CJS Appropriations Bill Favoring NASA Space Science Flies Towards House Floor

2018-05-21T16:14:27+00:00 May 21, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The House Appropriations Committee held a markup on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 commerce, justice, and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which passed with some bipartisan support.

Why It Matters

Ensuring our nation’s security and prosperity relies in part on education, scientific discovery, competitive advantage, abundant resources, regulations and legal structure, and a healthy population. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019 allocates federal funding to programs that promote Americans safety (e.g., weather forecasting, law enforcement), health (e.g., seafood management, toxic algae monitoring), and well-being (e.g., resource transportation, technology innovation, prohibiting counterfeit goods).

Key Points

Members of the House Appropriations Committee spent over four hours debating the FY 2019 spending bill that would fund several key science agencies National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), as well as others in the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Justice. Several amendments were offered ranging from immigration and census questionnaire to gun control and climate change. Democrats offered three amendments related to ocean science and research but withdrew them all as part of an agreement with Republicans to work together to incorporate the concepts before the House floor vote.

NSF

The committee rejected Trump’s budget recommendation to slash NSF funding by 11 percent by increasing topline funding by 5 percent. The committee’s funding proposal ($8.174 billion) is $407 million above FY 2018 levels ($5 million above the president’s budget request).

The ocean science, technology, and education community will be glad to see a number of items in the  appropriations bill, including NSF’s Research and Related Activities (R&RA) funding proposal ($6,652 billion) increased $317 million above FY 2018, and $501 million above the president’s request; report language directing NSF’s Geosciences Program to continue to support and enhance its new program with NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research; and Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) funding ($268 million) proposed to have an almost 50 percent boost over current funding levels ($173 million over the president’s budget request), including $127 million “for the construction of three RCRVs required to replace aging academic research vessels.”

The committee believes that the investment they have provided in NSF shows their “support of science, the academic community, and the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, and engineers across the country.” The Committee underscored “the importance of basic research that both improves the lives of Americans and expands our understanding of the Earth, the depths of our oceans, our Solar System, the Universe, and oceans on other planets” through this funding. Additionally, the committee reiterated the abstracts and national interest component of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (Public Law 114–329) and directed NSF to implement those actions. House appropriators highlighted their support of “infrastructure investments that expand our understanding of the universe and inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences,” while attempting to balance the needs of current and future large scientific facilities with the wise administration of such a large investment of federal resources. To this end, they directed NSF to allocate “no less than fiscal year 2018 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, and other research infrastructure assets, including the astronomy assets, the current academic research fleet, federally funded research and development centers, and the national high performance computing centers, so they may provide the support needed for cutting edge research.”

NOAA

FY 2019 funding for NOAA showcases the committee’s prioritization of weather forecasting, ocean exploration, weather research, and fisheries management. While topline funding ($5.158 billion) falls 14 percent short of current FY 2018 levels ($6.001 billion), the proposal is nearly $600 million more than the president’s budget request. Many of the cuts fall to NESDIS and OMAO.

The ocean science, technology, and education community saw evidence that the House is listening. Many organizations, individuals, and institutions have weighed in with Congress urging them to reject the draconian cuts and termination of programs proposed by the Trump administration. The committee rejected the president’s proposed elimination of many programs, including the Sea Grant program, National Estuarine Research Reserves, Coastal Zone Management Grant, NOS competitive research as well as reductions to ocean acidification research and the Integrated Ocean Observation System. Additionally, we are pleased that the committee highlights their support of extramural research through report language – “The Committee continues to believe that NOAA benefits from collaboration with academia and the private sector through cooperative institutes and competitive research.”

NASA

The committee prioritized space research and exploration in their proposed FY 2019 funding for NASA ($21.545 billion), stating they “believe that additional investment is needed to maintain American leadership in space exploration and science, and for NASA to successfully execute all of its activities and missions.”

This translates to NASA’s Science Mission allocation of $6.681 billion ($459 million above FY 2018 and $786 million above the president’s request). Across NASA, the committee directs the agency to prioritize the activities outlined in the decadal surveys for Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, and Heliophysics.  For the ocean community, the Earth Science Mission Directorate sees a small reduction (1 percent below FY 2018). The committee reiterated its support for the National Academy of Sciences Earth Science and Applications from Space Decadal Survey report and directs NASA to implement its findings.

Quotable

“From encouraging scientific innovation to supporting economic development, to enforcing laws and fighting crimes, the commerce, justice, science bill provides funding for programs that make our nation safer, stronger, and more prosperous.” – Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)

“The funding that is provided for [NOAA’s] coastal grant program is not adequate to support the more than 30 coastal states and U.S. territories that are really struggling to address the challenges [of sea level rise].” – Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-6)

“This bill supports critical medical and scientific research so that we’re able to tackle the economic and technological challenges of the digital age. Additionally, it continues NASA’s record-level funding, setting the agency on the trajectory to rise above and beyond the glory days of Apollo.” – Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (TX-7)

“We need NOAA to be more robust, to be smarter— to cut $751 million is not in the national interest.” – Representative Marcy Kaptur (OH-9)

Next Steps

The bill will now head to the house floor for vote. The Senate has scheduled a markup of their CJS appropriations bill for the week of 11 June. Congress has until September 30 to pass identical bills through both chambers and be signed into law.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership