House Will Try Again Next Week to Reopen NASA, NOAA, With Vote on Conference Version of CJS Bill

House Will Try Again Next Week to Reopen NASA, NOAA, With Vote on Conference Version of CJS Bill

The House is passing FY2019 appropriations bills to reopen government agencies like NASA and NOAA and end the partial government shutdown. Next week it plans to take up the compromise version of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA as part of broader legislation. This version would fund NASA at $21.500 billion for FY2019 and warns NASA that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is not an entitlement program.  NOAA’s satellite programs would get $1.455 billion.

The partial government shutdown hit the 28-day mark today with no sign of resolution, although President Trump tweeted today that he will make a “major announcement concerning the Humanitarian crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M.  live from the @WhiteHouse.”

The House and Senate were scheduled to be in recess next week, which begins with a federal holiday in observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi changed those plans for the House and it will be in session and consider more appropriations bills to reopen the portions of the government that are closed.

Seven of the 12 regular FY2019 appropriations bills have not become law.  It is the departments and agencies in those seven bills that are affected by the shutdown.  Four of the seven passed the House and Senate last year and conference agreements were reached, but never went to the floors of the two chambers for a final vote.  The other three, including CJS, were never passed by either chamber, but House and Senate appropriators reached a compromise on those as well.

In the past three weeks, the House has passed various combinations of those bills using the texts agreed to by the full Senate or the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is adamant, however, that he will not bring any bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote unless he know Trump will sign it.  Thus, they have little or no chance of becoming law.

Next week the House will take up versions of the bills as they emerged from conference negotiations instead of the versions approved only by the Senate.

The House will take up six of the seven, including CJS, as a package (H.R. 648).

It is far from clear that this version will become law, but in case it does, these are some of the highlights for NASA and NOAA’s satellite programs.


The conference version of the CJS bill includes $21.500 billion for NASA.  The President’s request was $19.892 billion.  The House Appropriations Committee approved $21.546 billion while the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $21.323 billion. (See’s fact sheet on the NASA budget request on our fact sheets page for more information.)

This table from the report to accompany the bill shows the allocations for NASA.

The conference version adopts many Administration requests, but rejects many others including proposed terminations of Earth science programs, a new space telescope, and education programs, and an agency reorganization.

One request that would be approved is increasing the budget cap for JWST, which has experienced many schedule delays and cost overruns. The most recent breaches the $8 billion budget cap for development set by Congress beginning in 2011.  The new estimate is $8.803 billion, a 10 percent increase, which requires Congress to raise the cap or spending will have to stop when the $8 billion mark is reached. Language in the report warns NASA that although the bill raises the cap to $8.803 billion, “NASA should strictly adhere to this cap or, under this agreement, JWST will have to find cost savings or cancel the mission.”  It expresses “profound disappointment with both NASA and its contractors regarding mismanagement, complete lack of careful oversight, and overall poor basic workmanship on JWST….”

“NASA and its commercial partners seem to believe that congressional funding for this project and other development efforts is an entitlement, unaffected by failures to stay on schedule or within budget.”  Joint Explanatory Statement on FY2019 CJS Appropriations Bill

JWST’s follow-on is the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), whose development was delayed for many years because funding had to be diverted to JWST.  The Trump Administration proposed cancelling WFIRST, but the conference version rejects that proposal, providing $312 million in FY2019 to keep the program on track for launch in 2025.  It stresses the program must adhere to its $3.2 billion cost cap.  Included are $10 million the development of starshade technology and $10 million for search for life technology development.

It also rejects Trump’s proposed terminations of several Earth science projects (PACE, OCO-3, CLARREO-Pathfinder, and the Earth-facing instruments on DSCOVR).

The conference version retains the priorities set by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who chaired the House CJS subcommittee until the end of the 115th Congress to build both an orbiter and a lander to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa.  Culberson lost his reelection bid so will not be in Congress to advocate for these missions in the future, but for FY2019 at least, they would continue.  The conference agreement does slip the mandated launch dates for the orbiter from 2022 to 2023 and the lander from 2024 to 2025.

Among the many other provisions, the conference version also rejects the proposed reorganization of NASA HQ that would eliminate the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which develops cross-cutting technologies for a variety of NASA missions.  The Trump Administration proposed melding those programs with others in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). The conference report retains Space Technology and “reiterates … the need to maintain an independent research and technology portfolio to support both science and human exploration programs.”  Under space technology, it specifies funding for several activities including $18o million for RESTORE-L, $48.1 million for solar electric propulsion,and $100 million for nuclear thermal propulsion of which not less than $70 million is for a flight demonstration by 2024.

Regarding human exploration, it provides $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System plus $48 million for a second mobile launch platform.  Of the $2.15 billion, $150 million is for the Exploration Upper Stage.

For the Moon to Mars program, the conference agreement approves the new —

  • Lunar Discovery and Exploration program in the Science Mission Directorate (“up to” $218 million, including $21 million for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter);
  • Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities in HEOMD ($116.5 million); and
  • Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in HEOMD ($450 million)

For aeronautics, it provides $725 million, including no less than $35 million for hypersonics research.

NASA’s activities that were under the Office of Education are rebranded as “STEM Engagement.”  The Trump Administration proposed eliminating all of them, but the conference agreement provides $110 million as follows:

  • EPSCoR, $21 million
  • Space Grant, $44 million
  • MUREP, $33 million
  • SEAP, $12 million (not stated, but inferred from arithmetic)

The conference agreement also includes the House language restricting bilateral cooperation with China by NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the White House National Space Council.

NOAA Satellite Programs

The conference agreement includes $1.455 billion for NOAA’s satellite programs.  The President’s request was $1.4 billion.  The House Appropriations Committee approved $1.412 billion, while the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated $1.498 billion. (See’s fact sheet on the NOAA budget request on our fact sheets page for more information.)

Allocations for procurement, acquisition and construction of NOAA’s satellite programs are shown in this table from the report.

It rejects the Administration’s proposal to merge NOAA’s two polar weather satellite programs — Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow On (PFO) — but says it will continue to consider the request.  The JPSS account funds the first two of the four next generation polar satellites.  PFO funds the other two.  The request was $877,991,000 for the combination of the two accounts, which is the same as what is allocated in the conference agreement.

For Space Weather Follow-on, the agreement provides $27 million, almost three times the $10 million requested.  It directs NOAA to build two compact coronagraphs.  One is to be integrated onto the GOES-U geostationary weather satellite, which was NOAA’s proposal.  NOAA is also directed to work with NASA to launch the other as a ride-share with the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Program (IMAP). IMAP will be launched to the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange point where other space weather sensors are located so they can provide early warning of space weather events, instead of in Earth orbit where GOES-U will be positioned.


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