House Appropriations Subcommittee Proposes Bigger FY2017 Boost for NASA – UPDATE

House Appropriations Subcommittee Proposes Bigger FY2017 Boost for NASA – UPDATE

The House Appropriations Committee today released its draft FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) funding bill, which includes NASA and NOAA.  NASA would get an even bigger boost — $19.5 billion — than recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee.   The draft bill does not provide much detail on NOAA, but the total recommended for the account that includes acquiring satellites is $2.218 billion, compared to the $2.282 billion requested.  The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the bill tomorrow morning. [UPDATE:  The subcommittee approved the bill.]

NASA.  The President’s request for NASA this year is very complicated, but basically it is for $18.3 billion in appropriated funds plus $763 million in other funding, for a total of $19.025 billion.  Appropriations committees only have jurisdiction over appropriations, so both the House and Senate committees consider the request to be $18.3 billion.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $19.3 billion, essentially the same as NASA’s current funding level and, from its point of view, a $1 billion increase over the President’s request. The House CJS subcommittee is proposing $19.5 billion.  Few details are in the bill (most are in the report that accompanies the bill, which has not been released yet), but the following funding levels are specified:

  • Science: $5.597 billion, including $260 million for the mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, which shall consist of an orbiter and lander, to be launched separately on the Space Launch System (SLS), in 2022 and 2024 respectively
  • Aeronautics: $712 million
  • Space Technology: $739.2 million
  • Exploration: $4.183 billion, including $1.35 billion for Orion, $2 billion for SLS (of which $250 million is for the Exploration/Enhanced Upper Stage), $429 million for exploration ground systems, and $404 million for exploration research and development
  • Space Operations:  $4.890 billion
  • Education: $115 million, including $18 million for EPSCoR and $40 million for Space Grant
  • Safety, Security and Mission Services: $2.835 billion
  • CECR:  $398 million
  • Inspector General:  $38.1 million

The extent to which those are increases or decreases depends on whether the comparison is to current funding, the President’s request including the non-appropriated funds, or the President’s request for appropriated funding only.  See’s NASA budget fact sheet for more information.

NOAA Satellite Programs.  NOAA encompasses a broad set of mission areas, of which environmental satellites is but one.  Its budget is divided into Operations, Research and Facilities (ORF) and Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC).  A large percentage of the PAC account is for satellites.   The draft bill provides $2.230 billion for NOAA’s PAC account, of which $2.218 billion is new appropriations (the rest is unobligated spending from prior years).  The total PAC request was $2.282 billion, of which $2.063 billion  is for NOAA’s satellite programs. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $2.029 billion.  See’s NOAA budget fact sheet for more details.  

The only satellite-specific language in the draft House bill concerns funding requested for the COSMIC-2 constellation of radio occultation satellites.  NOAA is requesting funds to procure a new set of these satellites, but Congress is interested in NOAA acquiring data from commercial satellites to fulfill this requirement.  The draft bill states that no funds may be obligated until 15 days after the NOAA Administrator submits a report whose details are described in the committee’s report on the bill.  Congress created a commercial weather data pilot program in last year’s appropriations bill and NOAA submitted an implementation plan in April that states it will use radio occultation data for that pilot program.  Such satellites use signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) and similar systems fielded by other countries for radio occultation to make measurements of temperature and water vapor in the lower atmosphere. When combined with data from polar orbiting weather satellites, better forecasts are enabled.

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