Appropriators in the House and Senate have been working diligently on FY 2016 funding bills since President Obama sent his budget request to Congress in early February. House appropriators will likely complete their work by the middle of next month, and it is expected that their Senate counterparts will not be far behind.
The Administration and congressional Democrats continue to oppose the Republican budget blueprint that Republicans are using to formulate FY 2016 appropriations bills, complaining that the funding levels set by the Budget Control Act are unrealistically low. Many Republicans agree, but contend that until this law is changed appropriators must abide by it.
Administrations have long used what are known as a Statement of Administration Policy to outline their positions on legislation moving through Congress. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a June 24 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) describing “serious concerns” about the bill funding NASA, NIST, NOAA, and NSF. Selections from this letter follow:
“The bill cuts support for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Crew Program by $344 million, or 28 percent, relative to the President's Budget. This reduction delays building a safe and cost-effective U.S. capability to launch U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017. A delay in this capability would force a continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts.”
“This bill reduces investments in Space Technology by $125 million, or 17 percent, relative to the request. Under this bill, most of the currently planned missions would either be terminated or significantly delayed. Expected impacts include deferring demonstration of a cutting-edge laser communication system, slowing our progress on the journey to Mars, and hindering the international competitiveness of the U.S. space industry.”
“The bill reduces funding for manufacturing programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology by $161 million, or 53 percent, compared with the President's Budget, undercutting efforts to strengthen resurgent U.S. manufacturing. Despite broad bipartisan support for the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation it authorizes, the bill provides none of the requested funds to establish two manufacturing institutes that would support industry-proposed manufacturing technology development and help bridge the gap between basic research and product development.”
“The bill cuts the President's Budget by $245 million, or 64 percent, for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites, which provide critical data to maintain the quality of mid-range weather forecasts. In addition to informing the day-to-day operations of businesses and individuals, weather data from NOAA satellites help predict the potential impact of extreme weather events, which lets communities and emergency responders prepare. Independent groups and the Government Accountability Office Government-wide High Risk List have highlighted the risk of a gap in weather satellite coverage. The funding level in the bill puts the continuity of the polar weather observations at substantial risk, and would ultimately result in the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites costing taxpayers more.”
“The bill underfunds the National Science Foundation, providing $380 million, or 5 percent, less than the President's Budget for an agency that carries a major share of the Federal Government's responsibility to support basic research in science and engineering -- research that produces the seed corn on which future innovation depends, but by its nature is too uncertain in ultimate application to attract private-sector funding. Compared to the President's Budget, the bill would lead to about 700 fewer research grants, affecting about 9,100 researchers, technicians, and students.”