Budget Questions For Commerce

2018-03-26T14:41:00+00:00 March 26, 2018|

What It Was

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a budget hearing on the administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Department of Commerce budget request.

Why It Matters

The Department of Commerce (DOC), which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), promotes economic growth in the U.S., from seafood and technology to transportation and trade. Ensuring NOAA has adequate funding to carry out public services, such as weather forecasting, fisheries management, and ocean mapping further supports the safety and security of our nation, economic growth, and its citizens’ well-being.

Key Point

The president’s budget request, which outlines the White House’s priorities for the coming fiscal year, proposed a 24 percent decrease for NOAA compared to what was recently enacted for FY 2018. During opening statements, both parties highlighted the importance of the agency, including its role in ocean exploration, fisheries, weather forecasting, and satellites. Subcommittee Ranking Member José Serrano (NY-15) explained that cuts of more than $1 billion (compared to FY 2018) undermine the agency’s mission.

For the second year in a row, the administration proposed zeroing out the National Sea Grant College Program, a partnership between NOAA and 33 universities. Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY-17) noted the  nationwide benefits of the program, which, in 2016, included producing $600 million in economic benefit, sustaining more than 7,000 jobs, and restoring or protecting 1.4 million acres of habitat. She asked the secretary if this didn’t make “a credible and persuasive case” for continued federal investment. Secretary Ross agreed on the program’s success but defend its cut to support what he called “core” NOAA functions.

Trade deficits, including in fisheries (the U.S. imports nearly 90 percent of its seafood), was also a hot topic. Both parties agreed more seafood should come from the U.S. either through wild catch or aquaculture. Maximizing sustainable catches, reevaluating fish populations, and increasing aquaculture were proposed solutions. A large majority of U.S. seafood imports are grown through aquaculture, and Secretary Ross cautioned against importing farmed seafood from countries with lower standards.

Additional proposed cutbacks include 248 positions at National Weather Service (NWS), which the subcommittee questioned by highlighting the devastation from the 2017 hurricane season. The secretary agreed on the NWS’ importance and added that forecasting in 2017 was more accurate than in previous years.

Quotable

“Things like surveys, charting, weather forecasting, and fisheries management, in our view, unfortunately, the monies needed for those, overwhelm the monies that we would have had to put into the Sea Grant Program.” – Secretary Wilbur Ross (Department of Commerce)

“We must allow our marine research programs to continue what’s necessary for America’s economic and environmental health.” – Subcommittee Ranking Member José Serrano (NY-15)

“I’ll look forward to discussing how we can work together to ensure that the 2020 census and weather satellite programs are staying within their projected costs and achieving their important goals.” – Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (TX-7)

Next Steps

Both chambers of Congress will hold hearings to discuss the president’s budget request as they begin developing their appropriations bills. Between now and the end of FY 2018 (September 30, 2018) Congress will need to draft and pass 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership