FY18 Appropriations Bills: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Publication date: 
21 August 2017
Number: 
115

The Senate spending bill’s 2 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is modest in comparison to the double-digit cuts proposed in the House bill and the Trump administration’s budget request.

Two disparate funding proposals for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have emerged from the congressional appropriations committees this summer. House appropriators advanced a bill with a 13 percent overall budget cut to the $5.7 billion weather, water, and climate-focused agency, nearly in line with the administration’s request for a 16 percent cut. Their colleagues in the Senate are proposing a more modest 2 percent cut that would explicitly reject many of the administration’s proposed program eliminations.

The first chart below depicts proposed changes in funding for NOAA and its six line offices for fiscal year 2018, while the second depicts proposed changes to the accounts in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Detailed tables containing funding figures for these and additional selected accounts are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

With a much higher proposed topline for NOAA, the Senate bill’s recommendations are more generous across the board, with spending increases for five of the agency’s six line offices. While the Senate does propose a 6 percent budget cut for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), this largely reflects a decline in the baseline for the agency’s flagship geostationary weather satellite program, which is ramping down following the successful launch of its state-of-the-art GOES-16 weather satellite last November.

Much of the House’s proposed cut comes through a much deeper 23 percent reduction to NESDIS that also pares back support for the next-generation polar weather satellite program. In contrast to the Senate bill’s funding increases, the House bill recommends an 8 percent cut to NOAA’s research office – including a 19 funding cut to its Climate Research account – an 11 percent cut to the National Ocean Service, and a 24 percent cut to the marine and aviation operations office.

Below is a summary of the NOAA sections of the appropriations committee reports that accompany the bills. The full House report is available here, and the Senate report is available here.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Within its recommendation for an overall 8 percent cut to the $514 million Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), the House committee strongly favors Weather and Air Chemistry Research over Climate Research and Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research, consistent with the priorities in the recently enacted Weather Research Forecasting Innovation Act. The House committee recommends $20 million for the new Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, which was authorized in the weather research bill. The Senate committee, on the other hand, proposes a much more modest $2 million for the initiative but would fund the extramural grant-making U.S. Weather Research Program at nearly $19 million, more than twice the level the House recommends.

In its report, the House committee presses NOAA to better align its research with its operational mission:

Given continued resource constraints, it is incumbent on NOAA to ensure that its research programs support the operational mission of each NOAA line office and that research efforts are an integral component in meeting line office program goals and milestones.

The House and Senate diverge the most with respect to Climate Research and Research Supercomputing. The House committee embraces the administration’s proposed reductions of 19 and 29 percent, respectively, for these two accounts. Within the reduced Climate Research account, the House report specifies $14 million for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) “to support competitive research grants, maintain existing NIDIS activities, and develop and expand the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System.

The Senate committee, on the other hand, would maintain funding levels for Climate Research and specify that NIDIS be expanded, and also calls for a 13 percent increase to the $36 million Research Supercomputing account, including $15 million to “develop a dedicated high performance computing facility in collaboration with partners that have existing high performance computing expertise and scientific synergies.

The Senate report “flatly” rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the National Sea Grant Program, including the program’s college, extension, and fellowship activities, instead recommending a $2 million increase.  While the House report does not weigh in on Sea Grant with language, it does recommend level funding for the program, indicating the House and Senate are in alignment on the importance of preserving Sea Grant.

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

As in past years, both House and Senate committees provide the full requested levels for NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs – the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Geostationary Environmental Operational Satellite - R Class (GOES-R). With the GOES-16 satellite having launched successfully last November, the project baseline is falling in fiscal year 2018 by over 30 percent, and the request for JPSS is also slightly decreasing, reflecting NOAA’s ongoing efforts to rein in years of cost overruns. As in past years, both committees included language requiring the two satellite programs to be carefully audited with respect to cost, schedule, and management, and that NOAA routinely update Congress on their progress.

The committees diverge, however, with respect to funding for the long-term future of NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellite program, which anticipates a total of four satellite launches between next year and the 2030s. Following the administration’s plan to cut funding for the Polar Follow On program by 45 percent, the House committee proposes to scale it back even further from $329 million this year to $50 million in fiscal year 2018, saying “a dramatic and incipient re-plan of this program” is needed. The Senate committee takes the opposite approach, proposing to increase the satellite account by 27 percent, explaining,

In light of the critical role that these satellites play in protecting American lives and property, the Committee finds it perplexing that the Department of Commerce and NOAA would propose to cut this program. This cut, and the proposed but unspecified postponement of the JPSS–3 and JPSS–4 satellites, would introduce a weather forecasting risk that this Committee is unwilling to accept.

