Senate Appropriations Committee Reports Out FY18 Funding Recommendations for NSF, NOAA and NASA

Senate Appropriations Committee Reports Out FY18 Funding Recommendations for NSF, NOAA and NASA — On July 27, 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill with a total of $56.4 billion to support national security, law enforcement, and American scientific innovation.  The FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is $3.2 billion below the FY2017 enacted level and $4.4 billion above the budget request, funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. 

The Committee’s report says, “For the science agencies, the administration proposes a reduction of 3 percent below the fiscal year 2017 spending level to NASA, and 11 percent to NSF.  This budget request attempts to navigate a challenging fiscal environment, but the deep cuts to these science agencies would dramatically curtail ongoing missions and research, for NASA, delay future exploration for years to come.  While leveraging some strategic reductions, this bill makes it possible for NASA and NSF to achieve balanced and cost-effective operations.  NASA in particular will have sufficient financial resources to achieve its management plans and launch schedules for the agency’s science and exploration missions, many of which will reach critical states of development during fiscal year 2018.”

National Science Foundation (NSF) – $7.3 billion for NSF, $161 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $658 million above the request.  Funding is provided for basic research across all scientific and engineering disciplines.  NSF Research is funded at $5.9 billion, down $116 million from FY 2017 but $556 million above the request. Within the MREFC account, $105 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV).  For the NSF EPSCOR program, $160 million is provided which is the same as the FY2017 enacted level and $60 million above the request.

As in the past, the Committee encourages NSF to fully fund its U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in sustained cutting edge research.  The Committee expressed its support for NSF funding for Mathematical Sciences Institutes; the VORTEX-SE tornado research program in conjunction with NOAA; research on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; high performance computing; advanced manufacturing; cybersecurity; fire research; sustainable chemistry research; and the Innovation Corps program.

NSF Education and Human Resources is funded at $862.4 million.  This is $102 million more than the request but $18 million below the FY 2017 enacted level.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – $5.6 billion for NOAA, an $85.1 million decrease below the FY2017 enacted level, for core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; and severe weather forecasting.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, and their planned successors, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to save lives and protect property.  Funding for NOAA continues to target new areas of investment for fisheries management, including new monitoring technologies and support for state-led management schemes to ensure greater access to the nation’s abundant fishery resources.

The Senate bill provides $419 million to continue construction of two new polar ‘follow-on’ satellites, an increase of $90 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $239 million above the President’s request.  The bill provides $1.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) legacy JPSS and GOES weather satellites.

The Senate bill rejects the administration’s request to reduce funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 32 percent, and instead funds NOAA research at the fiscal year 2017 level of $478 million.  The bill rejects the proposal to eliminate successful NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grant (RCRG) program.  

The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee funded the Sea Grant program at a total of $76.5 million of which $65 million is for the Sea Grant base program and $11.5 million is for Sea Grant aquaculture. There is report language that Sea Grant should continue to support research and develop alternative approaches to data collection and analyses at up to the FY 2017 level.  There is also language to encourage Sea Grant support for American Lobster Research, language on the importance of managing the Sea Grant Fellowship program in a bipartisan manner, and language regarding supporting the current funding model that ensures annual base funding of no less than $1 million per year or $4 million over four years is maintained for each Sea Grant program with Institutional or College Program status.

Within the National Ocean Service (NOS), the Committee is recommending a total of $533.2 million for NOS operations compared to a FY18 budget request of $414.8 million.  Within NOS, $217.6 million is provided as the total for the Navigation, Observations and Positioning program which is $20 million more than the budget request.  Within the subprogram (also called) Navigation, Observations and Positioning which provides support for coastal mapping, the Committee is recommending $154 million or $14 million more than the request. The Integrated Ocean Observing System program is funded at $33.7 million which is an increase of $4.3 million over the request.  NERRS is funded at $26.9 million, which includes $1.9 million for NERRS construction.  National Marine Sanctuaries receives $51 million for program activities and $2 million for construction and acquisition.  CZM grants and resilience grants are funded at their respective fiscal year 2017 funding levels of $70 million and $15 million, and will support coastal and Great Lakes communities across the country.  An additional $500K was also provided for the Marine Debris program.

