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If you are tracking FY2013 ocean and coastal related budget hearings, there’s a lot to cover

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image of U.S. Currency by William Nuckols

Do you know where the "ocean budget" dollars are located? Look widely, as many agencies impact the oceans and coasts of the U.S.
**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available. Return to this page for updates

NOAA has dropped its FY2013 budget last week, when the President sent his full budget request  to the Hill for consideration by the House and Senate. This year’s NOAA budget request is approximately $5.1 billion. But that’s far from the only money in the oceans and coastal arena in the federal budget.

The National Ocean Council (NOC) structure includes dozens of agencies and the Executive Office of the President. Sensibly, it is not until you look across that broad collection of agency budget proposals and the reaction from the Hill to them will you get an understanding of the scale of the “ocean and coastal budget.”

Here are a few of the ocean related Congressional budget hearings that have occurred or are coming up over the next  months which provide the trail of breadcrumbs those interested in ocean and coastal issues will want to be following:

(Hearings which have already occurred will have links to archived video where available.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of the Interior – Secretary

Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:30 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior (Biography)(Testimony); David Hayes, Deputy Secretary (Biography); Pamela Haze, Deputy Assistant Secretary – Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition (Biography)
Opening statements: Chairman Rogers / Chairman Simpson
Video recording: Part I / Part II

Friday, February 17, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture – Secretary

Friday, February 17, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary- Department of Agriculture; Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary-Department of Agriculture; Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist-Department of Agriculture; Michael Young, Budget Officer-Department of Agriculture

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Joint Hearing
The title of the hearing is “The FY 2013 EPA Budget.”
10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Opening Statement of Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield

Opening Statement of Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus

Opening Statement of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton

Witness List
: Ms. Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, Witness Testimony
the hearing will be live broadcast on the Committee’s website.  It is also being carried on CSPAN.

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of Energy – Secretary

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 2:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary, Department of Energy

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Oversight Hearing on “FY 2013 budget requests from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management”
10:00 AM   in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness:
Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
Robert Abbey, Director, Bureau of Land Management

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing (POSTPONED – new date TBD)
Budget Hearing – Department of Commerce, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Department of State – Secretary of State

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:00 AM in 2359 Rayburn
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Witness: The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Department of State

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Environmental Protection Agency – Administrator

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 1:00 PM in 2359 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Barbara Bennett, Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Protection Agency

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Office of Science and Technology Policy. Director

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 2:00 PM in H-309 Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
(This hearing will not be webcast).

Thursday March 1, 2012

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – Fish and Wildlife Service – Director

Thursday, March 1, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Dan Ashe, Director, Fish and Wildlife Service; Chris Nolin, Budget Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tuesday March 6, 2012

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
U.S. Coast Guard – Commandant

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in B-318 Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witness:  Robert Papp, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – National Science Foundation
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in H-309, the Capitol
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Witness
: The Honorable Subra Suresh, Director, National Science Foundation
(This hearing will not be webcast by the Committee)

House Appropriations Committee hearing
Budget Hearing – U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Dr. Marcia McNutt, Director, USGS

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Oversight Hearing on “Spending for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for these Agencies.”
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:00 AM in 1334 Longworth House Office Building
WITNESSES AND TESTIMONY:
Witnesses TBD.

Wednesday March 7, 2012

House Budget Committee, Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Budget Hearing – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Assistant Secretary, Chief of Engineers

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 2:00 PM in 2362-B Rayburn
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: The Honorable Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Maj. Gen. Merdith “Bo” Temple, Chief of Engineers (Acting), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Budget Hearing – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – Directors
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Tommy Beaudreau, Director, BOEM; Rear Admiral James Watson, Director, BSEE

House Natural Resources Committee hearing
Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “The Council on Environmental Quality’s FY 2013 Funding Request and the Effects on NEPA, National Ocean Policy and Other Federal Environmental Policy Initiatives”
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 1324 Longworth House Office Building
Witness: Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman, Council on Environmental Quality

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Oversight Hearing
Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program
Mar 07 2012 10:00 AM
Russell Senate Office Building – 253
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on priorities, plans, and progress of the nation’s space program.
Please note the hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

House Appropriations Budget Hearing – Department of Agriculture
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2362-A Rayburn
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Witnesses: Mr. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Dave White,Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture.
(This hearing will not be webcast.)

