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February 19, 2020
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2021 Appropriations
Process and Background

Figure 1. USGS Annual Appropriations, FY2016-
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aims to provide
FY2020 and FY2021 Request
unbiased scientific information to describe and understand
(nominal $, in millions)
the geological processes of the Earth; minimize loss of life
and property from natural disasters; and support the
management of water, biological, energy, and mineral
resources. The USGS is a scientific agency housed within
the Department of the Interior (DOI). In contrast to other
DOI bureaus, it has no regulatory authority and does not
manage any major federal lands. The USGS also collects
and stores scientific information in long-term data sets.
These data sets range from satellite imagery of land and
ecosystem features to streamflow and groundwater data.
Congress created the USGS in 1879 in a portion of a law
known as the USGS Organic Act (43 U.S.C. §31). The
USGS Organic Act defined the initial scope of the USGS:
[The Director of the USGS] shall have the direction
of the United States Geological Survey, and the
classification of the public lands and examination of

the geological structure, mineral resources, and
Sources: Congressional Research Service (CRS) using data from
products of the national domain.
public laws and U.S. Department of the Interior, Budget Justifications
and Performance Information
, FY2021, U.S. Geological Survey.
Since 1879, Congress has expanded the USGS’s statutory
authorities to include activities beyond studying mineral
Under the FY2021 request, all mission areas and budget
deposits and mapping. Presently, the USGS conducts
lines, besides Core Science Systems, would receive
scientific activities under six interdisciplinary mission
reductions in funding from FY2020 enacted levels (Table
areas: (1) Ecosystems; (2) Land Resources; (3) Energy,
1). (Core Science Systems would receive a net reduction
Minerals, and Environmental Health; (4) Natural Hazards;
when discounting the transfer of the National Land Imaging
(5) Water Resources; and (6) Core Science Systems. Each
Program from Land Resources to this account.) The largest
mission area has its own budget line. The USGS also has
reductions from the FY2020 enacted levels would be for the
budget lines for Science Support (administrative activities
Ecosystems Mission Area (approximately 25%) and
and information) and Facilities. Congress appropriates
Facilities (approximately 29%).
annual funds for the agency through the annual Interior,
Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations acts.
Table 1. USGS Funding: FY2019 Enacted, FY2020
Enacted, and FY2021 Request

(nominal $, in millions)
The President’s budget request for FY2021 USGS
appropriations is $971.2 million, which is $299.8 million
Mission Area or
less than the FY2020 enacted level of $1,271.0 million (a
Budget Line
23.6% reduction; Figure 1). The FY2021 request, if
enacted, would be the lowest funding amount for the USGS
since the FY2006 enacted level of $965.3 million. The
Land Resources
request proposes restructuring the USGS from six to five
mission areas and reorganizing mission areas with new
Energy, Minerals, and
programs. The request also includes changing the structure
Environmental Health
of the USGS Director’s Office—splitting the deputy
Natural Hazards
director position into two deputy positions (i.e., one for
operations and one for administration and policy) and
Water Resources
establishing a new chief scientist position.
Core Science Systems
Science Support

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2021 Appropriations Process and Background
Mission Area or
management. The budget request proposes restructuring the
Budget Line
mission area to create two new programs and eliminate the
Water Resources Research Act Program. The proposed
Water Observing Systems Program would combine the
current Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program,
which encompasses over 10,000 streamgages, and some
Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior, Budget Justifications and
water quality monitoring activities.
Performance Information, FY2021, U.S. Geological Survey; P.L. 116-6;
and P.L. 116-94.
Core Science Systems Mission Area
Note: Land Resources would be eliminated and funding transferred
The Core Science Systems Mission Area focuses on the
to Core Science Systems and Ecosystems.
mapping mission of the USGS. Under the proposed
restructuring, the National Land Imaging Program and
The following sections summarize USGS mission areas and
some components of the Land Change Science Program
selected programs from the FY2021 budget proposal.
would transfer to Core Science Systems from Land
Resources. The National Land Imaging Program operates
Ecosystems Mission Area
the Landsat land remote sensing satellite system, including
The Ecosystems Mission Area conducts biological and
two active satellites. The program currently is preparing
ecological science to inform natural resource management
Landsat 9, the latest satellite in the series, for a FY2021
decisions. The budget request proposes consolidating
research currently spread across five existing Ecosystem
Potential Issues for Congress
programs into three new programs and one new center: the
Species Management Research Program, Land
The Administration has requested 23.6% less funding for
Management Research Program, Biological Threats
the USGS in FY2021 compared to FY2020 enacted levels.
Research Program, and Climate Adaptation Science Center.
Since FY2017, Congress has increased funding levels for
The request also proposes eliminating the Cooperative
the USGS as compared with the Administration’s request.
Research Units (CRU) Program (CRUs received $24
For example in FY2020, Congress provided a 9.5%
million in FY2020). CRUs are intended to enhance
increase over prior-year funding levels, despite the
graduate education in fisheries and wildlife science through
Administration’s request for a 15.3% decrease. The
research partnerships with the USGS, state natural resource
Administration stated that its proposed reductions for
agencies, universities, and other stakeholders.
FY2021 allow the budget to address other priorities.
Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health
Similar to the FY2020 budget request, the Administration’s
Mission Area
FY2021 budget request proposes restructuring the USGS
from six to five mission areas and reorganizing mission
The Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health Mission
areas with new programs. Congress rejected the FY2020
Area includes scientific research and assessments related to
proposal and stated in the explanatory statement
energy, minerals, and environmental health. The FY2021
accompanying P.L. 116-94 that more information was
request proposes eliminating the Environmental Health
needed to evaluate whether a budget restructuring would
Program, which supports studies of the effect of
achieve the Administration’s stated goal of improving
contaminants and pathogens on humans and other
efficiency. Congress may reevaluate the restructuring
organisms. In FY2020, Congress appropriated $10.6
proposal and any additional information provided by the
million for mapping and surveying critical minerals through
USGS during the FY2021 appropriations process to
a new Earth Mapping Resources Initiative. The FY2021
determine if the realignments achieve benefits asserted by
budget request includes $10.6 million to continue this
the Administration.
The priorities and scope of the USGS’s activities and
Critical minerals, according to the USGS, are “mineral
mission also are potential issues for Congress. Some
commodities that have important uses and no viable
contend that USGS activities have expanded beyond the
substitutes, yet face potential disruption in supply, and
scope of the USGS Organic Act. They note that USGS
are defined as critical to the Nation’s economic and
involvement in researching ecosystem restoration, species,
national security.”
and environmental health, for example, strays from the
USGS’s primary mandate reflected in its Organic Act.
Natural Hazards Mission Area
These observers would like to see more effort given to
The Natural Hazards Mission Area provides scientific
geological and energy-related work by the USGS. Some
information to reduce losses from natural hazards. For
stakeholders counter this claim by noting that the USGS has
FY2021, the Administration proposes to reduce funding for
expanded its scope in response to congressional
the Earthquake Hazards Program by 29% compared to
authorizations and direction. Further, they contend that the
FY2020 enacted levels. Most of this reduction would affect
USGS’s mission has changed over time to reflect the
earthquake early warning activities.
scientific needs of DOI and the country.
Water Resources Mission Area
Anna E. Normand, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
The Water Resources Mission Area monitors water
resources and conducts research to improve water

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2021 Appropriations Process and Background

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