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Prescott program is not terminated but instead funded at the FY 2017 level.  NMFS support for red snapper stock assessment is funded at the same level provided in FY 2017 -- $5 million.  The Committee directs NOAA to maintain its support for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing at no less than the FY 2017 level. The Committee expressed its support for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and its efforts to combat IUU fishing.  The Bycatch program is maintained at its FY 2017 level while the NMFS Aquaculture program is funded at $15 million.  In FY 2017 aquaculture was funded at $6.3 million in NMFS.

For the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) operations, the Committee is recommending $477.7 million which is $157 million more than the budget request and $17 million over the FY 2017 estimate.  A total of $158 million is provided for climate research -- $30 million more than the request or the House’s recommendation.  Within the $158 million for climate research: $60 million is to support climate laboratories and cooperative institutes; $38 million for Regional Climate Data and Information; and $60 million for Climate Competitive Research.  Arctic research, which had been proposed for elimination is funded at no less than the FY 2017 level.  The Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR) within the U.S. Weather Research Program is funded at no less than $2.6 million.  

For the National Weather Service, the Committee is recommending a total of $987.5 million for operations.  The Administration’s request was for $936.1 million and in FY 2017, NWS operations were funded at an estimated $986 million.  The Committee provided about $9 million more in FY18 for observations than they did in FY 2017.  The National Mesonet program is funded at $19 million rather than terminated as proposed by the Administration.  The Committee provides no less than the FY 2017 level for mid-range weather outlooks, including seasonal to sub-seasonal forecasting and Investments in Numerical Weather Prediction Modeling.  The National Water Center (NWC) is maintained at the FY 2017 level.  

The Senate Committee bill rejects the proposal to terminate NOAA education programs and instead funds the Office of Education at $27 million – a level close to the FY 2017 program. Within the funding provided, $14.5 million is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions, $5 million is for Environmental Literacy grants, and $7.5 million is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs.

The Senate bill provides $75 million to begin building a new NOAA survey vessel.  NOAA currently has 16 ships in its aging fleet, but that number will dwindle to 8 vessels by 2028.  The Committee recently funded one additional vessel, but to maintain its current oceanographic capacity, NOAA needs to build not one but eight additional vessels in the next several years, as construction takes eight to ten years per ship.  These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management. 

The Senate bill also includes $6.1 million for COSMIC-2 radio occultation satellite project and $2 million for a commercial weather data pilot program.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $19.5 billion for NASA, $124 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $437 million above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. The bill rejects the proposed elimination of NASA education programs.  It supports key priorities in Earth Science and satellite servicing.  Specifically, the bill includes:

• $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $212 million above the request.  The funding continues the development schedule for SLS, and provides $300 million in critical funding for upper stage engine work for future crewed missions.

• $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $164 million above the request, to continue development of NASA’s next deep-space crewed capsule.

• $5.6 billion for Science, $193 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $140 million below the request.  Within Science, the Committee provides $1.9 billion for Earth Science and $1.6 billion for Planetary Science.  In response to the NAS Decadal Survey, the Committee is providing $10 million for establishing a space weather research program within NASA.

• $732 million, the same as the request, to further develop a domestic crew launch capability.

• $700 million for Space Technology, $14 million above the FY2017 enacted level and $21 million above the request.  Funding is included to advance projects in early stages of development that are expected to eventually demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration.

• $100 million is provided for the Education programs proposed to be eliminated in the budget request.  NASA EPSCoR is funded at $18 million, Space Grant is funded at $40 million, the Minority University Research and Education Project is funded at $32 million, and STEM Education and Accountability projects is funded at $10 million.