In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 100
June 9, 2017
To: All U.S. Geological Survey Employees
From: William H. Werkheiser (signed)
Subject: USGS Director’s Annual Bureau Guidance for Fiscal Year 2018
The USGS faces a significant challenge heading into fiscal year (FY) 2018. We must deliver on our mission despite a proposed 15% decrease in our appropriated resources in the President’s budget request. Given this fiscal environment, I felt it was important to provide an overall context for what the USGS as a whole will undertake, a set of priorities that reflect what we will invest in during the coming year even in the face of constrained finances.
In the coming month, more detailed science planning guidance will be issued at the mission area level to allow time for centers to develop BASIS proposals ahead of the new fiscal year. In addition to the bureau and mission area science planning guidance, the Office of Administration has issued more operational guidance needed by cost centers to set assessment rates based on the President’s budget request. Specific spending control guidance (e.g., travel and conference restrictions) may be promulgated later in the summer once we have a better sense of likely appropriation levels.
As we saw last month with congressional passage of an omnibus appropriations package for FY 2017, there can be significant differences between what the President proposes and what Congress ultimately provides (and the President signs). For FY 2017, the previous Administration had proposed an increase of $83 million to the USGS above what was ultimately provided. This year’s experience also underscores that it may be well into FY 2018 before we know what we will have to invest. That makes budget planning difficult. Dealing with the possible range of outcomes means that we will all need to plan for several different levels. We hope to at least receive the President’s requested level and recognize that Congress may restore some of the proposed reductions or identify other funding priorities. Flexibility will be key.
The President has requested $922 million, a reduction of $163 million below the recently enacted FY 2017 level of $1.085 billion. The programmatic reductions required to meet this proposed target are larger than these numbers suggest due to the need to absorb increases for the Landsat 9 ground system and for buying down future Facilities costs, in particular the move from Menlo Park to Moffett Field.
This budget guidance -- and the mission-level guidance that will follow -- is the result of extensive deliberations between the mission area and regional leadership who came together for a planning session. The mission area associate directors brought perspectives from national stakeholders, the recent Council on Senior Science Advisors workshop, the Innovation Working Group, and program plans. The regional directors brought the outcomes from their center reviews and regional stakeholder meetings.
The priorities identified in this guidance are binned into three broad categories that reflect key aspects of the overall bureau mission. Nested below those are priorities, some cross-mission and some within missions, for which we should invest the funds proposed by the President and ultimately received from Congress. These high-level priorities are derived from the bureau science strategy, Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges, which covers the decade from 2007 to 2017. Although much has been accomplished to advance that strategy in the intervening decade, there is still much work left to be done. The mission areas that were defined in that document have all benefited from follow-on science plans that flowed from that strategy and are still very much in force. For that reason, I do not feel a pressing need to develop an entirely new science strategy at this time, recognizing that the next permanent Director may very well wish to take that on. Instead, I’ve asked the mission area associate directors to lead the development of a high-level Vision and Priorities document that can serve as a bridge to the next science strategy. That document will be available for review later this summer. In the interim, the priorities reflected in this document will be broadly consistent with the multi-year Vision and Priorities planning document, and both documents will feed into the next iteration of the Department of the Interior’s strategic plan.
This Bureau Guidance document focuses specifically on the body of work that should be undertaken in FY 2018. There are also sections that address technology opportunities and operational priorities. In a challenging budget environment, much of the impact – and the uncertainty – falls on the shoulders of our most valuable resource: our people. I wish that were not the case, and on behalf of our entire Executive Leadership Team, I pledge that we will do what we can to avoid unnecessary job losses, and where they are needed we will seek to identify appropriate incentives to minimize the impact to the affected individuals.
A word about reimbursable funding: The USGS is fortunate to have a wide array of partners that directly support our work through reimbursable agreements. With the appropriations looking tight, there will be a natural tendency to seek to fill the gap with other sources. In doing so, however, we need to be certain that the extra work will be consistent with mission priorities. Otherwise, we run the risk of competing for work that should appropriately go to the private sector.
