U.S. Geological Survey
Mineral Resources External Research Program - 2007
The fiscal year (FY) 2007 Federal appropriations process has been finalized and the USGS Mineral Resources Program (MRP) would like to take the opportunity to explain the situation that led to the abrupt elimination of funding for the 2007 Mineral Resources External Research Program (MRERP). The decision to eliminate funding for the MRERP was not taken lightly. This has been a complex year in the Federal appropriations process, because of the change in congressional leadership and the enactment of a year-long continuing resolution (CR) that combined 11 of 13 Federal budget bills. The CR was expected to provide funding at the FY 2006 level and would have allowed us to fund the 2007 MRERP at $1 million. Although the Federal fiscal year begins October 1, it was mid-March, six months into FY 2007, when the USGS was notified that the MRP would have to absorb a $2 million cut, which was later negotiated down to $1.5 million. Unlike some other USGS external research or grant programs which are funded separately through legislative authority (e.g. NEHRP, STATEMAP), funding for the MRERP comes from the base budget of the MRP, and consequently is vulnerable to cuts to the MRP budget.
Constraints on this budget decrease included that it was not to affect either staffing levels across the Program or funding for MRP's minerals information function. These limitations meant that the part of the budget that could be reduced was that portion which funds MRERP and the operating expenses for about 45 MRP projects. Furthermore, funds had already been expended at a reduced rate to keep project work moving forward. Consequently, the Program had little choice about where to cut the required $1.5 million. In addition to eliminating FY 2007 funding for the MRERP, MRP has canceled 2007 travel and field work for projects scheduled to be completed in FY 2008 or later, delaying completion of all these projects.
Since those initial decisions, we have recovered some funds by delayed hiring actions and are able to fund Year 2 of the three 2006 MRERP 2-year awards. The funding will be contingent upon demonstration of satisfactory progress by the Awardee. Unfortunately, the MRP remains unable to fund new MRERP proposals for 2007. As soon as we know the outcome of the FY 2008 budget process, which proposes to reduce MRP by $22 million (or 42% of the program), we will post an announcement of our intentions with respect to MRERP in FY 2008.