Senate Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY 2019 Funding for NSF, NOAA, and NASA

Senate Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY 2019 Funding for NSF, NOAA, and NASA – On June 14 the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Act.  The bill contains $63 billion to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.  The FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is $3.4 billion above the FY2018 enacted level, funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $8.1 billion, $301 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.  This funding includes $6.56 billion for NSF’s research and research facilities, an increase of $222 million above the fiscal year 2018 level and $405 million more than the President’s request.  NSF’s education and training programs are funded at $915 million, an increase of $13 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. The bill also includes $89.2 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV), with $60.5 million dedicated to the start of the third ship.  

For NSF the Senate has transferred the Antarctic Modernization program to the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, thus freeing up an additional $100 million for individual investigator, group, and center research and education activities.  The Committee included language on the importance of adequately supporting major scientific facilities and instrumentation, expressed support for both NSF’s 10 Big Ideas and core research programs via additional funds and a careful allocation of those funds.  The Committee recognized the importance of the “Windows on the Universe” and “Navigating the Arctic” big ideas as well as the “Rules of Life” initiative.  The Committee emphasized the importance of ensuring NSF-funded marine research vessels with unique capabilities remain available to the academic community for marine seismology research.

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the bill provides $5.48 billion for NOAA, a $426 million decrease below the FY2018 enacted level, to continue core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; weather satellites; and severe weather forecasting. The Subcommittee rejected the administration’s request to cut funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 41 percent, and instead funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research at $508 million.  

The bill again rejects the proposal to eliminate NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund.  The Sea Grant program is funded in the Senate bill at a total of $83 million of which $12 million is for marine aquaculture.   This is $6.5 million above the comparable fiscal year 2018 level.  Within the Sea Grant appropriation, the Committee stressed the importance of the Knauss Fellowship and STEM education programs, marine aquaculture and also provided $2 million for lobster research.  NERRS is funded at $27.5 million, $2.5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.  CZM grants are funded at $80 million, $5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, and the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund is funded at the fiscal year 2018 level of $30 million.  The bill provides $928 million to continue construction of NOAA’s three new Polar Weather Satellites, an increase of $50 million above the request.  The bill also provides $408 billion for NOAA’s GOES weather satellites.  The bill provides $75 million to complete a second NOAA survey vessel. These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management. 

The Committee provided $30M for coastal resiliency grants – so-called Title IX funding – to be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with consideration for proposals that enhance ocean and coastal management; bolster coastal infrastructure and resilience; support regional collaborative efforts and partnerships; advance the collection, synthesis, and public sharing of ocean data; and help coastal communities adapt to changing ocean conditions. In addition the Senate bill provides an increase of $1 million for marine debris, reinstatement of the Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding grant program, an extra $1 million for competitive research and management grants for existing marine national monuments; $5 million for NOAA to work with academic institutions and non-governmental research organizations to establish innovative restoration projects to restore degraded coral reefs; an additional $1.4 million for enforcement of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing; restoration of the competitive grants for climate research; $6 million for arctic research; $8 million to advance the National Oceanographic Partnership Program; and $28 million for NOAA education programs including $15.5 million for the Education Partnership Program with minority serving institutions.

The bill includes a provision reinforcing “Buy America” provisions with respect to the construction and acquisition of ships.  It also includes a requirement for a review of the suitability of the fleet of research vessels for the Great Lakes.

This bill provides $21.3 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $587 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.  The bill supports a space program balanced among aeronautics, science, technology development, and human space flight.  NASA Science is funded at $6.4 billion which is $179 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level.  The bill continues funding for the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope ($352 million), Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem ($161 million), Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory-Pathfinder ($18 million), Deep Space Climate Observatory ($1.7 million), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 ($5.1 million), and Carbon Monitoring System ($10 million).

Aeronautics is supported at $725 million, an increase of $40 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, to ensure continued U.S. leadership in aviation.  For human space flight, the bill contains full support for commercial cargo and crew to support the International Space Station and for new vehicles that will take humans beyond low Earth orbit, the Space Launch System ($2.15 billion) and Orion ($1.35 billion).  The bill contains full funding for Exploration Ground Systems ($540 million) plus $255 million to complete a second mobile launch platform and associated upper stage.  Building on 30 years of NASA expertise in repairing satellites in space, the bill includes $180 million for the Restore-L satellite servicing mission.  The proposal to cancel key NASA Education programs is rejected, and these programs continue to be funded in the bill – Space Grant ($44 million), the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Technology ($21 million), and the Minority University Research and Education Project ($33 million).  The Education program is renamed “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Interior/EPA Appropriations Bill – On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee took up the Subcommittee’s FY 2019 Interior/EPA Appropriations Bill. As marked up and reported by the full Committee the bill includes a total of $35.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Interior, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies.  At $35.9 billion, this bill is $600 million over the FY 2018 level and almost $8 billion more than requested by the White House.  The Senate bill does NOT contain any so-called “riders” or controversial legislative provisions.  Specific highlights of this bill include:

