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Opening Statement of Dr. Charles Groat
on the FY 2001 Budget Request for the U.S. Geological Survey
before the Subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
March 16, 2000

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee. It is a great pleasure to come before you today to present our proposal for the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for Fiscal Year 2001. The proposed budget requests $895 million, an increase of $82 million over the Fiscal Year 2000 enacted level. This historic request will enable us to enhance a number of our core science and monitoring programs to more fully realize our potential for providing the Nation with "Science for a Changing World."

Before I begin, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for your strong support of the USGS over the years. You are a good friend of the Survey, and I speak for all of us in the USGS when I say we appreciate what you have done for us.

This morning I will forgo the usual recitation of our recent accomplishments. Rather than focus on the past, I want to talk to you about our future. Last year, this Committee asked specifically about the USGS vision of our future role. I am happy to spend a few moments sharing our views on where the USGS is going, why, and what tools we need to get there. I also look forward to hearing your thoughts on these topics as well.

As natural scientists, we at the USGS have a long-term view of things. We know that the history of our planet is a history of change. Our role is to monitor and understand change in the places people care about -- our marine and inland coasts, our national parks and refuges, our vast and beautiful natural heritage of lands and rivers and living things. The USGS also provides a context for understanding change in our natural world, both the changes caused by our human activities, as we live and build and work and play on our planet, and the natural processes of change that continually shape our world and form the backdrop for human influences.

We have learned from the past century that understanding the way our Earth works is essential to the well being of our society. Our experiences with natural disasters, with issues of resource scarcity, with unexpected environmental effects of well-intentioned decisions, have taught us that scientific knowledge is the critical tool that permits the early detection of and early response to emerging problems. Science can prevent crises. Science creates opportunities. Science supports enduring solutions.

Our mission at the USGS is to understand natural processes and to communicate our understanding to people who can benefit from this information. Policymakers at all levels, from the U.S. Congress, to a business, to a local community, need accurate forecasts so that they can envision the consequences of the many choices they face today. The decisions made today will shape the world we inhabit tomorrow.

I have asked our key science leaders to develop the future science directions for the bureau, incorporating the views of external partners such as the National Research Council as appropriate. Some of the overarching questions they are considering include:

More specifically, we are studying the ways in which the diverse capabilities of the USGS can provide the science needed for

These statements should sound familiar. They build on our core scientific strengths in monitoring, in interpreting, and in maintaining long-term databases that are key to understanding the Earth. I take great pride in the outstanding caliber of USGS scientists, whose excellence is recognized by their peers through countless honors and awards. We are committed to maintaining and enhancing our scientific excellence by training our current staff, to ensure that their knowledge and skills remain at the peak of their fields, and by bringing on board a new generation of bright and dedicated scientists who can ask and answer the questions of the future.

Investments in people must be matched by investments in our scientific infrastructure, in our laboratories, our monitoring instruments and systems, and the technologies we use to communicate with other scientists and with the public. Our budget request includes specific items that will strengthen our capabilities in real-time earthquake and streamflow monitoring, ensure the continued availability of Landsat remotely sensed data for earth science monitoring and research, and enhance our ability to provide excellent science, effectively communicated, to those who need it.

People rely on our information to help them make decisions that shape the future for their communities, the Nation, and the world. Hence we have an increasing responsibility to ensure that our scientific results are effectively communicated. We welcome this evidence of our value, and we recognize that our success brings with it the obligation to strengthen our dialogue with our customers.

As Director of the USGS, I have taken steps to work with our stakeholders to help us envision the best future for the USGS. Our goal is to provide the scientific information that the Nation and the world need to thrive -- not simply survive -- in the 21st Century. Next week, the USGS leadership will be meeting with many more of our stakeholders to get their help in shaping our vision of the future.

Now let me give you a few highlights of our proposed FY 2001 budget.

Budget Highlights

USGS has developed four overarching themes within which program components address science challenges related to people, wildlife, and the land and resources that support them:

Safer Communities (+$7.1 million) -- The cost of natural disasters -- earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, coastal storms -- has skyrocketed to more than $50 billion per year. The USGS helps communities become more resilient to natural disasters by providing fundamental understanding of and information on them in real time. The USGS proposes to enhance its ability to provide advance warning of impending natural disasters, enabling communities to save lives and property. From the study of earthquakes in Alaska and the Pacific West, to floods in high-risk areas around the Nation, USGS efforts will help create stronger and safer communities.

A $2.6 million increase will expand and modernize our earthquake monitoring in urban areas in the United States. This request will install or upgrade a total of 150 regional/urban seismic stations as is proposed in the plans developed for the USGS Real Time Hazards Initiative and for the Advanced National Seismic System. We are requesting $500,000 to expand the real-time volcano monitoring capability at one additional high-risk Alaskan volcano. Since FY 1996 we have installed, operated, and maintained seismic monitors at 20 active volcanoes in Alaska's Aleutian Islands so that airplane encounters with ash clouds can be averted. This initiative also includes $4 million to improve our existing streamgaging network. We will be working with the National Weather Service and other partners to determine locations for adding stations and upgrading existing gages to provide the real-time information needed by emergency managers and the public during floods.

