A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Bill – On July 13th the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.  The CJS Appropriations Subcommittee marked up this bill back on June 28th.  This bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”. 

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The Committee directs NSF to allocate no less than fiscal year 2017 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, the astronomy centers, the current academic fleet including global class vessels with unique seismic capabilities, FFRDCs and the national high performance computing centers so they may provide the support needed for cutting edge research. NSF is encouraged to expand support for the National Deep Submergence Facility's remotely-operated vehicle operations for open sourced telepresence discovery based research and education expeditions.

The Committee includes language calling out the importance of neuroscience research, fire research, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, astronomy assets, the International Ocean Discovery Program, and marine seismic research.  The Committee has eliminated funding for NSF’s proposed Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.  The Committee fully funds the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science Program, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.  The leadership of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership weighed in with the House Appropriations Subcommittee is support of both the RCRVs and marine seismology infrastructure.  A copy of the COL letter is available here 

During the full committee mark up, Rep. David Price offered, and then withdrew, an amendment to increase NSF’s research account above the Committee’s mark.  Chairman Culberson, in response to Rep. Price’s proposal, said that he hoped to revisit NSF funding and address support for the RCRVs as appropriations process moves forward.

The Committee includes language encouraging the National Science Board to consider policy changes that would bridge the gap between the Major Research Instrumentation program and the MREFC account projects while also developing processes appropriate for mid-scale infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, and instrument upgrades to be funded through the MREFC account.  The Board, in collaboration with the National Academies is directed to examine these issues and provide a report to the Committee within 180 days after enactment of this appropriations bill.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  The Committee includes language encouraging NOAA to collaborate, via extramural research, with academia and the private sector while also encouraging NOAA, to the extent possible and practicable, purchase services from the private sector when such services are cost effective, reliable, and available.  Within the funds provided to NOAA for aquaculture, up to $5 million is available for shellfish survival research to be conducted with research institutes across the U.S.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), instead of being cut by 32% as proposed by the Administration, the Committee limited the OAR reduction to 6% by providing a total of $448.8 million for OAR operations and research.  The Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a total of $70 million with $63 million for the Sea Grant base program and $7 million for Sea Grant aquaculture initiative. 

The Joint Technology Transfer Initiative grows to $20 million.  The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the VORTEX-SE serve storms research program as well as the proposal to terminate the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles testbed program and tornadoes in the southeast of the U.S.  Climate research is reduced by 19% or $30 million with most of the reduction coming from the climate competitive research program.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, also slated for elimination, was funded at the FY 2017 of $23.5 million.  Coastal Zone Management grants, instead of being zeroed out as proposed by the Administration, the Committee is providing $45 million, down $40 million from the $85 million provided in FY 2017. 

Navigation, Observations and Positioning is funded at $145.5 million with report language directing NOAA to prioritize its mission-critical responsibilities including mapping and charting.  The Integrated Ocean Observation System program is funded at $31 million, a level similar to FY 2017. 

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) $10 million is provided to continue Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock assessment research.  The Prescott marine mammal stranding program will continue in contrast to the Administration’s proposal to terminate the program. The Committee encourages NOAA to make competitive awards for studies of highly migratory fish species in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  The bill provides the request for implementation of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing program

The National Weather Service (NWS) operations is funded at $973 million which is very close to the FY 2017 level.  The Committee rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate Tsunami warning centers and the Mesonet program.  The Committee also rejected the Administration’s proposal to reduce support for mid-range weather outlooks and numerical weather prediction.

Instead of elimination as proposed by the Administration, NOAA education programs are funded at a total of $19.1 million which is a 29% reduction from the FY 2017 level.

Within the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) support is provided for the Space Weather Follow On program, the purchase of commercial satellite weather data, and $6.1 million for COSMIC 2 microsatellite program.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science (up 15%) and astrophysics (10%), while reducing funding for earth sciences research by 11.3%.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill — On July 13th the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, the Department of Education, the Center for Disease Control, and other domestic agencies, marked their version of an FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill includes $156 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $5 billion below the FY 2017 level.  The bill emphasizes investments in medical research, public health, biodefense activities, and fundamental education programs.  The bill allocates a significant funding increase of $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health bringing the proposed budget up to $35.2 billion instead of the 18% reduction proposed by the Administration.  The bill provides strong support for several specific research initiatives including:  $1.8 billion, a $400 million increase, for Alzheimer’s research; $336 million, a $76 million increase for the BRAIN initiative; and $400 million, a $80 million increase, for then All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative and $300 million for the Cancer Moonshot research program.  The bill also includes increases for special education funding; TRIO, GEAR UP, and early childhood education programs.  The subcommittee’s recommendations also push back on and does not include the Administration’s proposal to cap indirect cost rates on NIH grants.

