— A White House proposal to put the U.S. Department of Interior in charge of future civil operational land imaging efforts has run afoul of a House budget panel.

The Interior Department is seeking $2 million for 2009 to initiate a National Land Imaging Program to ensure the long-term collection of the sort of moderate-resolution imagery that Landsat spacecraft have been taking since the early 1970s.

Under the White House plan, day-to-day management of the National Land Imaging Program would reside within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Interior Department agency already responsible for operating the nation’s Landsat satellites once they have been built and launched by NASA.

Landsat officials told Space News earlier this year that the $2 million proposed for 2009 would be used to begin technical studies and plans for future land imaging systems and to begin acquiring data from non-U.S. government sources to augment data currently collected by the old and ailing Landsat 5 and 7 satellites.

The House Appropriations interior and environment subcommittee, however, denied the $2 million request when marking up the Interior spending bill and accompanying report in mid-June. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.).

Sources familiar with the bill’s land imaging provisions said appropriators explain the cut by citing a reluctance to see Interior and the USGS take on new space operations responsibilities.

House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman KirstinBrost would not comment on the proposed National Land Imaging cut since the bill will not be made public until it is taken up by the full committee.

“We haven’t scheduled a full committee markup of the Interior bill,” Brost said July 21. “Any language in the bill will be made public at the full committee markup.”

Kristen Scuderi, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said July 21 that the office could not comment on bill language that had not been made public. She did, however, reiterate the White House’s support for the funding.

“We hope Congress will support the administration’s effort to do the necessary long-term planning and advance work in program development to ensure a continuation of useful and necessary remote sensing data without a gap or interruption,” Scuderi said.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy led the interagency working group that in August 2007 recommended putting Interior in charge of future satellite programs collecting moderate-resolution land imagery.