Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation


The FY 2002 Budget Request for U.S. Polar Research Programs Activity is $213.97 million, an increase of $3.17 million, or 1.5 percent, over the FY 2001 Current Plan of $210.80 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

   FY 2000
FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002
Amount Percent
U.S. Arctic Research Program
U.S. Arctic Research Support and Logistics
Arctic Research Commission
U.S. Antarctic Research Grants Program
Operations and Science Support
Total, U.S. Polar Research Programs

Totals may not add due to rounding.

The U.S. Polar Research Programs Activity supports both Arctic and Antarctic research. Arctic support represents part of a larger NSF and federal effort. Antarctic support represents the role of NSF as manager of the entire federal Antarctic program, including special requirements for operations and science support.

U.S. Arctic Research Program

The FY 2002 Budget Request for the U. S. Arctic Research Program within Polar Programs is $33.14 million, an increase of $2.00 million, or 6.4 percent over the FY 2001 Current Plan. This represents over 70 percent of the NSF support for university-based Arctic research.

The U.S. Arctic Research Program supports research on the Arctic Ocean, and the Arctic's atmosphere and land areas - including its people and marine and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition to research in individual disciplines, an Arctic System Science (ARCSS) component focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the Arctic region, including its role in global climate.

Of growing interest and importance is providing full annual access, especially during winter months, to polar regions such as Summit on the Greenland icecap, in order to extend measurements on living and physical systems into the dark months and to test models developed on the basis of summer-only measurements. This includes facilitating both human and virtual access through remote instrumentation.

It has become widely recognized that the Arctic is in the midst of a change. This change has been especially significant in the last decade. At the same time, changes have occurred in the ice cover, atmosphere, some terrestrial parameters, and northern ecosystems. Residents of the north are seeing these environmental changes affect their lives. It is important to determine whether these changes are correlated with a fundamental shift in atmospheric circulation or whether they signal global long-term change.

Priorities in FY 2002 include:

  • NSF, in cooperation with other federal agencies, plans to initiate support for a broad, interdisciplinary, multi-scale program with the aim of understanding the complex suite of recent and ongoing interrelated environmental - atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial - changes. Plans for the program, known as Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), include: a long-term observational program to track environmental changes; a modeling program to test hypotheses about the coupling between the different environmental components and predict future changes; process studies to test hypotheses about critical feedbacks; and an assessment component to understand the ultimate impact of the change on the ecosystem and society.

  • Support for merit reviewed oceanographic research using the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The Healy is the first U.S. research vessel capable of providing access to the entire Arctic Ocean.

Ongoing activities include:

  • Support for Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI), examining shelf-slope water mass modification and chemical exchange processes in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and their impact on the thermohaline and biogeochemical structure of the Arctic Ocean. The overarching goal of the SBI program is to provide a major step forward in understanding biogeochemical processes and their interactions to understand the controls on marine productivity, including fisheries and marine mammals.

  • Support for a cooperative program with German investigators to sample basalts, peridotites and related rocks along 600 km of the Gakkel Ridge in the central Arctic Ocean. Results of this project will be used to generate quantitative models of oceanic crust formation under ultra-slow spreading conditions. The Gakkel is the slowest spreading mid-ocean ridge in the world and, as such, provides a window on crustal processes that cannot be studied at the more common, faster-spreading ridges.

  • Support for cross-disciplinary modeling studies to address the issue of whether climate changes are natural or anthropogenic and the implications for resource management, habitability, and change in the Arctic system.

  • Data analysis and modeling for the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA) Project. Data collected from the field phase of SHEBA will be used to improve models that predict the fate of the great canopy of Arctic pack ice. This ice has a major effect on disparate activities, from shipping to the health of the Arctic's rich marine ecosystem. This ecosystem embraces whales, polar bears, fish and plankton - and is key to the livelihood of Arctic peoples. The ultimate goal of SHEBA is to improve forecasts of climate change.

  • Research on the effects of contaminants in the Arctic, focusing on aspects of individual physical, chemical, and living systems or on functional interrelationships among multiple systems - ranging from microscopic to global in scale and organization.

U.S. Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Arctic research support and logistics is driven by and responsive to the science supported in U.S. Arctic Research programs. Funding for logistics is provided directly to grantees or to key organizations who provide or manage Arctic research support and logistics. FY 2002 highlights include:

  • Increased ability to provide fixed and rotary-wing airlift support to researchers conducting regional studies in the difficult, and often fragile, Arctic terrain in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Arctic Scandinavia, and Russia.

  • Improved access to U.S. Coast Guard and other icebreakers, University-National Oceanographic Laboratory vessels and coastal boats, and support on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. FY 2002 is the second year of Healy's service as a research support vessel.

  • Infrastructure upgrades at Toolik Field Station, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks', field station for ecological research on Alaska's North Slope.

  • Development of new capabilities at the Barrow Environmental Observatory.

  • Further development of a year-round facility at Summit, Greenland, potentially in collaboration with European partners.

  • Establishment of strategically placed Long Term Observatories capable of supporting selected chemical and physical on-site analyses. For example, sites to measure the river input into the Arctic Ocean from the surrounding continental land masses or observe ocean flux through the Bering Strait.

  • Development of innovative technology and instrumentation such as pilotless aircraft and autonomous underwater vehicles that will allow investigators to make measurements year-round in and above the Arctic Ocean.

