House Interior Dept Appropriators like Landsat, But Not at the Expense of Other USGS Priorities

House Interior Dept Appropriators like Landsat, But Not at the Expense of Other USGS Priorities

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is proposing to take over the Landsat program from NASA in the FY2012 budget request, but House appropriators are not happy with how the Obama Administration wants to do it.

The House Appropriations Committee’s press release last week reporting on the recommendations of its Interior and Environment Subcommittee stated starkly: “The bill also does not provide funding for the President’s costly and flawed proposal to transfer the ‘LandSat’ satellite imaging program from NASA to the USGS.”

The draft report to accompany the bill is available on the committee’s website and the language there is somewhat softer. “The Committee supports the continuation of the LandSat program beyond LandSat 8 and urges the Administration to submit a fiscal year 2013 budget proposal that does not offset increases for LandSat with decreases elsewhere in the Survey’s budget,” it says.

NASA is currently building the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), which USGS calls Landsat 8. USGS currently operates the two functional satellites in this series, Landsat 5 and Landsat 7, and will operate Landsat 8 once it is launched at the end of next year. It has plans for at least two more follow-on satellites, Landsat 9 and 10, and wants to assume responsibility for the program overall. It would set the requirements for the new satellites and operate them, using NASA as its acquistion agent just as NOAA does now for weather satellites, reimbursing NASA for its costs.

The Administration proposed creating a new account in the USGS budget called National Land Imaging, funded at $99.8 million in FY2012. The subcommittee denied that request and retained funding for Landsat in the “Surveys, Investigations, and Research” account. According to the subcommittee’s report, $51.8 million is provided.

The full committee is marking up the bill today.

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