Livable Communities (+$47 million) -- Americans want communities where they can enjoy a healthy environment and earn a decent living. To balance competing demands for natural resources, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and economic growth, planners need reliable tools and an immense amount of information. The USGS delivers these products to the doorsteps of communities, helping them to plan for intelligent resource use and growth. With the funding proposed for FY 2001, USGS will work with local communities to solve natural resource problems by providing easy access to understandable, usable information on the natural resources vital to community health.

We propose $10 million for decision support for Urban Dynamics as part of the Department's Lands Legacy program. The funding will allow us to expand efforts to understand landscape change in large metropolitan regions and assess the impacts of such changes on a regional scale. This work will enable us to transfer historical data and tools to organizations around the country to plan for sound urban growth.

Also supporting the Lands Legacy program is a $30 million increase to fund partnership projects across the country to increase creation and use of geospatial information for informed decisionmaking. These partnerships are aimed at developing local solutions to local problems. Of the $30 million requested, $25 million will be allocated through competitively awarded matching grants and cooperative agreements. Through these partnerships, USGS and communities will share the cost of generating data and providing tools that both solve local problems and address national interests.

The OhioView pilot project taught us valuable lessons about using the Internet to deliver natural science data. In 2001, we propose investments in our information technology infrastructure that is a necessary precursor to expand partnership models like Ohio View to other regions of the country. A $2 million increase will enable us to expand, improve reliability and speed for data delivery, and provide real-time data to customers by upgrading transmission lines.

Data from Landsat satellites have provided the United States and other users with a continuous stream of land-image data since 1972. These data sets are of great value to the earth science community. In the current Mozambique flooding, for example, Landsat 7 satellite images from April of 1999 and March of 2000 are being analyzed by the United Nations and Mozambique officials to determine the impacts on transportation systems, extent of flooding, where to establish relief centers, and conditions in populated areas. A $5 million increase will allow USGS to assume long-term management responsibility for Landsat 7 operations in 2001. USGS has partnered in various ways with the Landsat programs over the years, and responsibility for operation of Landsat 7 is a logical fit with the core mission of USGS.

Sustainable Resources for the Future (+$15.3 million) -- Understanding how the land responds to change is essential for our continued enjoyment of the natural landscape in the future. With additional funding in FY 2001, USGS will develop tools to predict how the land interacts with the oceans and air and how it reacts to the many uses humans make of it. Focused research on river, coastal, and wetland habitats and other critical landscapes will increase our understanding of how these major systems respond to change and enable us to develop restoration tools for areas that have been altered. With a solid understanding of how the Earth works, we can help to ensure thriving landscapes for people and wildlife.

Over the past 50 years, the Columbia River landscape has been changed by urbanization, heavy logging, and agricultural development impacting its natural resources, including Pacific salmon. A $4 million increase will enable us to provide integrated science for managers to establish a foundation for restoring natural processes within the river, monitoring system health, and improving the survival of critical species.

The budget includes a $1.3 million increase to address critical and emerging resource management issues in the Great Lakes Region, the Greater Yellowstone Area, and the Mojave Desert. We will approach these place-based studies with the combined expertise of our multiple disciplines to predict consequences of decisionmaking. We will also work with local, State, and Federal managers to develop decision support tools addressing high-priority resource issues through our proposed $10 million increase for the State Planning Partnerships, part of the Department's Lands Legacy program.

America's Natural Heritage (+$16.7 million) -- A vital part of America's natural legacy is its parks, refuges and other public lands, many of which are entrusted to the Department of the Interior. These landscapes and the fish and wildlife they support are key to our core national identity. USGS, in partnership with stakeholders throughout the Nation, is helping land and resource managers preserve our natural heritage by monitoring, assessment, and research that address issues of critical importance.

The budget includes a $15 million increase to support the Department's highest priority science needs. This includes $13 million for "DOI Science Priorities" that will be dedicated to bureau-specific projects and $2 million that will be used for monitoring the Upper and Lower Mississippi River Basins to characterize habitat in areas of demonstrated amphibian loss, to develop methods to use spatial analysis techniques to predict potential loss, and to conduct comprehensive research studies on causal factors.

With $1 million for new research on Fish and Wildlife Disease, we will better understand diseases such as the West Nile virus in birds of the East and Gulf Coast States, to mitigate the impacts of the disease on humans.

Finally, I would like to complete a multi-year effort to fill and support all science vacancies in the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units program by requesting an increase of $700,000. This program allows government and non-government entities with common interests and responsibilities for natural resource management to work together to address biological resources issues.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, this budget request strengthens our ability to provide "Science for a Changing World." I would be pleased to answer any questions this Subcommittee may have.

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