  • Improved safety measures for field researchers, including field safety experts, global satellite telephones for emergency response, and improved logistics coordination.

  • Partnering with the International Arctic Research Center, based at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to support global change assessment activities and research in the Arctic.

Arctic Research Commission

Funding for the Arctic Research Commission (ARC), an independent federal agency, is transferred through the National Science Foundation to ARC. In FY 2002 ARC is requesting $1.02 million, an increase of $13,824, or 1.4 percent, over FY 2001. This funding continues to support four FTEs and associated operating expenses of ARC.

U.S. Antarctic Research Grants Program

The FY 2002 Budget Request for the U.S. Antarctic Research Grants Program (USARP) is $37.25 million, an increase of $750,000, or 2.1 percent over FY 2001.

The USARP provides grants to fund scientific research related to Antarctica and to the Southern Ocean. This research, best or uniquely carried out in Antarctica, provides the principal expression of U.S. presence in Antarctica. Funded research projects also receive assistance through the Operations and Science Support budget component, as well as through the U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support Activities.

The FY 2002 Request will support research projects in Antarctica and at U.S. academic institutions. Investigations will focus on the earth, the ice, surrounding oceans, the atmosphere, and terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as on astronomical and astrophysical research for which the cold, dry atmosphere at the South Pole provides ideal conditions. This fundamental research provides insights on the ozone hole, effects of ultraviolet radiation on the biosphere, changes in the ice sheet and impacts on sea level, global weather and climate, ocean circulation, and on the nature of the universe. There will be a continued emphasis in FY 2002 on awards for modeling and analysis of data collected in Antarctica.

Priorities in FY 2002 include:

  • Preliminary support for Antarctic sub-glacial lake characterization and study, including Lake Vostok. Recent results have revealed that life has evolved in total darkness and in isolation from the atmosphere in a number of lakes buried beneath two miles of glacial ice. Support will include analysis of airborne ice-penetrating radar and laser altimetry, gravity, and magnetics data, as well as acquisition and initial analysis of basic land surface data in support of polar ecosystem characterization research.

  • Support for a polar genomics activity. Evolutionary adaptation to polar environments has been discovered in microorganisms at the genomic level, setting the stage for new areas of research addressing questions that range from evolutionary biology to the interplay between the environment and gene expression.

Ongoing activities include:

  • Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (GLOBEC), with the goal of understanding and ultimately predicting how populations of marine animal species interact with the physical environment and respond to natural and anthropogenic climate changes.

  • International Trans-Antarctic Science Expedition (ITASE) which investigates the last 200 years of climate in Antarctica in an effort to understand the atmospheric composition and anthropogenic effects.

  • Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) continues the search for meteorites in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Smithsonian Institution. Due to new interpretation of ALH84001 "fossils" as magnetic bacteria the importance of this activity is increased.

  • Continued operation of polar LTERs as part of an international framework for ecosystem research.

  • Astrophysics research to address the origin of the universe, galaxies and stars.

Operations and Science Support

The FY 2002 Budget Request for Operations and Science Support is $118.61 million, an increase of $410,000, or 0.3 percent, over FY 2001. Operations and Science Support makes research in Antarctica possible by providing the required research and life support facilities, food, fuel, environmental protection, health and safety, and all other operational support for all U.S. research conducted on the continent, including research funded through other federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Energy, and Smithsonian Institution.

Costs normally attributed to research grants funded by other NSF activities are included in Operations and Science Support. This central management of funds allows for a more cost effective approach to the support of science in Antarctica, as well as helping to ensure that proper environmental and safety standards are maintained. It allows for volume buying of equipment and consumables for the laboratories, takes advantage of lower transportation costs through advantageous shipping and ticket fares negotiated at group rates, and eliminates duplication of administrative effort.

Operations and Science Support also funds the management of the South Pole Station Modernization, an activity funded out of the Major Research Equipment (MRE) Account from FY 1998 through FY 2001. The new station will provide the infrastructure required for imaginative new science on the drawing board. Fully taking advantage of the new station will require new efficiencies in delivering scientists and science supplies to remote locations and the South Pole and fuel to the South Pole.

FY 2002 priorities include:

  • Providing operational logistical support for an Antarctic sub-glacial lake activity. Support includes development of a season-long ice runway at McMurdo Station and a divert airstrip for emergency landings. This capability will also benefit South Pole Station-based and other deep-field research in Antarctica;

  • Providing operational and logistical support for a polar genomics activity; and

  • Enabling scientists conducting research in Antarctica to leverage their impact and productivity by directly sharing their research with colleagues and collaborators through improvements in communications capabilities and bandwidth.

Science support and operations are provided primarily through a support contractor. A Polar Class U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker provides access to McMurdo Station for resupply ships. Other agencies and contractors also provide technical support in areas of expertise such as engineering, construction and communications. The estimated costs of these functions are displayed in the following table:

Operations and Science Support

(Millions of Dollars)

  FY 2000 Est FY 2000 Estimate FY 2001 Est FY 2001 Estimate FY 2002 Estimate
Science facilities, research ships, field camp operations, science support aircraft
Operations at McMurdo, South Pole & Palmer Stations
Transportation of people & cargo, materials & inventory
Engineering, construction & facilities maintenance
Data handling & communications
Waste management, fire protection, occupational health & safety, quality assurance
Coast Guard icebreaker support
Total, Operations & Science Support

Totals may not add due to rounding.

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