CR Lets NOAA Fully Fund Weather Sats, But Other Programs Would Pay Price

CR Lets NOAA Fully Fund Weather Sats, But Other Programs Would Pay Price

The six-month FY2013 Continuing Resolution (CR) Congress is getting ready to pass would allow NOAA to fully fund the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) system, but other programs in NOAA’s Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC) account would have to pay the price.  The CR will fund the first half of FY2013.

The CR allows NOAA to shift money within its PAC account that includes the funds to build JPSS and GOES-R, but does not increase the amount of funding to match the request for FY2013.   CRs typically continue an agency’s funding at its previous year’s level, a distinct disadvantage for programs that are ramping up.   The FY2013 request for JPSS is little different from its FY2012 funding level ($916 million for FY2013 compared to $924 million in FY2012), so is not much of an issue.  GOES-R however, needs a substantial boost to begin acquisition of a launch vehicle for the first in that series.  GOES-R got $616 million in FY2012, while the FY2013 request is $802 million.  

Under the CR, NOAA could take money from other programs in the PAC account to keep JPSS and GOES-R on schedule.  NOAA received $1.81 billion for PAC in FY2012, the level to which it will be held under the CR, compared to the $1.97 billion requested for FY2013.   Satellites are far and away the lion’s share of the PAC funding already:  $1.7 billion in FY2012 and $1.85 billion in the FY2013 request.   In addition to JPSS and GOES-R, that funds two other satellite programs, DSCOVR and Jason-3.   DSCOVR, formerly called Triana, will provide space weather data considered critical to the Air Force, NASA and NOAA who are splitting the costs of getting it ready and launching it.  It is scheduled for a slight decrease in FY2013 anyway, but Jason-3, a joint ocean altimetry mission with Europe, is due for a $10 million increase to its $20 million FY2012 budget.

The CR also requires the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a report to Congress within 30 days of the bill becoming law that sets out a plan for the two satellite programs to maintain their schedules and life cycle cost estimates and options for reducing those costs, including management costs.

That language appears to respond to the recommendation of the Senate Appropriations Committee in its version of the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill that NOAA’s weather satellite programs be transferred to NASA.  That committee is concerned about rising costs and shortcomings it sees in NOAA’s management of satellite programs.   With passage of the FY2013 appropriations bills delayed for at least six months, the language in the CR keeps a focus on the underlying problems without changing which agency is in charge.   NASA already is the acquisition agent for NOAA’s satellites, but NOAA sets the requirements and is the program manager.

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