A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY 2019 Appropriations Bill for NSF, NOAA, and NASA – On May 17, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill which funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the decennial census, and other related programs. The legislation contains $62.5 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $2.9 billion above the fiscal year 2018 level. 

The bill provides increases for federal law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration, violent crime, gangs and opioid trafficking.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including countering cybercrime, terrorism and espionage. Funds are included to continue investments in space exploration, advance groundbreaking science, enhance school safety, and provide adequate resources for the upcoming decennial census.  

National Science Foundation (NSF) -- The legislation funds NSF at $8.2 billion – $408 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $703 million above the Administration’s $7.4 billion request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.7 billion, $317 million above the current level and $500 million over the Administration’s request for this account. These funds will foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, ocean exploration, high performance computing, astronomy, major research instrumentation, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education. The Committee expressed its support for NSF’s Antarctic Modernization for Science program.  The Committee also reiterated its support for research infrastructure investments and called on NSF to provide no less than FY 2018 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, and other assets including astronomy, the current academic fleet, NSF’s FFRDCs, and High-Performance Computing Centers.  The Committee also apparently included some report language endorsing the continuation of marine research and support for existing related research facilities.

In the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, the bill provides a total of $268 million to be used to fund the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, and three Regional Class Research Vessels.  Education and Human Resources is funded at $902 million which is $28.6 million more than the request.  Report language emphasizes the Advanced Technical Education program, early childhood STEM education, broadening participation programs, Hispanic serving institutions, and the Innovation Corps program.  

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.2 billion for NOAA, which is $751 million below the fiscal year 2018 level but $606 million above the Administration’s $4.6 billion request. Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for other programs including eliminating the climate Competitive Research, Sustained Observations and Regional Information program as proposed by the Administration.  In FY 2018 this program was funded at a level of $60 million.  

In the National Ocean Service, $34 million was added to the request for NOAA’s Navigation, Observations, and Positioning program.  The Administration had requested a $5 million increase.  This program includes NOAA’s coastal lidar mapping program, the National Geodetic Survey, and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (at $37.5 million, $10.6 million more than the request).  In other NOS activities the Committee emphasized priority support for Harmful Algal Bloom research.  The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) program, which had been proposed for termination was instead funded at $27 million; and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas program is funded at $57.5 million, $7.8 million over the request.  The Committee did not provide any funding for the Title IX fund for Coastal Resilience Grants.  In FY 2018 the Coastal Resilience Grants program received $30 million.

In NOAA Fisheries, the Committee maintained funding for the marine mammal stranding program (Prescott grants), added $18.5 million to the request for Enforcement which is where significant Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) activities are carried out by NOAA, and funded aquaculture at $15 million which is $5.7 million more than the request and level with last year.  The Committee also provide NOAA Fisheries with $10 million for additional Red Snapper management activities.

For NOAA Research (OAR), the Committee is providing $462 million for OAR operations and research.  This includes a nearly 40% reduction in climate research. Rejecting the Administration’s proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program, the Committee instead provided $80 million for Sea Grant (including $11.5 million for Sea Grant aquaculture).  The Committee also provided $48 million for ocean exploration or nearly $30 million more than the request.  Overall support for oceans, coastal and Great Lakes research is funded at $220 million which is $126.9 million more than the Administration requested and $14 million more than the comparable level for FY 2018.

For the National Weather Service, the Committee provides just over $1 billion for NWS operations which is $80 million more than the Administration’s request.  The Committee urged NWS to move expeditiously in its hiring of additional staff in FY 2019; restores funding for the National Mesonet Program at $14.5 million; and does not adopt the proposed decreases for numerical weather prediction modeling, the national water model, or Operations and Workforce Analysis testing and evaluation.

Finally, the Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate all NOAA education programs and instead provided $28.5 million for BWET regional programs, the Education Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, and NOAA’s Education Program Base.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $21.5 billion, $810 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding includes: $5.1 billion for Deep Space Exploration Systems – $294 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level; funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems; and $6.7 billion for NASA Science programs – $459 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. The bill funds the requested amounts for robotic and human exploration of the moon, including $504.2 million for the lunar orbital platform; $116.5 million for advanced lunar and surface capabilities; $218 million for planetary science, including rovers and science instruments; and $150 million for commercial low-earth orbit development. Funding for NASA Science Programs recommended by the Committee includes:

  • Earth Science would receive $1.9 billion or $21 million less than FY2018, but $116 million more than requested.  The report does not specifically address the Administration’s proposal to terminate four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, CLARREO-Pathfinder, and the Earth facing instruments on DSCOVR). 
  • Planetary Science is funded at $2.8 billion, $539 million more than FY2018 and $523.5 million more than requested.  It more than doubles the amount for Europa Clipper compared to the request ($545 million instead of $265 million) and adds $195 million for a Europa lander.  It also specifies $210 million for developing technology for planetary missions, including $35 million for icy satellites surface technology, $10 million for the Mars helicopter for the Mars 2020 mission (which itself is funded at $650 million), and $81 million (as requested) for production of plutonium-238 for use in radioisotope power sources for planetary missions.
  • Astrophysics is slated to receive $1 billion.  Within that, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) would be funded at $150 million, the same as FY2018.  The Administration wants to terminate the project. The report specifies that NASA continue development of the coronagraph as a technology demonstration and allocates $20 million for the Starshade technology demonstration.  Separately it includes $10 million to search for “technosignatures,” such as radio transmissions, in partnership with the private sector and philanthropic organizations.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope would remain in a separate line item, not combined with the rest of astrophysics as requested, in order to “ensure visibility” as the project addresses a probable breach of its $8 billion cost cap.  It calls the recently announced schedule slips “an enormous disappointment.” JWST would get $304.6 million, the same as the request.
  • Heliophysics would receive $688.5 million, which is $2 million less than the request and the same as FY2018.

In a letter dated May 16, OMB called out the Committee’s funding of NSF and NOAA education programs as “not in line with the overall restraint in non-Defense spending reflected in the FY 2019 Budget request…”

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science is scheduled to mark up its version of this bill during the week of June 11.

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY19 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill; Administration Opposes Committee’s Recommendations for Science and ARPA-E -- On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The legislation provides annual funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, various programs under the Department of Energy (DOE), and other related agencies.  The bill totals $44.7 billion – $1.5 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $8.17 billion above the President’s budget request. Funding is targeted toward national security efforts – including nuclear weapons activities – and energy and water infrastructure investments.  

Funding for energy programs within DOE is $13.4 billion – an increase of $504 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This 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, which will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs, are funded at $785 million – $58 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $1.2 billion – $128 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. Energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are cut by $243 million compared to fiscal year 2018.  The bill includes $6.6 billion for science research – an increase of $340 million above the 2018 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources. These investments lay the groundwork for a more secure energy future, helping to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and ensuring continued economic growth.  The bill also rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate the ARPA-E program.  Instead, the Committee recommends $325 million for ARPA-E in FY 2019.

The Administration released a letter commenting on the House Energy and Water Bill.  In that letter, the Administration commented on both the increased funding for the Office of Science and funding for ARPA-E.  On the Office of Science, the Administration said, “The Administration appreciates the Subcommittee’s support for prioritizing basic research but does not support funding in excess of the requested level.”  With respect to ARPA-E, the Administration says, “…The Administration is disappointed that the bill does not eliminate ARPA-E. The Committee is encouraged to explore options to incorporate certain ARPA-E attributes, such as cross-cutting research coordination and enhanced flexibility, into the Department of Energy's primary research efforts within the Office of Science and Applied Energy Research Programs rather than maintain a separate program through ARPA-E.