Final FY17 Appropriations: U.S. Geological Survey

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Publication date: 
17 May 2017

The final appropriations law for fiscal year 2017 provides a 2.2 percent increase for the U.S. Geological Survey. Funding for Climate and Land Use Change is increasing 6.6 percent, but within that Climate Variability is decreasing by 6.5 percent. Natural Hazards is increasing 4.3 percent.

On May 5, President Trump signed into law final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017 that increases the budget for the U.S. Geological Survey by 2.2 percent. Several mission areas, including Climate and Land Use Change, Natural Hazards, and Core Science Systems, are receiving boosts in funding of between 4 and 7 percent, though climate science and variability programs are receiving a 6.5 percent cut. The law is the product of two years of work, and the funding levels it mandates will last until at least the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The legislation’s accompanying explanatory statement provides policy direction and spending levels for specific USGS programs and activities. It also specifies that direction provided in last year’s House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports still stands unless superseded by new language in the explanatory statement. While the statement and reports do not carry the authority of law, agencies typically abide by them.

The funding increase brings USGS’ budget to $1.085 billion, $23 million more than enacted in fiscal year 2016, but $84 million below the Obama administration’s request. The chart below summarizes changes in spending under the new law for select USGS programs:


Summary of changes in FY17 budget for select USGS programs.

Click to enlarge

The 6.2 percent boost in the Climate and Land Use Change mission area is directed towards the Land Remote Sensing Program, which the law funds at $86 million, $14 million more than Congress enacted last year but $10 million below the requested amount. Within Land Remote Sensing, the statement specifies that the USGS-NASA Landsat 9 satellite mission should receive the full request of $20 million to ensure on-time completion of the ground system, and instructs USGS to draw on previous year carryover balances in the agency’s satellite operations account if necessary.

Natural Hazards receives $145 million, a 4.3 percent increase over last year’s funding level. Within the mission area, Earthquake Hazards receives a $3.8 million increase, $2.1 million over the requested level, for activities including the continued development of an early warning system and incorporating data from Earthscope monitoring instruments. Volcano Hazards receives a $2 million increase, with $1 million directed towards repair and upgrade of volcano hazard monitoring stations and another $1 million for next-generation lahar detection systems.

The Energy, Minerals, and Environmental Health mission area remains relatively flat at $94 million. Core Science Systems receives a 4 percent increase to $116 million.

FY17 USGS Appropriations

Funding Line FY16
House Senate Final Change
USGS 1,062 1,169 1,080 1,068 1,085 2.2%
Water Resources 211 228 216 211 215 1.9%
Ecosystems 160 174 161 158 160 -0.3%
Climate & Land Use Change 140 171 146 140 149 6.6%
Natural Hazards 139 150 143 142 145 4.3%
Core Science Systems 112 118 114 116 116 4.0%
Science Support 106 111 106 106 106 0%
Facilities 100 117 100 100 100 0%
Energy, Minerals, & Environmental Health 95 99 95 95 94 -0.2%

All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

Additional USGS budget information is available in the Federal Science Budget Tracker on FYI’s website. Below are some additional highlights from the bill and its accompanying reports. 


Climate and Land Use Change

  • Landsat 9: Directs USGS to report on how the program will meet the obligations for the completion of the Landsat 9 ground system as well as other land remote sensing projects “under current funding levels.”
  • Arctic: Provides $500,000 for new Arctic research activities.
  • Climate Science Centers: Specifies a $1.1 million cut to the Climate Science Centers, rejecting the request for an additional $1.5 million to establish a new Great Lakes Center.

Energy Minerals and Environmental Health

  • Mineral Resources Program: Encourages USGS to collaborate with state geological surveys to complete mapping of regions with “high quality mineral and energy resources that remain unmapped at a useable scale” as well as to “update and conduct new evaluations of oil and gas resources in low-permeability reservoirs,” specifically in the Arctic petroleum province. Rejects the Obama request for a $1.5 million decrease in Geophysical and Remote Sensing Activities, with the Senate stating that these activities “are the basis for resource discovery, and without them the mineral potential is largely unknown.”  

Natural Hazards

  • Earthquake early warning system: Specifies $10.2 million for the continued development of an early warning system.
  • Central/Eastern U.S. Seismic Network: Provides the requested $800,000 increase to assume operation of the 159 seismic stations constructed by the National Science Foundation, pointing out the network “provides greatly improved earthquake detection and accuracy in the region that hosts most of the Nation’s nuclear power reactors, and also in areas that have seen increased seismicity since 2009.”
  • Advanced National Seismic System: Specifies a $1 million increase for regional seismic networks to collaborate with USGS to meet ANSS standards through “incorporating data from active Earthscope earthquake monitoring instruments.”

Core Science Systems

  • National Geospatial Program: Specifies a $4.5 million increase for the National Geospatial Program, of which $2.2 million is provided for the 3D Elevation Program to map landscape topography through lidar.  

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