Rough Waters For President’s NOAA Budget Proposal

2019-05-06T16:28:13+00:00 May 6, 2019|
(Credit: Crew and Officers of NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER)

(Credit: Crew and Officers of NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment held a budget hearing titled, “A Review of the NOAA Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request.”

Why It Matters

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the key federal agency responsible for understanding our ocean, from managing commercial fisheries to forecasting weather and studying our climate, which affects people across the country — not just at the coasts. Like all federal agencies, NOAA is funded each fiscal year (FY) through the appropriations process. Strong financial support for NOAA is critical for ocean health, weather preparedness, food security, and a strong economy, elements that make up our ocean security.

Key Points

The president’s budget request for NOAA in FY 2020 is $4.5 billion, an 18 percent decrease from the enacted FY 2019 budget. Subcommittee members from both parties expressed concern with the agency’s ability to carry out its core mission with nearly $1 billion in reduced funding; however, Ranking Member Frank Lucas (OK-3) noted that in previous years, Congress has funded NOAA at a higher rate than was proposed in the president’s budget request, which he called “just a starting point for our discussions.” Dr. Neil Jacobs (Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA) answered questions from subcommittee members on the impact of the budget request on the agency’s priorities.

Proposed reductions in funding for the National Weather Service worried both Republicans and Democrats. Chairwoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7) emphasized that these losses, if enacted, would negatively impact the agency’s ability to accurately predict and warn citizens of natural disasters. Citing that Hurricane Harvey inflicted $125 billion worth of damage in Houston and southeast Texas, Ms. Fletcher stated that timely and accurate hurricane forecasting by NOAA was and will be essential to protecting life and property during these disasters.

Dr. Jacobs insisted that despite these proposed cuts, NOAA would still be able to complete its core mission and protect life and property through programs that encourage public-private partnerships. He spoke about the $5 million in the request to fund the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). NOPP facilitates collaboration between federal agencies, private industry, philanthropic organizations, and academia that have a shared interest in advancing ocean research and education to promote national goals (e.g., national security, economic prosperity, and quality of life) ranging from ocean exploration and observation to new technologies protecting marine mammals. In addition to NOPP, Dr. Jacobs also referenced the planned Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), a virtual center that will link academia, the private sector, and partner agencies with research, development, and operational activities inside the agency to enhance NOAA’s ability to provide accurate warnings of weather-based threats.

There was also bipartisan concern over other proposed program cuts, such as the National Sea Grant College Program, which is comprised of a network of 33 programs along the nation’s coasts that improve community and economic resiliency, advance environmental literacy, and ensure the health of coastal ecosystems through research. Despite voicing support for the Sea Grant Program, Dr. Jacobs noted, “unfortunately, it was just one of the things we had to cut to maintain our core capabilities.”


“We have heard concerns about some of the proposed cuts included in this request. I would remind my colleagues that the President’s budget request is just a starting point for our discussions, and we’re here today to learn more about how best to prioritize NOAA’s resources.  It’s also important to note that in recent years Congress has decided to fund NOAA at a higher rate than the president’s budget request.” — Ranking Member Frank Lucas (OK-3)

“NOAA is a mission-oriented agency, and this committee supports these core priorities. We face fiscal constraints that force us to make difficult choices about our science and technology resources. I believe that this committee, regardless of political affiliation, should always support NOAA’s desire to emphasize protecting life and property.”— Ranking Member Roger Marshall (KS-1)

“NOAA’s research and services have played a critical role in protecting American lives through accurate weather forecasting and climate prediction, improving our environmental knowledge and stewardship, and supporting a thriving United States economy. It seems obvious to say, but the NOAA budget should reflect its mission and ensure NOAA can fulfill its obligations to the American people.”— Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)

“NOAA’s services touch every American, every day. I believe this budget request meets NOAA’s core mission of protecting lives and property, while also positioning the agency to be more effective in moving forward.” — Dr. Neil Jacobs (Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, NOAA)

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership          

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