research on seismicity induced by carbon sequestration.

Noting that the most powerful earthquakes occur in subductions zones, such as the Cascadia zone off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, USGS states it would use the funds to “improve the speed and accuracy of offshore earthquake characterization and expand targeted scientific information to support community resilience and emergency response.” USGS adds that it seeks to explore new approaches for improving the speed and accuracy of the ShakeAlert early warning system and to further incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities into its earthquake detection and alerting capacities.

The budget includes $26 million for the ShakeAlert system, which was first deployed statewide in California in 2019 and this year was extended to Oregon and Washington .

Volcano hazards. Funding for the Volcano Hazards program, which supports five volcano observatories across the U.S., would increase by $3 million to $34 million. USGS proposes that $1.5 million of the increase go toward establishing the National Volcano Data Center called for in a 2019 law that requires USGS to maintain a National Volcano Early Warning System.

The remainder would accelerate hazard assessments on two active volcanoes that USGS notes are “current or potential geothermal resources and that pose potential threats to surrounding communities”: the Clear Lake and Sonoma Volcanic Fields in California and the Makushin Volcano in Alaska. “The next generation volcanic hazard assessments delivered at the end of five years would ensure that all volcanic hazards and their respective impact zones are clearly delineated; critical geothermal infrastructure is adequately protected with a monitoring network; and potential geothermal development is sited out of high hazard zones,” USGS explains.

Landslide hazards. Funding for the Landslide Hazards program would increase by $3 million to $11 million, with a focus on improving risk modeling for areas recently burned by wildfire and reducing uncertainty in risk forecasts “over timescales ranging from weeks to decades.” USGS states it would also begin implementing the National Landslide Preparedness Act, which was signed into law in January 2021 and requires USGS to build up its capacity to deploy scientists and resources to landslide sites.

Geomagnetic hazards. USGS requests a $1.6 million increase to $5.7 million for the Geomagnetism program to begin establishing the first of three new ground-based magnetometer stations, adding to the existing set of six sites it uses to develop geoelectric hazard maps. It states the expansion is “necessary for national electric grid resilience and is responsive to the interagency Space Weather Action Plan, which calls for an enhanced geomagnetic monitoring network that will deliver data to operational centers in real time.”

Coastal hazards. The Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources program budget would increase $17 million to $56 million, of which $10 million is for characterizing risks associated with coastal erosion and sea-level rise and $4 million is for assessing the carbon sequestration potential of coastal salt marshes and mangroves. USGS also requests $2 million for efforts to better tailor its hazards information to stakeholders, including $500,000 for a new Hazards, Risk, and Social Equity Internship program that would apply relevant research to meet the needs of underserved communities.

Other programs

Critical minerals. Funding for the Mineral Resources mission area would increase by $25 million to $86 million under the request in support of initiatives related to critical minerals. Of the total increase, USGS seeks $15 million to launch a national mine waste inventory and begin a pilot project to assess the feasibility of reprocessing such wastes from federal lands in the southwestern U.S. The remainder would support efforts to assess mineral needs for clean energy technologies and help develop enhanced capabilities for forecasting supply chain risks and economic impacts, in accordance with a provision in the Energy Act of 2020. USGS also notes it will continue conducting airborne geophysical surveys of critical minerals across the U.S. as part of its Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI), though it does not report a budget amount for the activity.

Landsat missions. USGS requests steady funding of $85 million for satellite operations, of which $32 million would support this year’s launch of Landsat 9 and development of the following satellite in the series , Landsat Next.

Diversity and integrity initiatives. USGS requests a $7.8 million increase in its Administration and Management program to support workforce diversity and scientific integrity initiatives. Among them, the agency states it would expand engagement with Minority Serving Institutions and community colleges to “encourage students to continue studies and pursue advanced degrees in natural science fields that are critical to the USGS.” It would also implement recommendations from a staff survey on scientific integrity, which it states include “strengthening USGS scientific integrity policies, safeguarding protections against political interference, enhancing the culture of science quality and integrity, and providing opportunities for the professional development and advancement of USGS scientists.”

Geophysics lab relocation. USGS requests $28.5 million to begin replacing its Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry and Energy laboratories located at the Denver Federal Center in Building 20, which it plans to decommission by 2025. It explains the facility is “significantly past its useful life and does not support the existing science requirements of the USGS.” The agency also notes it had planned to co-locate the labs in the Colorado School of Mines geophysics department, but the state withdrew funding due to financial impacts of the pandemic. Accordingly, USGS reports it is still assessing alternatives for where to host the labs.

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