Proposed Federal Budgets Offer Increases in Imagery and Infrastructure

by Matt Ball on February 14, 2011

This is budget time in Washington, with bi-partisan calls for cuts in funding. Last week we heard widely from Republicans in the House of Representatives regarding their proposed cuts. Today there’s word from the White House on the proposed budget, and press releases are going out from individual federal agencies regarding their plans. While overall there are cuts in funding, science and technology seems to have been embraced overall in these plans, with cuts coming mostly in facilities, personnel, and other streamlining efforts.

New this year is an interesting interactive graphic that displays areas of the 2012 Budget Proposal in proportion to the whole. For instance, Healthcare is 22.62% of the budget, with Medicare as 12.86% of that total. The ongoing operations, equipment and supplies of the military account for 7.89% of the budget out of a total of 19.2% for National Defense overall. Way down in the lower right of the graphic appear areas where geospatial technology typically plays, such as Transportation (2.74%), Natural Resources (1.12%), and Response to Natural Disasters (.44%).

The U.S. Geological Survey proposed budget ($1.1 billion overall) has a modest increase of $6.1 million over the 2010 level. There is an increase of $48 million for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (Landsat 8), which is scheduled to launch in December 2012, with development of Landsats 9 and 10 underway. Climate Science Centers, a new network of science-based research areas that was called for in Secretarial Order 3289, accounts for a new $11 million in funding. Coastal and marine spatial planning gets a new $4.5 million in funding.

NASA’s 2012 Budget Summary ($18.7 billion overall), “Supports a robust and diverse fleet of Earth observation spacecraft to strengthen U.S. leader- ship in the field, better understand climate change, improve future weather predictions, and provide vital environmental data to Federal, State, and local policymakers.” While also finding cost savings in better facility management and streamlined operations.

While there is an ongoing focus on cutting back, the proposed budget request for the Department of Transportation ($128 billion overall) represents a 38 percent increase over the proposed amount in fiscal year 2011 and a 39 percent increase over the $77 billion that was enacted for fiscal year 2010. In this new six-year plan are funding for highways, transit, highway safety, passenger rail, and a National Infrastructure bank, which would allocate $30 billion in loans and grants to support individual projects and broader activities of significance for the Nation’s economic competitiveness.

The proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency ($8.9 billion overall) represents a 13% decrease from the 2010 budget. While there are large decreases in such projects as Great Lakes ecosystem monitoring and Clean Water funds, there is a significant increase in funding on science and technology. In the streamline of enforcement and compliance there’s an increase of $27.5 million for better e-reporting and monitoring tools. An additional $584 million is allocated to new and emerging environmental science.

The Department of Homeland Security proposed budget ($57 billion overall) has identified $800 million in savings, with much of the savings in facility reductions, including the delayed construction of the new FEMA headquarters in St. Elizabeth. There is a request for $242 million in new surveillance technology for the southwest boarder, as well as $55 million for northern border technology systems and pilot programs.

The NOAA proposed budget ($5.5 billion overall) has a $6.8 million decrease over 2010. A large portion of the NOAA budget deals with areas of global change, with $737 million for research and development related to climate, weather and ecosystem science and for infrastructure to support NOAA’s R&D enterprise. Included is a “budget neutral” reorganization to build a climate service within NOAA.

Overall, the proposed budget picture is a positive one for geospatial technology. As stated by NOAA director Jane Lubchenco about her agency, “this budget clearly recognizes the central role that science and technology play in stimulating the economy, creating new jobs and improving the health and security of Americans.” That same sentiment can be applied to the role and impact of geospatial technology overall for increasing efficiency while providing the necessary intelligence to accomplish a wide variety of federal missions.

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