The House Appropriations Committee has approved legislation to fund the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, and Smithsonian Institution in fiscal year 2015. The new fiscal year begins on 1 October 2014.
A major collections care initiative proposed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) does not appear to be included in the bill. For the third year, DOI proposed a plan to address major deficiencies in the care of cultural and scientific specimens. The President’s budget request included an additional $2 million to reduce the collections’ accessioning and cataloging backlog; identify and assess collections housed at non-federal locations; correct identified deficiencies in accountability, preservation, and protection of Interior cultural and scientific collections; and pursue opportunities for consolidation of bureau and non-bureau facilities housing collections.
Due to budget constraints, the Department has been unable to implement a multi-year action plan to address recommendations made by the DOI Inspector General regarding Interior’s accountability for its collections. In a December 2009 report, the Inspector General found that DOI has failed to properly accession, catalogue, or inventory museum collections, leaving artifacts “unavailable for research, education, or display and … subject to theft, deterioration, and damage.”
The Smithsonian Institution, which is mostly supported by the federal government, would receive an $8 million increase. This is far lower than the $46 million increase it had sought from Congress, with most of the difference coming from the facilities budget. Increased funding is included for improving the stewardship of national collections. An additional $10 million for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education was not funded.