House Clears FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations, Now to the President

House Clears FY2023 Omnibus Appropriations, Now to the President

The House today joined the Senate in passing the $1.7 trillion FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations bill. This 4,155-page “omnibus” legislation combines all 12 regular appropriations bills that fund most government agencies, including those that execute space programs. The funding covers the rest of FY2023, through September 30, 2023. President Biden is expected to sign it soon.

The bill, H.R. 2617, passed 225-201-1 just after 2:00 pm ET.  The government is currently funded by a Continuing Resolution that expires at midnight tonight. Just in case there was any delay with the omnibus, the Senate yesterday and the House today passed another CR for one more week, until December 30. President Biden signed that into law late this afternoon so he has until next Friday to sign the omnibus.

Overall, government space programs fared well, but with inflation at record levels the purchasing power of those dollars is diminished.

The U.S. Space Force got $26.3 billion. That’s an increase not only over FY2022 ($18.06 billion), but more than the $24.5 billion President Biden requested. Several space technology efforts, tactically responsive launch, and classified programs were among those getting more than requested.

NASA received a boost over FY2022, but less than the Administration wanted for FY2023. The agency will have $25.4 billion, substantially more than the $24 billion it had last year, but less than the $26 billion requested. NASA’s broad portfolio of programs in science, technology, aeronautics and human spaceflight were supported, but other government activities within the Commerce-Justice-Science portion of the bill apparently had higher priority.

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) got $37.854 million in the Operations account, the main source of funds for personnel who conduct licensing and other regulatory activities. That’s $5.382 million more than FY2022, but less than the $42.504 million requested.

The FAA also funds commercial space launch and reentry activities in the Facilities and Equipment (F&E) account for commercial space integration into the National Airspace System, and in the Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) account for a Center of Excellence for commercial space transportation safety.

Those portions of the budget did not do as well. Commercial space integration received $5 million, only half the amount requested and less than the $6.5 million in FY2022. Safety received $4.7 million, compared to the $5.7 million it had in FY2022, the same as what was requested for FY2023.

Over at the Department of Commerce, the Biden Administration requested a dramatic increase for the Office of Space Commerce at NOAA, from $16 million in FY2022 to $87.7 million in FY2023. Congress did increase the funding, but not quite that much, providing $70 million.

NOAA operates the nation’s civil weather and space weather satellites through the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services (NESDIS) division. Congress agreed to elevate the Office of Space Commerce out of NESDIS so it reports directly to the NOAA Administrator.

NOAA is restructuring its satellite programs and the accounting system that goes with it, making it extremely difficult to track the request and congressional action. The final amounts appropriated for NOAA/NESDIS Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC) are shown in this table from the explanatory statement.

Part of the new structure is creation of the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) program to succeed the Geostationary Operational Systems-R or GOES-R program. GOES-R is a set of four advanced geostationary satellites, three of which are in orbit already. The fourth is scheduled for 2024.

The Department of Commerce formally approved GeoXO as a program on December 14, 2022.

The budget request asked for $964.8 million for “Geostationary Earth Orbit” and zero for GOES-R.

The omnibus provides just $285 million for the Geostationary Earth Orbit line. The conferees say that’s “the amount required to maintain current program schedule,” but they want more information about user needs and lifecycle costs before procurement begins for future instruments and spacecraft. That appears to be quite a cut from the request although the conferees provide another $301 million in the old GOES-R line item. Even when added together, however, that’s $586 million, significantly less than the request.

The conferees did explictly approve moving forward with “Phase A formulation studies, to complete the Department of Commerce Acquisition Milestone 2, and to award the imager development contract.”

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