USGS Science Priority Areas for FY 2018
Fiscal Year 2018 Science Priorities
Fiscal Year 2018 Science Priorities
Fiscal Year 2018 Science Priorities
● Maintain core monitoring, hazard assessment and research activities, focusing on the key data, assessment and situational awareness products, and forecasts and warnings that support preparedness, hazard mitigation, emergency response and other loss-reduction uses.
● Maintain activities that develop and apply advanced new analytical technologies and laboratory and field methods to monitor, map, predict, and help understand health hazards of contaminants and pathogens in: tap and drinking waters; disaster materials; environmental media such as surface waters, soils, and dusts; and biological media.
● Focus these efforts on the areas of highest hazard and risk, and maintain strong support for key partnerships, such as partnerships with emergency managers and planners, decision-makers in communities at risk, and public health experts.
● Integrate observations, assessments and research to address multi-hazard risk, advance risk reduction application, and improve risk communications for all hazards.
Foundational Capacity for the Future
Integrated Predictive Science Capacity. In 2018 the USGS will begin efforts to design and pilot an integrated scientific capacity to deliver powerful new products and services that provide: 1) vulnerability detection and assessment, 2) prediction and forecasting, 3) early warning, and 4) decision support at the scale of decisions. Examples of what could be achieved include seasonal to real-time warnings of: biological threats such as disease, invasive species, or harmful algal blooms; natural hazards, such as earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and flood inundation; impacts of both sudden and long-term coastal change on public safety, infrastructure and economies, and lands, waters and natural resources; health threats from environmental contaminants and pathogens; and water availability or quality prediction and forecasting.
This integrated capacity will span scientific boundaries and disciplines, and require investments in data integration, high performance computing, modeling, analytics, laboratory facilities, and visualization and decision support tools. This integration of science, facilities, data, models, and tools will provide enhanced and tangible value to the Nation, secure USGS leadership in earth and natural science, and simultaneously create the building blocks for a more fully-integrated science agency.
A specific focus in FY 2018 will be development of an integrated modeling capability in Alaska. The USGS has the unique expertise and capacity to deliver useful comprehensive information to decision-makers facing complex resource and infrastructure issues which are particular to a region or geographic area. Given DOI's extensive land management responsibility in Alaska, the USGS will partner with many other Federal, State, and academic partners to develop and test methods for integrating biological and physical data and models to provide predictive information of socioeconomic importance throughout South Central Alaska. Potential areas of focus are fisheries health, water quality and availability, renewable and conventional energy potential, flood/erosion impacts to infrastructure and communities, and subsistence resources.
21st Century Mapping and Land Imaging. The USGS is leading national efforts to transform mapping and earth observations and to provide data and maps in the public domain from imagery, to elevation, hydrography and geologic mapping. In FY 2018, the USGS will continue to advance the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) and provide for the development of the Nation’s Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) Program, which includes Landsat 9. Priorities for this aspect of foundational capacity include the following:
● High-quality elevation data are essential for natural hazards assessments, flood risk management, infrastructure development, energy and mineral production, resource management, agriculture, aviation safety, and a host of other nationally significant applications. The USGS will continue towards the 3DEP goal to acquire, manage, and distribute high resolution 3D elevation data for the Nation and U.S. territories with an emphasis on Alaska.
● Since 1972, Landsat satellites have provided the only continuous, authoritative global record of changes to the Earth’s land surface at a scale needed to make water resource decisions, track forest health, manage agriculture and forecast famines. Under the new SLI agreement with NASA, the USGS will continue to develop ground and flight systems for the Landsat 9 mission with a target launch in late 2020. The USGS will also continue to lead the assessment of U.S. user requirements for future land remote sensing missions.
● Continue geological mapping and geophysical surveying of the Nation with a focus on areas that may contain important energy and mineral resources such as Alaska.
USGS Operational Priorities for FY 2018
As we plan for what we will undertake in FY 2018, I am not asking our scientists to do more with less, but we do need to ensure that the work we undertake and deliver does not represent a lesser effort. What we do, we must do well. That means focusing on accomplishing our mission and producing a body of prioritized work that meets the high standards of quality and integrity that the public expects from us.