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following upcoming hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal for the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The President’s FY2013 Budget Proposals for the Coast Guard and NOAA

Mar 07 2012 2:30 PM Russell Senate Office Building – 253
Witness List:
The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

House Appropriations Budget Hearing
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10:00 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Homeland Security

Witnesses:
Craig Fugate, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
(This hearing will not be webcast)

Thursday March 8, 2012

House Budget Hearing – National Park Service – Director
Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service

House Natural Resources Committee Hearing – FY13 Budget for DOI’s BOEM and BSSE
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
March 8, 2012 9:30 AM

1334 Longworth House Office Building
Oversight Hearing on “Effect of the President’s FY 2013 Budget and Legislative Proposals for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) on Private Sector Job Creation, Domestic Energy Production, Safety and Deficit Reduction
Witnesses:
Tommy Beaudreau, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
James Watson, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing
Department of Transportation – Secretary

Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:30 AM in 2358-A Rayburn
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Witness: The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary, Department of Transportation
House Appropriations Committee
Budget Hearing – National Park Service 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 1:00 PM in B-308 Rayburn
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee

Witness: Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service(Biography); Bruce Sheaffer, Comptroller, National Park Service(Biography); Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director, National Park Service(Biography)
(This hearing will not be webcast)
Senate Appropriations Committee
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Mikulski)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 124
Agenda: a review of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Witnesses: The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Senate Appropriations Committee
Energy and Water Development Subcommittee (Chairman Feinstein)
March 28, 2012
Time and Location: 2:30 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: A review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 funding request and budget justification for the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.
Witnesses:
Major General Merdith (Bo) Temple
Acting Commanding General
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary
U.S. Army (Civil Works)
The Honorable Anne Castle
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science
U.S. Department of the Interior
The Honorable Michael L. Connor
Commissioner
Bureau of Reclamation
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Senate Appropriations Committee
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Kohl)
March 29, 2012
Time and Location: 2:00 p.m., Dirksen 192
Agenda: Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the Department of Agriculture
Witness: The Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture(USDA)
Accompanied by:
Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, Department of Agriculture, Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture

**more fy2013 hearings connected to agencies which have an impact on ocean policy issues will be added as they become available.  Return to this page for updates.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert

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EPA’s budget winners and losers identified by Administrator Lisa Jackson

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At today’s press conference Lisa Jackson, EPA’s top official, provided a snapshot of some of the cuts and the budget increases within EPA’s proposed FY2012 budget, released by the White House this morning.

Lisa Jackson, EPA

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson lead today's press teleconference on the release of the President's budget request for EPA programs in FY2012.

With an overall proposed cut of $1.4 billion from the EPA budget for FY2012, to no one’s surprise there are programs taking fairly big hits. With reductions in aid to severely cash strapped states ($950M reduction in the state revolving fund, which is slightly offset by an increase of $85M in State and Tribal assistance) the rippling effect is likely quite significant. How groups like the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of Counties (known by many as NACO) will react to the pass through of EPA funds being severely curtailed will be an early indication of the pushback to the dysfunction in government at all levels that could result from significant cuts during a time of a slow economy.

Also on the losers list are the Great Lakes, with a $125M cut to a program that was heralded as a successful federal-state partnership. But if you like your water a bit saltier and you live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed things are a little less gloomy – the EPA plans to keep up the pressure on the states VA, MD, PA and the District of Columbia to enact long overdue changes and finally clean up the Chesapeake Bay.  EPA will even back this up with an actual increase in federal funding with $17.4M of new funding flowing to the Chesapeake Bay in 2012.

The Administration’s budget sets out to protect other Administration priorities, such as control of greenhouse gas emissions from major sources.  The President is asking for “moderate increases” in programs that move forward the implementation of EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules that were issued in January.

