FYI: Science Policy News

FY23 Budget Outcomes: US Geological Survey

MAR 08, 2023
The 7% budget increase USGS received for fiscal year 2023 will leave many activities proposed by the Biden administration without funding, including in climate change research and resilience. However, supplemental funding has allowed the agency to accelerate certain priority mapping initiatives.
Will Thomas
Spencer R. Weart Director of Research in History, Policy, and Culture

The U.S. Geological Survey budget rose 7% in fiscal year 2023 to $1.5 billion. The Biden administration had sought a 23% increase and Democratic appropriators in the House and Senate respectively proposed increases of 18% and 9%. However, the final outcome reflected the restraints on non-defense spending that Republicans negotiated with Democrats to enact an appropriations package for the year.

In seeking a large increase, the administration aimed to launch or expand a variety of activities, particularly around climate change research and adaptation, and many of those proposals were abandoned or pared back in Congress’ appropriation. At the same time, supplemental funds provided through special spending legislation are accelerating certain efforts, such as the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) and the 3D Elevation Program.

Congress provided detailed direction to USGS through an explanatory statement as well as a report prepared by House appropriators. Summary figures are compiled in the FYI Federal Science Budget Tracker .

FY23 Appropriations: US Geological Survey

Climate change

Climate centers. Within the Ecosystems mission area, funding for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers program rose $11.2 million to about $63 million. Although well short of the nearly $86 million requested, it was still the largest boost for climate science within the agency.

Land Change Sciences. The administration sought to double the budget for the Land Change Sciences program in the Ecosystems mission area to $39 million, but funding only edged upward to $20 million. The requested increase was primarily intended for expanding research on the impacts of climate change on physical and biological systems and developing a methodology for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions on federal lands.

Greenhouse gases on federal lands. The administration sought a $25.2 million increase for the Energy Resources program, much of which was for new initiatives related to greenhouse gases and federal lands, such as inventorying emissions and sinks and developing scenario analysis tools for greenhouse gas reduction. However, Congress only provided a $1.9 million increase.

Carbon sequestration. The administration requested funding increases for a series of efforts to research and facilitate the sequestration of carbon. In the Energy Resources program, the administration sought to increase funding from $2 million to $6 million for work on geologic sequestration, with a further $3.6 million for related data acquisition activities, but Congress provided $3 million. For studies related to biologic sequestration, the administration requested $4 million in the National Land Imaging program and $2 million in the Land Change Sciences program. However, Congress only allocated $500,000 in the former program and left little room in the latter program to expand on the $150,000 it allocated last year. Within the Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources program, the administration sought to increase funding from $1.2 million to $5 million for research on carbon sequestration in coastal wetland environments. Congress did not specify an allocation for the effort, but only raised the overall program budget by $1.3 million.

Climate decision tools. Congress specified a $3.6 million increase within the Core Science Systems budget for “supercomputing associated with high-risk accelerated climate research.” The administration had sought $30 million to establish a “collaborative climate innovation response and resilience framework” that would provide decision-support tools for evaluating risks and tradeoffs of land management decisions.

Climate data portal. Congress did not specify an allocation for creating an interagency climate data portal, for which the administration had sought $10 million within the budget of the National Geospatial program. However, an increase provided for the overall program leaves room for the initiative to be partially funded if other activities are allocated their requested funding.

Natural resources

A USGS scientist collects a gas sample on the flank of Akutan Volcano in Alaska

A USGS scientist collects a gas sample on the flank of Akutan Volcano in Alaska. USGS and the Department of Energy have studied the area as a potential site for geothermal power generation. (Image credit – Jennifer Lynn Lewicki / USGS)

Energy Resources. The $1.9 million increase for the Energy Resources program brought its budget to $33 million. The program provides estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable energy resources in the U.S., including both fossil fuels and renewable resources. The $57 million proposed by the administration included an additional $2 million for investigations related to geothermal energy, as well as the efforts related to greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration.

Mineral Resources. Base funding for the Mineral Resources program rose $7.1 million to almost $71 million. The administration had sought about $90 million, with increases primarily dedicated to expanding research on reclaiming critical minerals in mine waste and on mineral supply chains for green technologies. The final appropriation allocates much of the increase provided for the mine waste work. The budget for Earth MRI, which supports efforts to identify potential critical mineral deposits, is steady at $75 million, comprising $11 million from the Mineral Resources program and the second of five $64 million installments appropriated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Water Resources. Funding for the Water Resources mission area rose $18.5 million to $304 million, just above the requested amount. The appropriation includes $5 million to establish a “center to study complete water cycles and watersheds from mountaintops to shorelines.” It also includes almost $30 million for the Next Generation Water Observing System, close to the request, supporting the installation of instruments for making high-fidelity, real-time observations along the Willamette River in Oregon, the program’s fourth river basin. Last month, USGS selected the Trinity-San Jacinto River Basin in Texas for the fifth phase of the program’s expansion.

Natural hazards

Earthquakes. The budget for the Earthquake Hazards program increased $2.6 million to $93 million, short of the $100 million requested, with level funding of almost $29 million provided for expansion of the ShakeAlert West Coast early-warning system.

Volcanoes. Funding for the Volcano Hazards program rose $4.2 million to about $38 million, or $3 million more than requested. Within the total, Congress increased funding for the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System by $2.6 million to over $18 million. Through a separate account, Congress provided the $29 million requested for an ongoing project to replace the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, which was severely damaged by the 2018 eruption of Mount Kilauea and is now set to be headquartered in the city of Hilo.

Coastal and marine hazards. Funding for the Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources program increased $1.3 million to about $43 million, well short of the $61 million requested. Most of the proposed increase was to have been for hazard modeling and forecasting, with some additional funding for community resilience efforts and carbon sequestration research.

Landslides. Funding for the Landslide Hazards program increased $5.5 million to over $14 million, or $3 million more than requested. USGS indicated its requested increase would allow it to deliver more “actionable” landslide risk information and to implement the National Landslide Preparedness Act, which requires the agency to maintain capacity to deploy scientists to landslide sites.

Geomagnetic hazards. Whereas the administration sought about a $1 million increase for the Geomagnetism program, Congress provided roughly half that, bringing its budget to almost $5.3 million. USGS has been planning to establish three permanent observatory sites and a series of low-cost stations for recording variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. Information provided by the program helps in assessing risks related to electromagnetic disruptions caused by solar activity.

Mapping and satellite imaging

A point cloud of lidar (light detection and ranging) data from Puerto Rico, which USGS has collected through its 3D Elevation Program

A point cloud of lidar (light detection and ranging) data from Puerto Rico, which USGS has collected through its 3D Elevation Program. (Image credit – USGS)

Mapping. Funding for the National Geospatial Program increased $6.1 million to $94 million, or about $5 million short of the request. That appropriation includes $43 million for the 3D Elevation Program, which also received a one-time $23.5 million appropriation last year via the Inflation Reduction Act. The budget for the separate National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program rose $2.1 million to nearly $45 million. The National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program, which provides grants to make historical data and samples public, is receiving $5 million this fiscal year through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Land imaging. The operations budget for the Landsat program increased $7.4 million to about $92 million, in line with the request, which proposed the additional funding in part to replenish ground and flight systems infrastructure to prepare for future Landsat missions. USGS continues to operate Landsat 7, which is nearing the end of its lifespan, as well as Landsats 8 and 9. USGS and NASA recently announced that the next Landsat mission, expected to launch around 2030, will be a trio of identical satellites rather than a single satellite.

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