House Appropriations Committee Approves FY2019 Bill Funding NASA and NOAA

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY2019 Bill Funding NASA and NOAA

The House Appropriations Committee today approved its FY2019 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill, which funds NASA and NOAA, by a vote of 32-19.   Space activities at NASA and NOAA were not controversial, but Republicans and Democrats battled over other provisions in the bill, which also funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) at House Appropriations markup, May 17, 2018. Screengrab.

Guns, immigration and proposed cuts to NOAA’s climate research were among the partisan issues debated during the approximately four-hour markup and likely will resume when the bill goes to the full House.

Only one amendment was proposed relating to NASA, but it was offered and then withdrawn by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). He wanted to specify $161 million for NASA’s PACE Earth science program with launch in 2022.  He represents a district close to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which is managing the mission, and near the Chesapeake Bay, whose waters would be monitored by the satellite.  Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) also spoke in favor of the amendment.  Her district borders Lake Erie, which has experienced destructive algae blooms. PACE is being designed to study what causes those conditions.

The bill funds NASA’s Earth science activities at $1.9 billion, close to its FY2018 funding level and $116 million more than requested, but does not specify how much is for any of the four programs the Trump Administration wants to cancel: PACE, CLARREO-Pathfinder, OCO-3 and the Earth-facing instruments on DSCOVR.

It is not uncommon for members to offer and then withdraw an amendment if they know it will not pass.  Instead, they use the opportunity to highlight whatever the issue is in the hope of resolving it as the bill works its way through the legislative process.  In the case of NASA’s Earth science program, the Senate Appropriations Committee typically is its strongest champion.

Overall, the bill provides $21.546 billion for NASA, an increase of more than $1.6 billion above the request and $810 million more than FY2018.  More information is in’s NASA FY2019 Budget Request fact sheet, available on our Fact Sheets page.

NOAA’s satellite programs do well in the appropriations bill, too.  They are managed by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).  NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.

The committee did not agree with NOAA’s proposal to merge the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow On (PFO) accounts.  The total amount for the two programs remains the same ($878 million), but is split into $572 million for JPSS and $306 million for PFO.  The report does not explain the decision, but commends NOAA on the launch of JPSS-1 and “expects NOAA to incorporate lessons learned from JPSS-1 into the planning and execution of the remaining JPSS satellites.”

JPSS is a set of four polar-orbiting weather satellites.  The first two (JPSS-1 and JPSS-2) are funded in the JPSS account; the second two (JPSS-3 and JPSS-4) in PFO.  The report says the committee supports procuring JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 in FY2019 and understands the KDP-C (Key Decision Point-C) milestone will be reached in FY2019 and expects to receive the program baseline also in FY2019.

The committee doubled the amount of money, from the $3 million requested to $6 million, for the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program.  That matches the amount appropriated for FY2018.   During a hearing before the CJS subcommittee, Acting NOAA Administrator RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) was asked why the request was so low.  He replied that the “industry isn’t evolving as fast as we thought it would” and only one company is  capable of providing the radio occultation data that is the subject of the pilot program.  Two companies, SPIRE and GeoOptics, received contracts from NOAA.  Spire has a number of its Lemur cubesats in orbit, but several GeoOptics cubesats launched last year are not functioning. The company is waiting for a new satellite to be launched.  The committee said it is providing $6 million for FY2019 to “ensure NOAA has the resources necessary to thoroughly assess commercial data opportunities.”

The committee provided small increases for NESDIS’s satellite ground services; systems architecture and advanced planning; and projects, planning and analysis.

All told, NESDIS’s PAC account would grow very slightly: $1.412 billion, compared to the request of $1.399 billion.  It is a sharp reduction from FY2018, but that is because JPSS and the geostationary GOES-R programs have both passed their funding peaks.  For more information, see’s fact sheet on NOAA’s FY2019 Budget Request for Satellites on our Fact Sheet page.


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