Mikulski Fails in Attempt To Restore Funding for Future Weather Satellites

Mikulski Fails in Attempt To Restore Funding for Future Weather Satellites

The Senate Appropriations Committee today rejected an amendment by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to restore funding for NOAA to proceed with future satellites in the Joint Polar Satellite Sytsem (JPSS) program.   The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee recommended a deep cut to the Polar Follow On (PFO) program to build JPSS 3 and 4.  Mikulski’s amendment to restore the full amount requested by the Obama Administration failed on a party-line vote.

The full committee approved the subcommittee’s recommendations for NOAA.  The text of the bill has not been released yet, but apparently it fully funds NOAA’s existing weather satellite programs — GOES-R and the first two JPSS satellites.  The House also fully funded them in its version of the bill that passed last week.  The debate is over the PFO program, for which the Obama Administration is requesting $380 million for FY2016.  The House zeroed that funding. 

The NOAA budget request actually states that the PFO request is $370 million with another $10 million for an “Earth Observing Nanosatellite-Microwave” (EON-MW) instrument, so the amount is variously listed as $370 million or $380 million.  (See SpacePolicyOnline.com’s fact sheet on the FY2016 NOAA Budget Request for Satellites for more information.)

Based on the Mikulski amendment as explained in draft report language posted on the committee’s Democratic website, the Senate subcommittee approved $135 million for PFO.  She sought an addition of $245 million, which would have restored it to the $380 million level.  The amendment also would have added $2.5 million for a follow-on space weather satellite.  The request was $2.5 million.  The newest space weather satellite, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), was launched on February 11.

Debate during full committee markup today of the CJS bill, as well as the FY2016 Defense Appropriations bill, followed a familiar theme.  Democrats want to negotiate a new budget deal that replaces budget caps
set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) with more flexible limits. 
Republicans insist that non-defense spending must stay within those
caps, but are adding money for defense in an off-budget account
(Overseas Contingency Operations) to which the caps do not apply. 
Democrats in Congress and the White House are railing against what they
call a “gimmick” to add money for defense while shortchanging domestic

The NOAA additions were part of an overall $2.784 billion increase Mikulski sought for various activities in the CJS bill.  The amendment was defeated by a 14-16 party line vote.   CJS
subcommittee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) opposed the amendment, but
said that if a new budget deal is indeed negotiated, he will work with
Mikulski on how to allocate any additional funding. 

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