FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Clears Congress, Signed by President

FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Clears Congress, Signed by President

The House and Senate passed the final version of the FY2016 appropriations bill today and it was quickly signed into law by President Obama.  Government agencies are now funded through the end of FY2016 — September 30, 2016.

The final bill, H.R. 2029, brought mostly good news to government civilian space programs at NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).

NASA gets a $756 million boost above the President’s request, which itself was a $519 million increase over the agency’s FY2015 funding.  Its top-line funding for FY2016 is $19.285 billion compared to $18.010 billion in FY2015.  Details are in our NASA budget fact sheet.  In a big win for the Obama Administration, Congress provided the full $1.244 billion requested for the commercial crew program.   At the same time, it added significant funds for the Space Launch System and a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, two congressional priorities.

NOAA’s satellite programs were fully funded with two small exceptions ($10 million requested for an Earth Observing Nanosatellite-Microwave program was denied, and $1.2 million was provided instead of $2.5 million for beginning to plan for a space weather satellite follow-on to DSCOVR).  But the GOES-R and JPSS weather satellite programs are fully funded, along with the Polar Follow On (PFO) program for two more JPSS spacecraft (JPSS-3 and -4).  Getting full funding for PFO is a big win for the Obama Administration; Congress was lukewarm, at best, about it.  Congress also created a Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, one of its priorities, and funded it at $3 million for FY2016. Details are in our NOAA budget fact sheet.

FAA/AST did not get the full $1.5 million increase it requested, but it got more than the House-passed or Senate Appropriations Committee-recommended levels.  It will get $17.8 million for FY2016, compared to $16.605 million in FY2015, an increase of $1.2 million. 

Perhaps the most controversial issue in the DOD space program was not funding, but the policy issue of how many Russian RD-180 engines may by obtained by the United Launch Alliance for its Atlas V rocket.  The Atlas V is used to launch national security satellites and the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act  (NDAA) sharply limits the number of Russian engines that ULA may use because its focus is building an American-made alternative.  The appropriations bill, however, essentially lifts those limits.  Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the architect of the RD-180 limits, lambasted his appropriations colleagues for undermining the provisions of the NDAA.

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