Senate Appropriations Committee Report Recommendations -

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Publication date: 
19 September 1995
Number: 
131

NSF Antarctic Program

Accompanying H.R. 2099, the VA, HUD, Independent Agencies
Appropriations Bill for FY 1996, is a Senate Appropriations
Committee report (104-140) with language on the National Science
Foundation.  Considerable attention was given to the U.S. Antarctic
Program.  The complete report language and background information
on this program follow:

APPROPRIATIONS REPORT LANGUAGE:

"U.S. ANTARCTIC PROGRAM: Presidential Memorandum 6646 issued in
1982 calls on NSF to be the lead agency for the U.S. Antarctic
Program.  That policy directive calls for this Nation to maintain
a year-round active presence on the continent and to maintain three
stations: McMurdo, Palmer, and South Pole.  The cost to maintain a
U.S. presence in Antarctica is expensive due to the remote location
and severe weather conditions.  The NSF required $166,770,000 in
logistics and operations support in fiscal year 1995 to support
$29,060,000 in scientific research activities.

"The Committee is very concerned about the ability for NSF to
continue to fund a U.S. permanent presence on the continent given
severe budget constraints.  This situation is exacerbated by the
need for NSF to upgrade or replace its aging facilities such as
$200,000,000 estimated to replace the deteriorating South Pole
station.  The Committee questions whether the 1982 policy to
maintain a presence in the Antarctic is still valid.

"As a result, the Committee directs the National Science and
Technology Council to undertake a Government wide policy review of
the U.S. presence in the Antarctic.  The review should examine the
validity of the policy contained in Memorandum 6646, namely, the
need for a year-round presence, the need for three stations, and
the roles of the NSF, Department of Defense, and other Government
agencies.  The review should examine the policy in the context of
the value of the science performed in Antarctica and other U.S.
interests.  Finally, the review should address the affordability of
continued U.S. presence in Antarctica in light of the severe budget
environment and examine options for reducing annual logistical and
operational budget needs.  At a minimum, budget saving options
should include greater international cooperation, less than a
year-round human presence, and closing one or more of the stations.
The results of the review should be submitted to the [Senate
Appropriations] Committee by March 31, 1996." 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) responsible for
the March 31, 1996 report is a cabinet-level council established by
President Clinton in November 1993.  Its purpose is, according to
the White House, to "coordinate science, space, and technology
policies throughout the federal government."  NSTC is chaired by
the President, and includes the Vice President, Assistant to the
President for Science and Technology, and the secretaries of
Commerce, Defense, Energy, HHS, State, Interior, Agriculture,
Labor, Transportation, and Education, as well as the heads of NASA,
NSF, EPA, NIH, OMB, CIA and various other White House councils and
offices.

The FY 1996 NSF U.S. Polar Programs budget request, which includes
research and logistical support at both poles, is $234.88 million.
The request states: "The Foundation is charged with supporting
national policy goals in Antarctica: to maintain the Antarctic
Treaty, ensure that the continent continues to be used only for
peaceful purposes, foster cooperative research contributing the
solution of regional and world-wide problems, and protect the
environment."

There are three major facilities in Antarctica: McMurdo Station
with a summer population of 1,200, the South Pole Station with a
summer population of 125, and the Palmer Station with a summer
population of 42.  A variety of military and leased aircraft,
research vessels, and icebreakers are used to maintain the
stations, with operations support provided by a civilian
contractor.

The budget request states that an estimated 1,396 people are
involved in both Arctic and Antarctic Polar Programs Activities in
the current budget year.  In describing the U.S. Antarctic Research
Program, the request notes: "The U.S. Antarctic Research program
(USARP) budget for FY 1996 totals $31.54 million, an increase of
$2.48 million.  The program supports over 120 research projects in
Antarctica each year.  This research, best or uniquely carried out
in Antarctica, provides the principal expression of U.S. presence
in Antarctica.  Investigations focus on the earth, the ice,
surrounding oceans, the atmosphere and terrestrial and marine
biota.  The cold, dry atmosphere at the South Pole Station is ideal
for several kinds of astronomical and astrophysical investigations.
Because conduct of research in Antarctica is expensive, significant
attention is devoted to the preparation for projects deployed
there.  Data analysis and modeling is supported as well."

The House Appropriations Committee report did not discuss this
program.  Unless the conference report specifically overrides this
Senate report language, which is unlikely, it will stand as a
component of the final legislative package.

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