OMB Provides Guidance to Agencies for FY 2019 Budget Development – On July 7th, the Office of Management and Budget released a memorandum sent to all agencies providing guidance on the development of the FY 2019 budget – a budget proposal due to OMB by September 11, 2017.  OMB directs agencies to draft FY 2019 budgets that “should reflect a level no higher than the net total provided…in the FY 2019 column of the FY 2018 Budget.” It is worth noting that in the details of the Administration’s FY 2018 budget, an out year table (Table S-7, Proposed Discretionary Spending Caps for 2018 Budget, p.40) for discretionary spending (divided between Defense and Non-defense) was included.  For FY 2019, OMB is proposing to reduce Non-defense Discretionary spending by an additional $16 billion, on top of the proposed $54 billion reduction proposed for FY 2018. 

OMB does invite the agencies “…to identify additional investments in effective programs that further support their mission and fill a clear Federal role.”  These additional investments should be no more than a 5% increase over the “submission level” for FY 2019.  In this guidance document, OMB also advises the agencies to submit Agency Reform Plans drawn from the reorganization guidance issued by Executive Order 13781, when they submit their FY 2019 budget plans.  OMB emphasizes “…the FY 2019 budget process will give special consideration to bold reform or reorganization proposals that have the potential to dramatically improve effectiveness and efficiency of government operations…”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Interior/Environment Appropriations Act – The House Appropriations Committee has released a summary of the fiscal year 2018 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.  In total, the bill provides $31.4 billion, $824 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $4.3 billion above the President’s budget request. These funds are targeted to investments in the nation’s natural resources, including $3.4 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat wildfires. The legislation also contains several policy provisions targeted at EPA regulations.  The bill funds the EPA at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $528 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.9 billion above the Administration’s request.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a $38 million decrease below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Core responsibilities and grant programs are level funded. The legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and refuge maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries.

The bill also continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rule makings for greater sage-grouse. 

For the U.S.  Geological Survey (USGS) the bill includes $1 billion, $46 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Funding is targeted to programs dealing with natural hazards, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. The bill includes $10.2 million for an earthquake early warning system to help save lives during natural disasters, and provides the $8.3 million increase necessary for support of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements that are important to local communities for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions. 

The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $885 million in the bill, $22 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. For the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the bill includes $145 million for each of the endowments, $5 million below the fiscal year 2017 level for each endowment.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Transportation Appropriations Act – The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the FY 2018 Transportation-Housing Appropriations bill on July 11th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies.  In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $56.5 billion in discretionary spending – $1.1 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $8.6 billion above the request. This funding is targeted to essential investments in transportation infrastructure investments, as well as fundamental community development and housing programs.

The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability, and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments are designed to help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.

The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal­-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system. The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.

The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill – On July 12th, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  The bill totals $37.6 billion which is $209 million below the FY 2017 level and $3.65 billion above the President’s budget request.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.

Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request to a level of $1.1 billion. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.  Within the Office of Science, the Biological and Environmental Research program is funded at $582 million, a reduction of $30 million from the FY 2017 level.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Operation and Maintenance program is funded at $3.5 billion, $370 million more than the FY 2017 level.  The O&M program includes the National Coastal Mapping Program which is funded at $6.3 million, an amount equal to the budget request and the FY 2017 level.

House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill – The Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Bill for FY 2018 was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  This bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the U.S. southern border.  For the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the bill provides $6.8 billion for disaster relief and emergency response activities.  To respond to both natural and man-made disasters, the bill funds FEMA's disaster relief account (DRF) at $7.3 billion.  The legislation also includes $2.7 billion for FEMA grant programs. This includes: $467 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program; $630 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, including an increase of $25 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; $690 million for firefighter assistance grants; and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

President Announces Intent to Nominate Paul Dabbar to be DOE Undersecretary for Science– On July 11th the President announced his intent to nominate Paul Dabbar to the post of Undersecretary for Science at the Department of Energy.  Mr. Dabbar is Managing Director for Mergers & Acquisitions for J.P. Morgan, and has over $400 billion in investment experience across many energy sectors including solar, wind, geothermal, distributed-generation, utility, LNG, pipeline, oil & gas, trading, energy technology, and has also led the majority of all nuclear transactions.  Before joining J.P. Morgan, Mr. Dabbar served as a nuclear submarine officer in Mare Island, California, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, including deploying to the North Pole where he conducted environmental research.  He also currently serves on the Department of Energy Environmental Management Advisory Board.  He has been a lecturer at the U.S. Naval Academy Economics Department, and conducted research at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.  Mr. Dabbar received a B.S. degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, and an M.B.A. degree from Columbia University.