Senate Spending Bill Supports Ocean Science, Research, And Education

2018-06-18T17:31:45+00:00 June 18, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

Senate appropriators marked up and approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science  (CJS) appropriations bill (S. 3072) with strong bipartisan support in both the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and in the full Appropriations Committee 

Why It Matters

Through the annual appropriations process, Congress funds federal programs that affect the lives of all Americans, including through the CJS bill, which includes initiatives ranging from weather predictions, coastal management, and satellite maintenance to law enforcement, space and ocean exploration, and human health initiatives.

Key Points

Senators from both parties praised one another in full committee markup on the bipartisan appropriations bill and on their ability to work together on subjects that are often contentious while avoiding while avoiding “poison pill riders,” or controversial provisions unrelated to the intended bill purpose. The legislation passed out of committee with an 18-amendment mangers package.

The $63 billion bill outlines increased funding compared to FY 2018 funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF) ($8.1 billion; $106 million below the House bill, $597 million above the president’s budget request, and $301 million above FY 2018 levels) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ($21.3 billion; $246 million below the House bill, $1.4 billion above the president’s budget request, and $587 million above FY 2018 levels); and a decrease (compared to FY 2018 funding levels) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ($5.48 billion; $321.4 million above the House bill, $929.8 million above the president’s budget request, and $426 million below FY 2018 level).

NSF

Both the House and the Senate rejected the recommendation in the president’s budget request to reduce funding at the agency by 11 percent.  Research and Related Activities would receive $6.6 billion, an increase of $222 million above FY 2018 and $406 million above the president’s budget request.  

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) would see $249 million, which is $66 million above FY 2018 and $155 million more than the president’s request. This includes $28.7 million to complete funding the second Regional Class Research Vessel (RCRV) and $60.5 million to begin funding the third.

Additionally, the report recognized “the importance of ensuring that NSF-funded marine research vessels with unique capabilities remain available to the academic community,” and the committee requested a report on future plans for marine seismic research.

NOAA

While the bill would reduce NOAA funding by $426 million, much of this was planned as the agency’s weather satellites enter the operational phase. Senators rejected the administration’s cuts to NOAA’s ocean, climate, and weather research and prioritized ocean monitoring, coastal grants to states, aquaculture research, fisheries management, weather satellites, and severe weather forecasting.

The committee also ignored the president’s budget request by providing funding for the Sea Grant College Program, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund, and the Office of Education.

NASA

The legislation aligns with the administration’s focus on space exploration and discovery but also funds science missions that enhance our understanding of Earth.

The bill provides $6.4 billion for NASA’s Science mission, including $1.9 billion ($31 million above the House bill, $147 million above president’s budget request, $10 million above FY 2018 levels) for Earth Science.

Appropriators ignored the proposed elimination of the agency’s education programs in the president’s budget request. The bill would provide $110 million for the program, renamed the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Opportunities, including $21 million for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), $33 million for Minority University Research and Education Project, and $12 million for STEM Education and Accountability projects)

Quotable

“This bipartisan bill achieves an appropriate balance between fiscal responsibility and investing in our future by supporting law enforcement, national security interests, economic development and scientific innovation.” – Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (KS)

“The bill rejects the elimination of grants that help coastal communities and their economies and keeps key weather satellites on track while providing an increase for job-supporting coastal programs like Sea Grant and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.” – Subcommittee Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

Next Steps

The bill will head to the Senate floor for vote; from there a conference committee will need to combine the House and Senate versions and create an identical bill. The deadline to pass Congress and be signed by the president is September 30.

Find Out More 

Watch the subcommittee hearing 

Watch the committee hearing 

 Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership 

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