National Weather Service

The House and Senate committees have closer agreement on the National Weather Service, as both propose to keep it at about level funding in fiscal year 2018. In addition, both reject many of the administration’s proposed program eliminations. Both committees reject the proposed funding cuts to mid-range weather outlooks and other elements of the sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction program that were recently authorized in the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. Both also explicitly reject cuts to the agency’s tsunami warning centers.

 

Committee report comparison

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports that accompany the House and Senate appropriations bills for NOAA.

Cross-agency

Procurement, acquisition, and construction

Senate: “The Committee commends the Department for its work to bring down the costs of NOAA’s Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction [PAC] accounts, which have continuously consumed nearly half of NOAA’s budget. These costs were driven primarily by budget overruns and schedule slips in NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs, which limited the resources available for NOAA’s other mission areas. The decrease in PAC resource needs in fiscal year 2018 reflects the Department’s and the Committee’s concerted efforts to rein in the cost of NOAA’s satellite programs and put them on a sustainable path.”

Private sector partnerships

House: “NOAA shall, to the extent practicable, purchase services from the private sector when such services are cost effective, reliable, and available.”

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Operational mission support

House: “Given continued resource constraints, it is incumbent on NOAA to ensure that its research programs support the operational mission of each NOAA line office and that research efforts are an integral component in meeting line office program goals and milestones.”

Extramural research

House: “The Committee continues to believe that NOAA benefits from collaboration with academia and the private sector through cooperative institutes and competitive research. These relationships build broad community engagement, leverage external funding for mission-oriented research, strengthen the science within NOAA, and advance scientific knowledge.”

Cooperative institutes

House: “The Committee is concerned that the Gulf of Mexico is vulnerable to high impact severe weather and encourages NOAA to, with the Cooperative Institutes, research the impacts of severe weather and severe weather system landfall on the land and coasts, particularly as it relates to tornados and severe flooding. To continue to fulfill NOAA’s mission, NOAA should enhance its support of advanced monitoring and predictive modeling to explore deep water issues and their effect on the U.S. coastline. The Committee encourages NOAA to expand the role Cooperative Institutes play in fulfilling this role, and to consider how additional Cooperative Institutes, or consortia partners, could strengthen NOAA’s ability to support this monitoring and modeling.”

Senate: “The Committee provides $4,000,000 above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and expects the administration to fully fund Cooperative Institutes at appropriate levels in future years, including those currently supporting NOAA ’s coastal resilience mission. Additionally, not less than 90 days after enactment of this act, NOAA is directed to update its ‘Prospectus for Cooperative Institutes in the 21st Century’ plan to include the procedures under which a university or other academic institution can apply for Cooperative Institute status. The Committee continues to strongly support well established institutes, including those focused on watershed effects on marine ecosystems, remote sensing, and long-term monitoring of oil spill impacts on marine ecosystem health.”

Weather and Air Chemistry Research

House: “The Committee includes $123,607,000, which is $9,849,000 above fiscal year 2017, for Weather and Air Chemistry Research, for the purposes authorized in the Weather Research Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–25).”

Senate: “The Committee rejects OAR’s proposed elimination of the Air Resources Laboratory (ARL), as well as OAR’s proposed closing of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office. The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount for ARL and the UAS Program Office and encourages arctic research activities using UAS assets.”

Joint Technology Transfer Initiative

House: “The recommendation includes $20,000,000 to expand the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, as authorized in the Weather Research Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017.”

VORTEX-SE tornado field study

House: “The Southeastern United States commonly experiences devastating tornadoes under variables and conditions that differ considerably from conditions in other areas. The Committee commends progress made during the VORTEX–SE observing campaigns towards understanding the development of severe storms and tornadoes in the Southeastern United States. Given the success of this research, the Committee does not adopt the proposal to terminate this project and continues to fund it at the enacted level. OAR shall ensure this program continues to be an observationally based research program focused on high-impact weather events, including tornadoes and land-falling hurricanes, that are experienced in the Gulf States; includes research to better understand land-falling hurricanes and tornadoes, and how environmental factors that are characteristic of the Southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity and storm path of tornadoes for this region.”

Senate: “The southeast United States commonly experiences devastating tornadoes under variables and conditions that differ considerably from the Midwest, where tornado research has historically been focused. Within funds provided for Weather and Air Chemistry Research Programs, no less than $5,000,000 is provided for OAR to continue collaborating with the National Science Foundation’s Vortex-SE initiative to better understand how environmental factors that are characteristic of the southeast United States affect the formation, intensity, and storm path of tornadoes for this region.”

Snowpack and soil moisture monitoring

Senate: “The Committee strongly supports NOAA’s continued development of the National Water Model to improve operational forecasts at NOAA’s National Water Center. Within funding provided for OAR’s U.S. Weather Research Program, no less than $6,000,000 is for research activities to improve fine and large-scale measurements of snow depth and soil moisture data that can be used to expand and improve the National Water Model and contribute directly to the mission of NOAA’s National Water Center.”

Infrasonic weather monitoring

Senate: “Within funding provided for the U.S. Weather Research Program, the Committee provides up to $2,000,000 to support external research opportunities with academic institutions in infrasonic monitoring methods of violent weather. The Committee believes that advanced infrasound signal processing methodologies and studies, deployed through a network of infrasound arrays to detect tornadoes and hurricanes, have the potential to improve forecast accuracy.”

Climate and drought research

House: “The recommendation accepts the proposed reductions for Climate Research, and includes $13,500,000 for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) to support competitive research grants, maintain existing NIDIS activities, and develop and expand the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System.”

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount for supporting and expanding the National Integrated Drought Information System, including the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System.”

Arctic research

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount for arctic research funded under OAR’s Climate Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and Regional Climate Data and Information.”

Ocean acidification research

House: “The Committee encourages NOAA, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to implement a program to competitively award prizes under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 3719) to stimulate innovation to advance the understanding, research, or monitoring of ocean acidification or its impacts or to develop management or adaptation options for responding to ocean acidification. In prize competitions, the Committee encourages NOAA to prioritize communities, environments, or industries that are currently in distress due to the impacts of ocean acidification.”

Multi-Function Phased Array Radar program

Senate: “The Committee recognizes the importance of the MPAR program in the development and implementation of the next generation weather and aircraft radar surveillance network. The Committee directs NOAA to maintain its leadership in the MPAR research and development effort as the program transitions to the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar program, and encourages continued work on a Memorandum of Understanding among NOAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security that delineates each agency’s or Department’s needs regarding the function and timeline of a joint multi-use and multi-function radar system.”

Airborne Phased Array Radar

Senate: “Within funding for NOAA’s U.S. Weather Research Program, no less than $2,600,000 is provided to research and develop aircraft-based hazardous weather observing systems, such as APAR. NOAA shall coordinate these research and development activities with the National Science Foundation.”

Autonomous gliders

House: “The Committee supports ongoing efforts to examine ways to increase use of autonomous gliders, and encourages the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) to procure additional autonomous gliders.”

Senate: “Within increased funding provided for Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Research, OAR is directed to demonstrate how an autonomous ocean glider could address critical gaps in NOAA’s physical, chemical, biological, and other observational needs, particularly those observational needs of NOAA’s IOOS program. OAR shall report to the Committee within 180 days of enactment of this act on the progress of achieving the Committee’s directive.”

High performance computing

Senate: “The Committee recognizes NOAA’s high performance computing needs and its current limitations on providing high fidelity results in near real-time. Within funding provided for OAR Research Supercomputing, $15,000,000 shall be used to continue to develop a dedicated high performance computing facility in collaboration with partners that have existing high performance computing expertise and scientific synergies.”

Sea Grant

Senate: “The Committee flatly rejects the administration’s proposed elimination of NOAA’s Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee provides an increase of $2,000,000 above the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount for Sea Grant and its research, education, extension, and outreach activities, which are critical for coastal communities and benefit the entire nation. This level of funding supports the key focus areas in the program’s strategic plan: sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, healthy coastal ecosystems, environmental literacy, and workforce development. In addition, the Committee directs NOAA to continue funding all Sea Grant STEM education and fellowship programs. Further, NOAA is directed to continue its partnership with academic programs that provide legal expertise related to Sea Grant’s mission.

Not later than 90 days after enactment of this act, NOAA will provide a report to the Committee detailing how the Sea Grant program aligns with the agency’s core missions, the number of jobs created by the Sea Grant program across participating states since its inception, and the role Sea Grant will play in the administration’s stated efforts to boost domestic production of seafood to lower the United States’ abysmal seafood trade deficit.

Additionally, the Committee understands that the Sea Grant program provides no less than $1,000,000 in annual base funding, or $4,000,000 over the course of the 4-year grant cycle, to each Sea Grant program with Institutional or College Program status. NOAA is directed to continue this funding model for Sea Grant programs receiving Institutional or College Program status in fiscal year 2018.

NOAA’s Sea Grant is reminded that the Committee’s broad support is due to the program’s historically objective standards, State-driven goals, and non-partisan priorities. Within NOAA’s Sea Grant program, the National Sea Grant Fellowship program serves as a valuable pipeline for our Nation’s future ocean science and policy experts. The Fellowship program should remain objective and apolitical, and should increase its efforts to recruit qualified, non-partisan candidates who are committed to working on oceans and coastal issues for any Member of Congress, regardless of political affiliation.”

National Weather Service

Analyze, Forecast, and Support

House: “The recommendation includes $486,000,000 for analyze, forecast, and support activities. The analyze, forecast, and support program funds the operation of the Weather Forecast Offices, River Forecast Centers, the National Centers and the two Tsunami Warning Centers. The recommended level will support 24 × 7 weather surveillance, forecast and warning services, and operation of the service centers”

National Centers for Environmental Prediction

Senate: “The Committee does not adopt the NWS proposal to consolidate centers under NCEP in fiscal year 2018.”

National Water Model / National Water Center

Senate: “The Committee does not approve the requested decrease to the Integrated Water Prediction (IWP) program, which is funded across multiple NWS budget lines. Instead, the Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 amount for IWP. Similarly, the Committee rejects slowing the development of the National Water Model and provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 level for its continued and expedited development.

The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for operations and staffing of the National Water Center (NWC) to develop and operate IWP. NWS shall leverage this funding with resources provided to NOS for IWP and resources provided to OAR for remote sensing of snowpack and soil moisture measurements. The Committee is pleased with research-to-operations efforts at the NWC between NWS and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. This relationship highlights how separate entities and agencies can work together to transfer research into operational solutions that benefit the nation. The NWC serves as the first ever clearinghouse for research and operational forecasting of all water-related issues facing our Nation, including: severe floods, storm surge, droughts, and water quality, among others. Given the importance of NWC to better protect lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, NOAA is directed to expedite staffing and operations at NWC to achieve full operating capability as soon as possible. The Committee directs NOAA to provide a report no less than 45 days after enactment of this act with an updated staffing plan that includes an update on commitments from partner agencies and a timeline for achieving baseline operating capability in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018.”

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services

Senate: “The Committee rejects NWS’s proposal to slow the expansion of AHPS, which will enable greater information on the magnitude and likelihood of floods and droughts across certain areas of the nation. No less than the fiscal year 2017 amount is provided for AHPS activities.”

Tsunami warning program

House: “The Committee does not adopt the proposed reduction of the Tsunami Warning Program.”

Senate: “The Committee rejects NWS’s proposed cut to the Tsunami Warning Program. Funding is provided at no less than the fiscal year 2017 amounts, including for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation program grants, to ensure high-quality tsunami watches, warnings, and advisories are issued to safeguard lives and property.”

Facilities

House: “The recommendation includes $8,650,000, as requested, to construct and provide for major repairs to Forecast Offices and other government-owned weather facilities, including Weather Forecast Offices, River Forecast Centers, Weather Service Offices, National Centers and Tsunami Warning Centers.”

Observations

House: “The recommendation includes $142,983,000 for NWS procurement, acquisitions and construction, $20,983,000 above the request. The funding provided above the request supports the original Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) Service Life Extension Project (SLEP) timeline, to be completed by 2024, and the original NEXRAD SLEP timeline, to be completed by 2022.”

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for Observations under NWS PAC, which includes the full funding for the Automated Surface Observing System and Next Generation Weather Radar Service Life Extension Programs.”

