On April 18, congressional members from Illinois, Florida, Maryland, and Texas introduced a bipartisan, bicameral initiative to enhance the mapping of urban flood hazard zones. In addition, Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) introduced the Scientific Flood Mapping Act (H.R.5559), which would transfer functions related to the preparation of flood maps from FEMA to the USGS due to concerns regarding FEMA’s flood map oversight and management.
The Senate unanimously confirmed Dr. James Reilly as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey on April 9. In April, the Senate also voted to confirm Andrew Wheeler as Deputy Administrator of the EPA, Representative James Bridenstine as Administrator of NASA, and Michael Pompeo as Secretary of State. To track the confirmation process of key geoscience presidential nominations from the Trump Administration, visit AGI’s Federal Nominations page.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke defended the President’s FY 2019 budget proposal for his department to members of Congress on relevant House and Senate committees. The President’s FY 2019 request for the Department of the Interior (DOI) includes a total of $11.7 billion in discretionary appropriations, which is a reduction of more than $1 billion from the current funding level. During the hearings, Secretary Zinke explained that while the Department will continue to emphasize energy development, its priorities this year revolve around "conservation, infrastructure and reorganization."
Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill on March 23 that will fund the federal government through September 2018. The 2,232-page bill, entitled the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, rejects the Administration’s proposed deep cuts to federal science agencies. Instead, many science agencies received increased funding, in part due to the increased budget authority for FY 2018 non-defense discretionary spending agreed to last month in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
On March 6, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to consider the nomination of Dr. James Reilly to be Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski welcomed Dr. Reilly in her opening statement, acknowledging her initial surprise that an astronaut was nominated to run the USGS, but imparting her confidence in Dr. Reilly’s extensive geoscience education and career. Senators at the hearing questioned Dr. Reilly about protecting scientific integrity, defending USGS funding, and specific issues facing their respective states.
Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report titled Thriving on Our Changing Planet: A Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space. Commissioned by the civilian agencies involved with space-based Earth observations – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey – the study identifies key science and application priorities for 2017-2027. The report calls for the overall U.S. government’s program of Earth observations from space to be robust, resilient, and appropriately balanced, and for federal agencies to ensure efficient and effective use of U.S. resources.