Other environmental programs have no hidden upside.  Funding for the EPA Superfund program is cut, with a realization that cleanup at these environmental disaster hotspots will occur “at a slower rate” that historic funding levels have allowed.  For those that have lived alongside these toxic disaster areas, many of which have been very slow to be cleaned up, slower than slow is hard to wrap your head around.

The press conference ended with a series of questions centering around the implication to EPA if the Republican Continuing Resolution bill for the remainder of 2011 is enacted (the federal government is currently only funded through early March). No direct responses were given but it was clear that EPA will work to oppose funding proposals which will undermine their ability to protect the American people. The next two weeks on Capital Hill will be the battleground on where FY2011 spending is fought, and the outcome of that battle may prove to be a more heated battle than the FY2012 budget proposal by the President because of the pending shutdown of the government in just a few weeks.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

 

Written by Will Nuckols

February 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

President’s FY2012 Budget hits the Web this morning at 10:30 A.M. Republican response TBD.

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The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget is now up on the web, with a link to the 216 page document available via the OMB website at White House.gov.

A series of agency budget briefings are being held today and later this week which will provide further insight into the details of the budget.
cover of the President's FY2012 Budget

The President's proposal for the FY2012 budget was released on the morning of February 14th

A press release from the Republican Leadership is targeted to be out later this afternoon (circa 2:30), but rather than a more detailed plan to counter the President’s proposal as was once proposed, details are believed to be scant in the Republican response on this day, with a Majority staff member from the House Budget office expecting a more complete Republican counter proposal to come out in about a month, following meetings of the House Budget Committee. 

With the House Appropriations Committee Mjority Staff saying they hadn’t heard of a timeline for a response and to check with Leadership, and staff in Speaker John Boehner’s office tossing out multiple options such as “check the Politico website – I think the link to the document is there” to “our response is on OMB.gov” and finally likely the most accurate answer which was  “Check Paul Ryan’s [Budget] Committee – they probably know” one thing is clear – advanced coordination for the Republican response to the President’s budget release is not proceeding smoothly. The next 24 hours will indicate whether the Speaker’s office can reign in the confusion and provide a quick budget rebuttal or whether a typical process of budget hearings will mark a more normal budget planning process in the House.

 The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

 

Written by Will Nuckols

February 14, 2011 at 10:51 am

Republicans hope to cut 100 billion from the FY11 budget in only 7 months

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H.R. 1, the House Republican’s first bill of the 112th Congress, was released on Friday February 11th. The 359 page bill outlines the cuts to the discretionary federal budget for FY2011 which the Republicans hope would result in a savings of approximately $100 billion compared to the President’s FY2011 budget request which was released in February of 2010. The proposed $100 billion in cuts emerged after House Appropriations Chairman Rodgers received flack after his mid-week proposal of more than $73 billion was released, a number which some in the party stated wasn’t going nearly far enough.

cover of H.R.1 the Republican Bill that proposed dramtic spending cuts for FY2011

The Republican's first bill of the 112th Congress, H.R. 1, proposed $100 billion in cuts from the dicretionary portion of the federal budget for FY2011.

Cuts to the discretionary budget, which account for only a small portion of the overall federal budget, are dramatic in the Republican plan, and if passed the cuts in delivery of services to the American people will be at least, if not more, dramatic. While overhead will remain largely unchanged by a budget which will need to be executed mere days after its passage, funds that are used to execute programs will be cut at an even higher, and at this stage wholly unknown, level.

But while the dollar figures for the proposed cuts and the percent reductions compared to the FY10 budget or President’s FY11 request have been the focus of the early reporting on the bill, the fact that these proposed cuts in the budget will need to occur over a 7 month period rather than a full fiscal year has been largely ignored. We are already five months onto the federal fiscal year which started on October 1, 2010. 