U.S. Department of the Interior – $13.109 billion overall for the Interior Department, including full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – $1.34 billion for the BLM, an increase of $11 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  Funds provided ensure a vital energy and minerals program and make important investments in improving public land management.   

National Park Service (NPS) – $3.21 billion for the NPS, an increase of $13.4 million above the FY2018 enacted level.  This includes increases for construction backlog, maintenance, and new park units.  $23 million is included for the Centennial Challenge grant program, which provides matching grants to address backlog maintenance and other needs in the national parks.  The bill maintains funding for the Heritage Area program at the enacted level of $20.3 million.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – $1.57 billion for the FWS, which is $19.7 million below the FY2018 enacted level.  Increases include funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).  The bill also provides funds to support FWS implementation of the RESTORE Act and to maintain continued operation of fish hatcheries. The bill continues the prohibition on listing the greater sage-grouse as an endangered species.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – $1.148 billion for the USGS, equal to the FY2018 enacted level. Within this amount, important program increases have been included for energy and mineral resources, mapping, natural hazards, and water resources.  The bill also provides the requested funds for the Landsat 9 project and facility relocation expenses.  The bill includes an increase of $1.8 million above the FY18 level for the 3DEP mapping program.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – $8 billion for EPA, equal to the FY2018 enacted level. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds receive more than $2.86 billion, an increase over the FY2018 enacted level.  Additionally, the Water Infrastructure Finance Act (WIFIA) program is funded at $63 million, which will support loans to address water infrastructure challenges.  Categorical grant programs that help states implement environmental regulations are increased by $17 million.  The bill rejects the Administration’s proposals to cut research by 45 percent, grants by 48 percent, and regulatory and enforcement programs by 25 percent.  It also rejects the request to fund large scale buyouts to cut 3,500 agency staff, roughly 17 percent of the workforce. The bill provides $706 million for EPA Science and Technology which is level with FY 2018.  Report language emphasizing STAR grants and Harmful Algal Blooms was also included in the Senate mark.  The bill provides $25 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $30 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $15 million for water projects in communities working to improve compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is $20 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level for these three programs combined.  

The Committee has restored funding for key regional programs including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay program, the Gulf of Mexico program, and the Lake Champlain program.  The Committee has included $26.7 million for the National Estuary Program and said, “…estuaries provide critical ecosystem services that protect human health and public safety. These include water filtration, flood control, habitat enhancement and restoration, shoreline stabilization, erosion prevention, and the protection of coastal communities during hurricanes and storms. The Committee recognizes that many industries rely on healthy estuaries, and the Committee has provided funding to ensure the protection of these critical ecosystems.”

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – $6.29 billion for the USFS includes investments in funding for improved health and management of our nation’s forests, as well as increased funding to fight wildfire.  A $5 million increase for hazardous fuels reduction is provided to help prevent catastrophic wildfires, particularly in the wildland-urban interface.   

Wildland Firefighting – $4.345 billion to fight wildland fire, representing fire suppression funding at the 10-year average and $900 million in additional funding in anticipation of regular suppression funding being insufficient to cover the costs of fighting wildfire.  The bill includes $724 million for the Forest Service and $176 million for the Department of the Interior. 

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – $3.005 million, an increase of $5,000 above the FY2018 enacted level, for the CEQ.

DOE Releases Report on Basic Research: Key to Modern Technologies -- Basic research and scientific facilities sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) have played a critical role over the past 40 years in the development of a wide range of present-day technologies according to a new report released today by the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC).

The report, titled A Remarkable Return on Investment in Fundamental Research, explores the connections between DOE-sponsored fundamental research in fields such as physics, materials science, and chemistry and the present-day technologies in information and other fields that pervade our lives.  The critical role of DOE in these technological advances ranges from LED lighting and smartphone communications to more efficient internal combustion engines and lighter vehicles.  The report cites multiple examples of familiar modern-day technologies whose origins can be traced to DOE-sponsored basic research.  It focuses mainly on research supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), the largest of six major program offices within DOE’s Office of Science.