Congress Concerned About President’s Proposed Cuts For NOAA In FY 2019

2018-04-16T13:41:55+00:00 April 16, 2018|

What It Was

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a budget hearing titled, “Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

Why It Matters

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the key federal agency responsible for understanding our ocean, managing commercial fisheries, forecasting weather and climate, and mapping the ocean floor. NOAA, like all federal agencies, is funded each fiscal year through the appropriations process. Robust support is critical for ocean health, weather preparedness, food security, and a strong economy.

Key Points

In February, the president released his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which recommended cutting NOAA’s budget by 24 percent (more than $1 billion) compared to the FY 2018 omnibus. Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet (Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA) defended these decreases by stating, “The termination and re-scaling of programs is necessary to focus on national security and core government functions.”

Republicans highlighted reductions to supercomputing and research for unmanned systems, noting that the dual chamber Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5196 and S. 2511), which promotes Navy and NOAA collaboration on autonomous technology, is the way forward.

Democrats voiced disappointment with the absence of climate change in NOAA’s top priorities and pointed out the U.S. spent a record amount in natural disaster relief last year. The president’s proposal would reduce money for weather satellites, research, modeling, and ocean observations—four areas critical to forecasting and understanding the changing climate. Recognizing the need for fiscal responsibility, Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17) urged investment in storm and climate resiliency, noting that preparedness costs six times less than disaster recovery.

Proposed reductions to NOAA’s National Weather Service, including the elimination of 248 forecasting positions, worried Republicans and Democrats. They expressed concern that these losses, if enacted, would negatively impact the agency’s ability to accurately predict and warn citizens of natural disasters. Gallaudet remained confident and asserted, “Technology and better business practices at the Weather Service will allow us to absorb the reductions in people in this budget.”

Other proposed program cuts include the Integrated Ocean Observing Systems (IOOS), the Office of Education, the Sea Grant College Program, and Arctic climate research. Yet even Gallaudet noted, “[NOAA] has been able to build a more diverse workforce based on the support for [Sea Grant and Educational Partnership Programs].”

Quotable

“The work our climate predictions provide to our country saves money and lives.”  – Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet (Ph.D., Ret. USN, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

“Maintaining the competitive edge in the maritime environment is critical for both defense and non-defense.” – Representative Steven Palazzo (MS-4)

“The IOOS program provides real-time data about ocean conditions used by fishermen, shellfish growers, agencies, and a whole host of stakeholders; the proposed cuts don’t reflect the value of this program and could jeopardize the livelihoods of the people that rely on that data.” – Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-6)

Next Steps

Appropriators will continue to hold hearings on the administration’s agency budget requests to gather information as they begin drafting appropriations bills. The deadline to pass the 12 identical bills (or an omnibus) through both chambers and have them signed into law is September 30, 2018. If more time is needed Congress, would need to pass a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership