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The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), representing over 42,000 scientists, is concerned with the proposed 8 percent decrease in funding for FY 2002 that the President's budget recommends for the Department of Interior's lead science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The ASM urges the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior to follow the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in increasing the USGS budget by $18 million over the Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 level, as the Subcommittee considers funding recommendations for programs in the Department of Interior appropriations bill. Increasing the USGS budget to $900 million, instead of the $813 million proposed by the President will help to ensure that the entire spectrum of research fields within the USGS receives adequate support for FY 2002.

Many research and assessment programs of other federal and state agencies and universities depend on the long-term environmental data obtained by the USGS, and hence the USGS is an integral and complementary contributor to the nation's important environmental programs. Therefore, we are concerned that in its FY 2002 budget request, the Administration has proposed cuts that will severely restrict the USGS's ability to provide scientific support for the Department of Interior and other agency research needs. Within the USGS budget, the Biological Resources Division (BRD) would be cut by 7 percent to $149 million, the Water Resources Division by 22 percent to $159 million and the Geologic Division by 5 percent to $214 million. In addition, the President's budget would eliminate several cross-agency programs, such as the Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) program, which funds work on bioremediation and contaminant-bacteria interactions.

The USGS is an important source of support and an essential partner in areas of biological and environmental sciences. With the addition of the BRD in 1995, USGS research has contributed significantly to the biological sciences and the understanding of microbes as agents of geochemical change and of disease in wildlife and humans. The USGS is initiating studies in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to learn the current geographic extent of the West Nile virus, to understand how it moves between birds, mosquitoes, and humans, and to predict future movements of the virus in an effort to protect human health. The USGS is cosponsoring with the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation research on the ecological changes that affect infectious diseases such as biodiversity loss, habitat transformation, environmental contamination, and climate change. USGS sponsors projects involving the attenuation and degradation of organic contaminants, the fate of nutrients, such as nitrate, in the environment; and the processes that affect the speciation and deposition of metals, including mercury, selenium, arsenic, silver, and gold. USGS researchers are also studying the factors affecting the transport and fate of viruses, bacteria, cyanobacteria, protozoa, and fungi in watersheds, aquifers, airborne dust, and organisms. Interactions between the environment, its biota and people are highly complex and solutions require integrative, multidisciplinary approaches and an adequately funded and staffed USGS.

The ASM encourages Congress to maintain its commitment to the U.S. Geological Survey research programs, which are vital to continued discovery of geological, hydrological, geographical, and biological processes that are so important to the well being of the environment and protecting public health.