Through a series of continuing resolution spending bills for FY2011 the government has limped along on dribs and drabs of funds which have been released at FY2010 levels. And accordingly agencies have largely spent at the 2010 rate as well. This means that if the proposed Republican spending plan for the remainder of FY2011 is enacted then federal agencies will have effectively already been overspending for the last 5 months, and they will need to account for the full cuts in FY2011 in a little over half of a year. For instance, if in the Republican House bill an agency is to receive a 16% cut in funding for all of FY2011 the agency will need to cuts its spending by more than 27% for the remainder of the fiscal year, making large cuts effectively translating into cuts of such a large-scale that agencies are likely to be essentially wholly ineffective.

In the coming days I’ll be highlighting several of the cuts which will dramatically impact environmental issues and a range of issues surrounding our oceans and coasts.  Until then you may wish to skim through the funding bill yourself. It might serve to steel you against the shock that will occur on monday when the President releases his FY2012 budget request and the Republicans in the House release their proposed FY2012 budget counter proposition.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

February 12, 2011 at 12:36 am

Will the earmark ban result in unprecedented control over federal spending by the President?

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image of U.S. Currency by William Nuckols

The ban on Congressional earmarks doesn't necessarily mean a smaller or better budgeting process, but it does mean a change in who controls the fine details of how U.S. taxpayer’s money will be spent by the federal government

The ban on earmarks by the House, the President, and now the Senate means that having agency budget requests right-sized is of ever increasing importance. Typically while some attention is paid to the President’s budget, the proposal is most often looked at as a starting place with a ballpark number for what the Executive believes will need to accomplish its agencies’ missions. But fine tuning for what specifically the agencies will  do with the funds Congress appropriates is often not that closely scrutinized, as Congress, through the earmark process, has been able to ensure that specific projects receive a defined allocation out of an agency’s overall budget allocation.

Now, with earmarks off of the table, the executive side of government just took a leap forward in power.

This means that not only will pet projects in Congressional Members’ home districts which aren’t widely supported nationally – but which were important to incumbents being reelected – be taken off the table, but Congresses’ budget authority in general is reduced.

If a federal agency was reluctant to allocate resources to one particular statutory responsibility because they had priorities elsewhere, earmarks could serve as a budgetary correction, forcing an agency to address Congress’s wishes at a much finer resolution than at the huge budget block level.

Whether Congress finds a way to continue to try to control the budget at a detailed level through alternative processes such as an expansion of detailed bill report language, or whether the President will be allowed latitude to implement his administration’s vision of their own priorities will pay out over the next several months as agencies’ budget hearings begin in the 112th Congress.

What workarounds to the earmark ban will Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) employ to maintain their power and oversight role? No one has tipped their hand so far.

This will be quite the interesting policy experiment.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

 

Written by Will Nuckols

February 2, 2011 at 9:00 am

If you find the Salmon reference in the State of the Union funny, the environmental field is replete with more comedy material

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picture of a wild coho salmon

In President Obama's State of the Union Address he used the oddity of Salmon being an issue covered by both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA as an area of obvious duplication and inefficiency in government. The President named just that one example, but the numbers of others are almost too many to list.

Tonight in the State of the Union address President Obama cited the fact that both NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service both consider salmon as a part of their jurisdiction as a favorite example of his when he thinks about government reform and the need for a more efficient government.

If one is enjoying the salmon humor, but are are looking for yet another area of multiple jurisdictions overlapping in the federal government, an easy topic to research is the field of wetlands – their protection and restoration.  In the second half of the Bush (43) Administration a group of agencies came together, under the leadership of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine who was working on President’s 3-million acre wetlands goal, to track their progress, and examine the budgets of those same agencies whose activities would be key to President Bush achieving his goal. After more than a little digging the authors of the report on the progress toward the goal had copious amounts of budget and performance data pouring in from seemingly everywhere, and even though it seemed that we’d turned over every rock, another multi-million dollar program would be found and have to be included in the calculations. This happened numerous times. I know because I was there – crunching the budget and performance numbers week after week as more information arrived in bits and pieces. An optimistic policy analyst might think that finding the money would be easy, especially since we agreed not to even consider funds of less than a few numbered thousand. And since OMB was a part of the workgroup, this would be especially easy given that OMB is the President’s accountant – right?  Wrong.  Really, really wrong.  Budget planning is a fairly stovepiped process, both on the Hill in the Legislature and in the Executive branch. Common theme items rarely get compared within a single budget block, and almost never get coordinated across multiple budget blocks. The work is too difficult and time consuming and administration after administration has shrugged their shoulders and allowed a somewhat chaotic budget planning process to continue.