National Data Buoy Center

Senate: “The Committee provides sufficient funding to maintain, at a minimum, NDBC operations at 80 percent data availability. The Committee directs NOAA to provide adequate funding to support maintenance and service of the Tropical Atmosphere/Ocean Array (TAO) and Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) array across the equatorial Pacific. The Committee further directs NOAA to include a schedule to restore existing data buoy operability and its strategy to minimize outages in the future as part of the agency’s spending plan.”

Central Processing

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for Central Processing under NWS PAC, which includes not less than $4,500,000 to procure operational high performance computing resources to enable modeling improvements associated with the IWP initiative.”

Sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction

House: “The Committee does not accept the proposed decreases for mid-range weather outlooks and numerical weather prediction modeling.”

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 level for Mid-Range Weather Outlooks, including seasonal to subseasonal forecasting, and Investments in Numerical Weather Prediction Modeling, which provides critical support to the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, among other important forecasting activities.”

Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program

Senate: “The Committee urges NOAA to expedite the project plan described by the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act (Public Law 115–25). The Committee encourages NWS to reduce errors in tracking and intensity forecasts of hurricanes by identifying technology and methods available to significantly improve hurricane forecasting.”

Information technology officers

Senate: “The Committee does not approve the NWS proposal to consolidate ITOs in fiscal year 2018. NWS was invited to submit a proposal in its 2018 spending plan for a single pilot Regional Enterprise Application Development and Integration (READI) team comprised of volunteer ITOs. However, the Committee has not yet received such a proposal.  Should NWS decide to submit a plan for a single pilot READI team project, its subsequent successes and challenges will assist the Committee in evaluating the larger consolidation proposal if resubmitted in future fiscal years.”

Staff vacancies

Senate: “The Committee is very concerned with the continued number of NWS employee vacancies. Given the importance of the NWS mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, extended vacancies are unacceptable—particularly when the Committee has provided more than adequate resources and direction to fill vacancies expeditiously for the past several fiscal years. Because NWS has failed to respond satisfactorily to the Committee’s concerns regarding these vacancies, NOAA is directed to present a separate accounting of all NWS filled and open positions, including the length of time the positions have been unfilled, in its fiscal year 2018 spend plan. The spend plan shall also include the specific funding proposed for all NWS employees and associated expenses that are separate from other program costs. The Committee also recognizes that some vacant NWS positions may be redundant and invites the Department to submit a justification for eliminating redundant unfunded vacancies in its fiscal year 2019 budget request, to include a full list of positions proposed for elimination, including reasoning for each elimination. Until such time as a plan to eliminate those vacancies is approved, NWS is directed to continue efforts to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible.”

Radar and satellite spectrum

Senate: “As NOAA begins its study to evaluate sharing the 1675–1680 MHz GOES band, the Committee directs the agency to consult with private industry about the potential application of spectrum sharing technology for shared commercial use. Furthermore, NOAA is encouraged to study opportunities for early entry and flexible access to the 1300–1350 MHz spectrum band through use of private sector spectrum sharing technologies that protect Federal incumbents while making spectrum available for commercial use. The Committee believes such a study may provide additional options for the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) program to both enable commercial use of the 1300–1350 MHz spectrum band and reduce technology risk in the multistakeholder SENSR program.”

National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service

Flagship weather satellites

House: “The recommendation includes $1,469,549,000 for NESDIS procurement, acquisition and construction. The Committee recommendation continues to focus its limited resources on the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) programs, in light of their role in ensuring accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings.

The recommendation includes $775,777,000 for JPSS, the requested amount. The recommendation includes $518,532,000 for the GOES–R program, as requested. The Committee commends NOAA on the successful launch of GOES–16 in November of 2016, which is already providing crisper, cleaner imagery five times faster than the previous GOES satellites, and will improve tornado warning lead times.

Given the substantial cost to design, develop, and launch satellites and continued reliance on the data they gather, NOAA shall ensure that all future satellite programs are maneuverable, and otherwise serviceable.”

Senate: “The Committee provides full funding for the continued procurement and acquisition of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-series (GOES–R), NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs. NOAA is directed to prioritize satellite programs directly related to weather forecasting and that result in the greatest reduction of risk to lives and property. Keeping JPSS and GOES–R programs on budget and on schedule is critical, as is maintaining their respective cost controls, particularly when NOAA’s satellite missions continue to dominate the agency’s annual budget requirements. The Committee reiterates its previous direction to NOAA to find savings from operating expenses and to reduce duplicative Government overhead shared with NASA.”

