The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2020 Appropriations Process and Background

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Updated January 2, 2020
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2020 Appropriations
Process and Background

Figure 1. USGS Annual Appropriations
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aims to provide
(nominal $ in millions)
unbiased scientific information to describe and understand
the geological processes of the Earth; minimize loss of life
and property from natural disasters; manage water,
biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and
protect the nation’s quality of life. The USGS is a scientific
agency that is 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
land areas. The USGS also collects and stores scientific
information in long-term continuous 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
that is known as the USGS Organic Act (43 U.S.C. §31).
The USGS Organic Act defined the initial scope of the

“[The Director of the USGS] shall have the direction
Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS) using data from
of the United States Geological Survey, and the
public laws.
classification of the public lands and examination of the
Appropriations for FY2020 are $287 million above the
geological structure, mineral resources, and products
President’s FY2020 budget request of $984 million (see
of the national domain.”
Table 1). The Trump Administration’s FY2020 budget
request proposed reductions for many mission areas
Congress has expanded the USGS’s scope in legislation
compared to FY2019 levels. The Administration said the
since 1879 to include activities beyond studying mineral
cuts were needed to address “higher priorities.” In P.L. 116-
deposits and mapping. Presently, the USGS conducts
94, Congress rejected the proposed cuts and increased
scientific activities under six interdisciplinary mission
funding in all mission areas from FY2019 levels. Congress
areas: (1) Ecosystems, (2) Land Resources, (3) Energy,
also rejected the President’s proposal to restructure the
Minerals, and Environmental Health (4) Natural Hazards,
USGS from six to five mission areas and reorganize
(5) Water Resources, and (6) Core Science Systems. The
programs within a new structure. In the explanatory
USGS also has budget lines for Science Support
statement accompanying P.L. 116-94, Congress stated that
(administrative activities and information) and Facilities.
more information was needed to evaluate whether a budget
Congress appropriates funds for the agency through the
restructure would achieve the Administration’s stated goal
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations
of improving efficiency.
Table 1. USGS Funding: FY2019 Enacted, FY2020
Request, and FY2020 Enacted
The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L.
(nominal $ in millions)
116-94), included appropriations for the USGS under
Division D, the Department of the Interior, Environment,
Mission Area or
and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020. Congress
Budget Line
appropriated $1.271 billion to the USGS, which is $110
million above the FY2019-enacted level of $1.161 billion (a
9.5% increase; see Figure 1).
Land Resources
Energy, Minerals, and
Environmental Health
Natural Hazards

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2020 Appropriations Process and Background
Mission Area or
Critical minerals, according to USGS, are “mineral
Budget Line
commodities that have important uses and no viable
Water Resources
substitutes, yet face potential disruption in supply, and
are defined as critical to the Nation’s economic and
Core Science Systems
national security.”
Science Support
The Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, justified by the
Administration as helping to reduce U.S. dependence on
foreign nations for critical mineral supplies, includes
surveying for critical minerals in Alaska, the midcontinent,
Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior Budget Justifications and
and the western United States through public-private
Performance Information, FY2020, U.S. Geological Survey; P.L. 116-6;
and P.L. 116-94.
Natural Hazards Mission Area
The following sections summarize USGS Mission Areas
The Natural Hazards Mission Area provides scientific
and selected funding recommendations from Congress’s
information to reduce losses from natural hazards. Nearly
explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-94.
half of the mission area funding is for earthquake hazards
($84.9 million), including earthquake early warning and the
Ecosystems Mission Area
advanced national seismic system. The geomagnetism
The Ecosystems Mission Area conducts biological and
program supports the National Space Weather Strategy and
ecological science to inform natural resource management
received increased funding to continue a national
decisions. Congress rejected the President’s proposal to
magnetotelluric survey started by other federal agencies.
eliminate the Cooperative Research Units (CRU) Program
and instead increased funding from $18.4 million in
Water Resources Mission Area
FY2019 to $24.0 million in FY2020. CRUs are intended to
The Water Resources Mission Area monitors water
enhance graduate education in fisheries and wildlife science
resources and conducts research to improve water resource
through research partnerships with the USGS, state natural
management. Congress increased Cooperative Matching
resource agencies, universities, and other stakeholders.
Funds by $1.8 million compared to FY2019 by providing
Under the mission area, invasive species received $23.3
$63.5 million to partner with nonfederal cooperators for
million, of which $10.6 million is for Asian carp research.
water survey and science activities. Congress rejected the
Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Water Resources
Land Resources Mission Area
Research Act funding and instead provided $10 million to
Congress retained the Land Resources Mission Area, which
support Water Resources Research Institutes.
maintains observational networks and databases of land and
climate change information, rejecting the President’s
Core Science Systems Mission Area
request to eliminate the mission area and consolidate its
The Core Science Systems Mission Area focuses on the
programs in Ecosystems and Core Science Systems. The
mapping mission of USGS. The President’s budget request
National Land Imaging Program, which operates the
proposed transferring some programs in Land Resources to
Landsat remote sensing satellite system, received $98.9
Core Science Systems, thus increasing the overall funding
million—same as FY2019. Congress reduced funding for
request to the mission area. Congress rejected the proposed
Land Change Science by $5.0 million compared to FY2019
transfer and provided less funding to the mission area than
due to the completion of biological carbon sequestration
the budget request but included an additional $10 million
assessments. Funding for Climate Adaptation Science
compared to FY2019 for both national cooperative geologic
Centers, which includes developing a Midwest Climate
mapping and the national geospatial program.
Adaptation Science Center, increased by $13 million
compared to FY2019.
Science Support
Congress decreased Science Support funding by reducing
Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health
administration and management funding by $6 million
Mission Area
compared to FY2019 and the President’s budget request.
The Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health Mission
Area conducts scientific research and assessments related to
energy, minerals, and environmental health. Congress
Congress provided an additional $61 million in FY2020
rejected the Administration’s proposal to eliminate
compared to FY2019 for deferred maintenance and capital
Environmental Health and provided $23.5 million for
improvement under Facilities. The increase included
program activities on contaminant biology, unconventional
funding to build a new facility for hydrologic
oil and gas, toxic substances hydrology, and harmful algal
instrumentation to replace USGS facilities that were
blooms. Congress funded the President’s proposal of $10.6
impacted by the 2018 eruption and earthquake at Kilauea,
million for mapping and surveying critical minerals through
the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative.
Anna E. Normand, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): FY2020 Appropriations Process and Background

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