I spoke today with Carla Burzyk, Director of Office of Budget and Performance at the U.S. Geological Survey, to understand better the proposed cuts to the National Geospatial Program. She filled me in on the budget process and addressed some of the concerns that I’ve outlined in previous posts about the status of the National Map partnerships.
- Status of the budget: This is the first round of the 2011 budget that won’t be decided until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The budget is the vehicle for deliberation by Congress, and much can be changed in the process.
- Tradeoffs: The budget represents eight months of deliberations to conform to guidance that is set by the Office of Management and Budget. Given this guidance there were a number of decisions made to align funds to high-priority programs, and grant programs were seen as the first target for cuts. While there is a $3.5M cut to the Partnership Implementation program, the entire budget of the program was $14M so the bulk of the program remains.
- Jobs: The priority for cuts was also aimed at areas where people would not be let go. While the justification indicates that liaison positions in 13 states will go away, these duties are just a part of larger jobs and the duties will go while the people stay.
- Justification: I was most interested in hearing some justification for this loss of data collection, hoping that there was some off-setting reason to reduce data collection efforts. The USGS did receive $140M in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and $14.6 Million of that went to improving imagery and elevation maps. It was suggested that the USGS would be looking at a decrease in data if it weren’t for these funds, so with the funds and the cuts, the agency will maintain roughly the same level of data as in they past years.
- IFTN Speculation: My speculation about the possibility that the Imagery for the Nation Program might reach approval wasn’t part of the thinking. While there has been some positive indications that the proposal is meeting with greater support, there’s no pending action.
I appreciated the quick and thorough response that I received regarding these questions. Overall the increases to the USGS budget are still positive, with the budget larger than it has been in past years, but there areas where it could certainly be larger. Much could change when Congress deliberates over this guidance, so I’ll work to stay on top of this as it develops.