On May 20, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill by voice vote. The bill is accompanied by a committee report, which provides guiding recommendations on programs, priorities, and appropriations levels for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the other departments and agencies funded by this bill. The report represents the views of the House Appropriations Committee, although the House’s recommendations may or may not be reflected in the Joint Explanatory Statement that will accompany the final appropriations bill. The final outcome will depend on the Senate appropriations process as well as reconciliation between Senate and House bills. This FYI reviews selected NOAA programs discussed in the House report.
The Highlights of the Bill section of the committee report, on page 2, indicates that “Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prioritizes improving weather forecasting, fisheries management, and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES R).” The NOAA section of the report also stresses the importance of extramural research and partnering with the private sector.
The FY 2015 appropriation was $5,448.9 million
The FY 2016 request is $5,982.6 million, an increase of $533.7 or 9.8 percent
The House bill provides $5,167.3 million, a decrease of $281.6 million or 5.2 percent below current funding
National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service:
The FY 2015 appropriation was $2,223.1 million
The FY 2016 request is $2,379.6 million, an increase of $156.5 million or 7.0 percent
The House bill provides $1,987.3 million, a decrease of $235.8 million or 10.6 percent below current funding
The Committee recommendation “focuses limited resources on the Joint Polar Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite programs in light of their role in ensuring accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings.” Both the JPSS and GOES-R requests are fully funded in the committee report, and $20 million is also provided for the COSMIC-2 satellite system. In the report, the Committee expresses concern with “the security deficiencies in NESDIS’ information systems” and calls on NOAA to adopt the recommendations of a recent report from the Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General that identified significant weaknesses in both NESDIS and National Weather Service information security.
National Weather Service:
The FY 2015 appropriation was $1,087.5 million
The FY 2016 request is $1,098.9 million, an increase of $11.4 million or 1.1 percent
The House bill provides $1,102.9 million, an increase of $15.4 million or 1.4 percent above current funding
The committee’s recommendation for the NWS aims to maintain critical capabilities for providing weather forecasts and warnings. It includes a requested increase to extend the useful life of the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) infrastructure through 2030. The report includes funding for Science and Technology Integration at the NWS, supporting the proposed increase for mid-range (15-30 day) weather outlooks, enhanced water prediction capability, and the transition of the space weather numerical model from research to operations. It also calls on NOAA to work with the academic community to develop real-time storm surge predictive modeling capabilities.
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research:
The FY 2015 appropriation was $446.3 million
The FY 2016 request is $507.0 million, an increase of $60.7 million or 13.6 percent
The House bill provides $432.1 million, a decrease of $14.2 million or 3.2 percent below current funding
Of note, the committee proposes cutting climate research at OAR by $30 million or 19 percent below current funding. The committee’s recommendation includes the full request for the Multi-Function Phased Array Radar Program, funds the National Integrated Drought Information System, and calls for the establishment of a VORTEX-III tornado research field project in the southeastern U.S. The report also funds a new $4 million Joint Technology Transfer Initiative described and authorized in H.R. 1561, the Weather Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015.
National Ocean Service:
The FY 2015 appropriation was $484.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $507.0 million, an increase of $22.2 million or 4.6 percent
The House bill provides $466.5 million, a decrease of $18.3 million or 3.8 percent below current funding
The committee’s recommendation includes continued funding of mission-critical responsibilities in mapping and charting, geodesy, tides, and current data, as well as the Integrated Ocean Observing System and the Marine Debris Program.