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GSA Testifies in Support of USGS and NSF

Left (left to right): Jonathan Price, Harvey Thorleifson, and John Geissman. Right: Kasey White. Click on photos to enlarge.

Soon after the release of the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013) budget request, GSA played an active role advocating for geoscience research by testifying three times in 24 hours. GSA President John Geissman testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on March 22 at a hearing titled “Effect of the President's FY2013 Budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Private Sector Job Creation, Hazard Protection, Mineral Resources and Deficit Reduction.”

The subcommittee heard from USGS Director Marcia McNutt and a panel that consisted of Geissman, GSA Treasurer Jonathan Price, who was testifying on behalf of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, and GSA Fellow and Association of American State Geologists President-Elect Harvey Thorleifson. Each witness supported USGS’s critical role in understanding and documenting mineral and energy resources, researching and monitoring potential natural hazards, and determining and assessing water availability and quality.

In response to the focus on job creation, Geissman provided some USGS history. He testified that one impetus for the establishment of the Survey was the deterioration of the U.S. economy at that time, and the belief that a better understanding of the geology of the American west, including mapping, could be an important means of improving the economy. He also brought a more personal perspective to the topic. He testified, “I think that it is important to note that undergraduate student enrollments in the geosciences across the county have risen considerably over the past few years. This is in part a response to the understanding that there are a large number of very well-paying jobs available in the energy and mineral industries. In addition, it is a recognition by many students with whom I have spoken that the geosciences can and must play a leading role in addressing many of the sustainability issues that our global society is currently facing and will continue to face in the future.”

Congressional members and witnesses were all concerned about proposed cuts to the minerals program. Price spoke to the importance of the program, noting, “The USGS minerals program is the only part of the federal government that tracks what's going on in mineral resource development in the U.S. and internationally.”

Thorleifson testified in support of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, explaining that “geologic maps showing sediment and rock materials at and below the land surface are the foundation that guides all programs dealing with issues such as energy, minerals, construction, water, and hazards.”

Also on March 22, GSA Director for Geoscience Policy Kasey White testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. White urged Congress to appropriate at least the Administration’s request of $7.373 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). White emphasized that the earth sciences are critical components of the overall science and technology enterprise and NSF investment. She testified, “Substantial increases in federal funding for earth science research and education are needed to ensure the health, vitality, and security of society; stewardship of Earth; and future economic growth. These investments are necessary to address such issues as energy resources, water resources, climate change, and natural hazards.”

The previous day, White testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. At the hearing, GSA requested that Congress fully fund the FY 2013 request for the USGS and restore cuts in the request to key programs. Members of Congress in attendance were supportive of the work of the USGS and thanked White for highlighting the many contributions of the agency.