Quarterly satellite reports and oversight

House: “The Committee continues to be concerned with the challenges with NOAA’s satellite programs, identified by the GAO, OIG, and the NESDIS Independent Review Team (IRT). The Committee expects the Department of Commerce to ensure that these critical programs are proceeding within the cost estimates and meeting program milestones. The Committee expects to be notified promptly if any issues arise that could jeopardize the current launch schedules. The Department of Commerce and NOAA shall remain engaged in the overall management of JPSS, Polar Follow-On, and GOES. NOAA shall continue to provide quarterly briefings to the Committee on all NOAA satellite programs. These briefings shall include the status of obligations for each program, including spacecraft, launch, sensor, integration, and ground components, and proposed changes to the fly out charts. NOAA shall also include in these briefings updates on all of its operational satellite systems.

The Committee reiterates its desire to ensure that OIG and GAO staff are permitted at NOAA’s monthly satellites meetings. To further aid the Committee in its oversight function, NOAA shall include biannual updates to the Committee regarding the status of implementing OIG, GAO, and IRT recommendations for NOAA’s satellite programs.”

Senate: “The Committee directs NOAA to provide quarterly programmatic and procurement status reports of all satellites actively orbiting, in space but in standby mode, and under development unless any reprogramming, system failure, construction delay, or other extraordinary circumstance warrants an immediate update. As part of the agency’s quarterly satellite briefing, NOAA shall include updates on preparations and enhancements necessary to accommodate an increased volume of satellite data and shall compare initial cost estimates to actual expenditures.”

Space weather follow-on

House: “The Committee notes the necessity of having the Federal government develop and implement a coherent space weather architecture and directs NOAA, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, to refine the Space Weather Follow-On concept and develop mission requirements for a cost-effective capable space system.”

Senate: “The Committee provides $5,000,000 for space weather follow-on activities. The Federal Government needs an operationalized space weather architecture that allows sufficient warning times to protect our communications and electrical infrastructure from severe space weather events. In architecting the follow-on missions, NOAA should consider using lower cost satellites, following NASA’s Explorer class model. The Committee expects a detailed account of how this funding will be spent and accompanying deliverables to be submitted to the Committee with the fiscal year 2018 spend plan and for NOAA to coordinate with NASA on the nation’s space weather research needs, as discussed under the NASA Heliophysics section of this report.”

Polar Follow On

House: “The request proposes a dramatic and incipient re-plan of this program. Yet the request fails to assess the purported new mission design’s impacts on constellation availability, or to provide an updated gap analysis, or new annual or lifecycle cost estimates. In the absence of these assessments and estimates, the Committee recommends $50,000,000 for the Polar Follow-On program. The Committee will reassess this funding level, should NOAA provide a new program plan and schedule, to include constellation availability assessments, gap analysis and updated annual and lifecycle cost estimates.”

Senate: “The Committee strongly rejects the administration’s proposed cut to PFO, which would be more than a 45 percent reduction from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Funding for PFO is critical for maintaining polar orbiting satellite data, which is already at risk for a potential gap due to program mismanagement and funding shortfalls in PFO’s predecessor programs. These satellites provide 85 percent of data required for the National Weather Service’s Numerical Weather Prediction models. These data are required for accurate forecasts 3–7 days in advance of a severe weather event, including hurricanes and superstorms. Accurate forecasts allow emergency managers and communities to make timely decisions to protect lives and property. In light of the critical role that these satellites play in protecting American lives and property, the Committee finds it perplexing that the Department of Commerce and NOAA would propose to cut this program. This cut, and the proposed but unspecified postponement of the JPSS–3 and JPSS–4 satellites, would introduce a weather forecasting risk that this Committee is unwilling to accept. Therefore, the Committee provides $419,000,000 for PFO, which represents the full amount required in fiscal year 2018 to keep the program on its original schedule as determined in the Department’s December 2016 PFO Milestone Decision Memorandum.”