President Bush's Conserving Americas Wetlands Report

In 2005 President Bush's wetlands report had the unintended consequence of unearthing the multitude of agencies who all work on the same topic - wetlands.

But wait – there’s the 2005 wetlands report now, and the reports like it that were produced for the next three years.  Surely once the information was readily available we’d start using that information to proactively plan a coordinated budget. That might seem likely to some, but in Washington, D.C. budget coordination is usually labeled as crosscut budget planning, and budget analysts, understanding the workload that comes with crosscut budgets, stay as far away from that sorts of analysis whenever possible. With no specific mandate to do crosscut budget planning, or even the lower bar of  “joint budget presentations,” status quo processes continue. It may seem odd to those outside of DC that even joint budget presentations, where no advance planning is performed, but there a document that connects the dots for the sake of the legislature, also fails to be produced.  The failure resides in two places:  The Administration, for not allocating the incremental additional staff who would be needed to produce a joint budget presentation, and also Congress, for not asking the Executive branch to produce a budget proposal that optimally helps Congress make informed decisions.

We have a  long way to go on government efficiency, but perhaps the President’s funny reference to Salmon will stick in people’s heads, and both the Administration and the Hill will both take the process of budget planning a good deal more seriously than their predecessors.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com


Written by Will Nuckols

January 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Senate Omnibus spending bill was dropped on Tuesday

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 With 3/4 of FY2011 still before us, the question of how much funding the federal agencies will have to address ocean issues is still in doubt.  With the House already passing a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR), the decision on the FY2011 federal budget has been passed to the hands of the Senate.  Senator Inouye, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has indicated his strong support for an Omnibus spending bill rather than a CR, noting that rubber stamping last year’s budget isn’t the best policy.

Senator Daniel Inouye, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman

Senator Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Committee Chairman, dropped his 1924 page spending bill on Tuesday in the Senate. Vote to suspend further debate may occur as early as this weekend.

“While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

For too many years Congress has, in my opinion, shirked one of their most important duties – to provide a federal budget the reflects the policy priorities of the nation.  While a jumbo-sized bill that conbines 12 individual spending bills, each themselves a huge chunk of the federal budget, is far from ideal policy, as it is indeed hard to get your head around a 1,924 page piece of legislation, but it beats the alternative of saying….uh, lets just do what we did last year (as if FY2010’s budget was optimized for that year’s needs, much less the policy realities of FY2011).

 “The substitute amendment I introduce today represents the bipartisan work of the Committee.  The twelve bills included in this package fulfill the Congress’ most basic responsibility, to exercise the power of the purse.  As an example, who among us believes we should base our spending recommendations for defense, homeland security and veterans on whatever level was needed last year.” Senator Daniel Inouye.

The larger public policy question of whether it is better to pass a new budget with the input of Congress each year or whether the best we can do is “ditto” to prior year’s efforts aside, Is the Omnibus bill better at providing more funding, or more appropriately targeted funding, for FY2011 than the House’s CR?  Further analysis remains to be done on the Omnibus bill to answer that question, but one thing is clear: if there is a reason to push for, or against, the Senate’s Omnibus process, the environmental community had better act fast if they hope to have any relevancy in that discussion.  With a vote for cloture on the bill believed to be targeting Sunday for a vote, there is but a scant few days to get organized and make a difference.  Inouye will need 60 votes to move his bill to a vote. It’s time for the ocean community to dig through the Omnibus language and determine if and how they will support the Appropriation Chairman’s efforts.

 LINK TO SENATE OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL TEXT
 
The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com