Metop-C

Senate: “The Committee provides NESDIS’s full request for Projects, Planning, and Analysis to support pre-launch testing and Ground Support Equipment of U.S. instruments on Metop-C, which is scheduled for launch in October 2018. These instruments will provide complementary data to the JPSS morning orbit in polar satellite data and are critical for maintaining Numerical Weather Prediction model accuracy for 3–7 day forecasts.”

National Centers for Environmental Information

House: “The recommendation does not accept the proposed reduction to the regional centers.”

Senate: “The Committee recommends $59,190,000 for NCEI, which consolidated several programs previously funded separately. While the Committee supports the current budget structure for NESDIS, it is essential to ensure that key programs continue to receive adequate funding. Specifically, the Committee provides not less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted levels of $6,000,000 for Regional Climate Services, $3,650,000 for Regional Climate Centers, and an increase of $933,000 above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for Coastal Data Development. Within NCEI, the Committee encourages NOAA to fully support critical international partnerships, including the Global Climate Observing System.”

Commercial weather data

House: “The Committee is pleased that NOAA proposes to continue the Commercial Weather Data Pilot. The Committee provides $6,000,000 to ensure NOAA has the resources necessary to thoroughly assess commercial data opportunities. NOAA shall publish acceptance standards and verification procedures for commercial data as soon as practicable in each procurement process.”

Senate: “The Committee provides $2,000,000 to support the assessment and potential use of commercial data in NOAA’s weather modeling and forecasting through pilot purchases of commercial data.”

Aircraft recapitalization

Senate: “NOAA operates nine aircraft, including hurricane hunter observation platforms and several unmanned aerial vehicles that are critical for forecasting severe weather, conducting emergency response, and supporting research missions. Some of these platforms are rapidly approaching their operational life expectancy, including the aging jet prop aircraft that conducts valuable soil moisture, water resources, and gravity-based vertical datum survey missions. The Committee provides $12,000,000 to replace this asset with a comparable aircraft that provides better uniformity within NOAA’s current inventory. Within 120 days of enactment of this act, NOAA shall submit an updated NOAA Aircraft Recapitalization Business Case and Timeline to the Committee that encompasses the agency’s entire aerial assets and associated mission requirements and shall include any changes in risk related to unscheduled repairs to the Gulfstream IV during the 2016 hurricane season. As part of the report, NOAA is directed to consider options for augmenting its airborne capabilities to conduct primary mission work or to provide secondary backup capacity. In addition to procuring new aircraft, NOAA should evaluate leasing or contracting assets, consistent with the requirements of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–25).”

National Ocean Service

Integrated Ocean Observing System

House: “The recommendation includes $31,000,000 for IOOS regional observations. The Committee supports ongoing efforts to examine ways to increase use of autonomous gliders, and encourages IOOS to procure additional autonomous gliders.”

Senate: “The Committee directs NOAA and the IOOS regions to work with Federal agencies collecting regional observations to better integrate and disseminate information with the goal of reducing duplication of effort and to provide users with streamlined access to observational information. In addition, within funding provided above the request for IOOS, NOS shall work to complete and operate the National High Frequency Radar System. Within funds provided for IOOS grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts, the Committee directs each regional entity to assess current spending practices for resources that become damaged or unworkable as a result of hurricanes or other significant storms, including continually replacing damaged assets instead of repairing them or seeking to use hardened designs, and provide a cost-benefit analysis to the Committee on such practices within 120 days of enactment of this act.”

Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

Atmospheric rivers

Senate: “Not later than 120 days after enactment of this act, NOAA shall submit a report to the Committee regarding the feasibility and potential benefit of using airborne assets to conduct regular storm monitoring off the West Coast of the United States, particularly with regard to Atmospheric Rivers.”

Education

Office of Education

House: “The Committee includes $19,181,000 for NOAA’s Office of Education. Of this amount, $14,431,000 is provided to continue the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, and $3,750,000 is provided to continue the Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B–WET) regional programs. Within the amounts provided for the Education Program Base, $1,000,000 shall support all levels of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education engaging a diverse set of students in ocean-going expeditions with live interactive programming and telepresence technology.”

Senate: “The Committee rejects the proposal to eliminate NOAA’s Office of Education. Within the funds provided for NOAA’s Education Program, $5,000,000 is for competitive educational grants, which includes continued support for Environmental Literacy Grants and for improving geographic literacy; $14,500,000 is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions; and $7,500,000 is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs.”

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