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FY 2004 Commerce, State, Justice and the Judiciary Appropriations -- NOAA (12-10-03)

The primary interest for the geoscience community in the Commerce, State, Justice and the Judiciary (CJSJ) Appropriations bill is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Formed by President Nixon on October 3, 1970 as a part of the Commerce Department, NOAA was established to, in Nixon's words, serve a national need "...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources..." Of particular interest to geoscientists is NOAA research conducted through the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), which is the driving force behind NOAA environmental products and services that protect life and property and promote sustainable economic growth.

Most Recent Action: On December 8th the House of Representatives approved the Consolidated Appropriations bill for FY04 by a vote of 242-176. Unable to chart the financial course the government will take next year by considering the thirteen appropriations bills one-by-one, Congress "wrapped" the seven outstanding bills together in a catchall legislative vehicle called an 'omnibus' bill. This bill, H.R. 2673, which includes funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has not yet been passed by the Senate. Instead, all departments and agencies covered in the $328 billion bill will be funded at FY03 levels through January 31, 2004. The Senate has tentatively scheduled their vote on this legislation for January 20, 2004 at 2:30 p.m.

FY 2004 CJSJ Appropriations Process

Account

FY03 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)
Reduced Conference Committee Action*
($million)

Department of Commerce (total)

5,800

5,820

5,260

6,274
6,000
5,965

NOAA (total)

3,170

3,300

3,050


3,779

3,700
3,678

National Weather Service

694

738

714

697
730
725

National Ocean Service

430

391

363

509
514
511

Oceanic & Atmospheric Research

372

366

306

394

401
398

-- Climate Research

165

185

159

163
N.S.
N.S.

*All conference report values are subject to a 0.59% across-the-board reduction. These numbers are not final until the House and Senate pass the FY2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill, H.R. 2673.

N.S. - Not Specified

President's Request for FY 2004

In the president's request, NOAA was slated to receive $3.3 billion for FY 2004, a 6% increase over last year's appropriation. Within NOAA, the majority of the research is managed by the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), which has requested a 2% increase to total $380 million. The National Ocean Service has requested $390 million (down 6%) and the National Weather Service requested $720 million (up 4%).

President Bush is restructuring the federal government's research portfolio for climate change. A major part of that restructuring is the Climate Change Research Initiative, or CCRI. According to budget documents, this initiative is "designed to understand complex climatic systems to improve predictions, and facilitate the effective use of scientific knowledge in policy and management decisions." Congress last year provided just under $18 million in base funding for CCRI, and this year's request jumped 75% to $31 million. Other programs within OAR support the initiative's goals but did not fare as well, for example carbon cycle research, for which $2 million is requested (a 46% decrease). Overall, climate research is up nearly 12% for a total of $185 million.

NOAA's budget documents are available at http://www.ofa.noaa.gov/~nbo/.

House Action

The House passed the $37.9 billion CJSJ appropriations bill on July 23rd. In its accompanying explanatory report, the Committee duly notes that it "supports NOAA's efforts to provide national and international leadership on critical environmental issues, and to address the environmental research and development needs of internal NOAA customers, States, industry, and other federal agencies." However, in light of budgetary limitations, the Committee requested that NOAA prioritize its research efforts and submit a laboratory consolidation plan for its twelve separate reserach laboratories, six of which are located in Boulder, CO, by March 15, 2004.

The National Weather Service fared better than other departments within NOAA, receiving a 2.7% increase over last year even though the FY04 proposed budget falls 3.2% short of the President's request. Other departments, including the National Ocean Service and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric research were cut by 15% and nearly 18%, respectively.

Despite the President's request for a budget boost for the agency, House budget cuts for NOAA totaled more than $100 million. Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) remarked shortly after the House passed the bill that most of the approximately $500 million cut in Commerce Department funding came from reductions in lower priority spending in NOAA.

Senate Action

The full Senate never passed S. 1585, the CJSJ appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill and the accompanying report, S. Rept. 108-144 on September 4th but the bill never made it to the Senate floor. Instead, it was added to the FY04 omnibus appropriations bill (see below).

The Committee took NOAA to task over several issues, most notably in a section titled, "Truth in Budgeting." The report states:
"NOAA covers the costs of certain central services through a system of internal `taxation'. The costs of other central services are covered through a payment to the Department of Commerce's Working Capital Fund. Rather than budget for these expenses, NOAA has always skimmed funds from program, project, and activity lines. Congressional supporters of NOAA have been understandably frustrated by these hidden taxes on essential programs. The Committee recommendation eliminates the taxation system by adding new lines under Program Support that totally fund central services. Henceforth, funding in program, project, and activity lines shall be available only for those programs, projects, and activities unless NOAA submits, and Congress approves, a reprogramming."

The Committee also stated, "As in past years, the Committee expects NOAA and the Department to adhere to the direction given in this section of the Committee report, particularly language regarding consultation with Congress, and to observe the reprogramming procedures detailed in section 605 in the general provisions of the accompanying bill. Unlike past years, however, the Committee intends to enforce congressional direction ruthlessly."

Unlike the House, the Senate did not cut any of NOAA's programs to satisfy budgetary needs elsewhere in the bill. Under the Senate's direction, NOAA received a $609 million boost over last year's funding level which translated to increases for the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service and Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR).

The National Weather Service received only a small increase over last year but was funded at $41 million less than the President's request. The National Ocean Service, on the other hand, received substantial increases. The Senate funded it at $509 million for FY04, a $79 million increase over last year and $118 million more than the President requested. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research program was provided with a $22 million increase over last year and $28 million more than the President requested. However, the Committee is clearly displeased with OAR. Under the section entitled "Tinkering," the Committee had this to say, "OAR is supposed to be conducting applied research that directly supports the operations of other NOAA line offices. Too often, however, OAR research appears disconnected from the immediate-, near-, and even medium-term needs of the rest of NOAA. The result is that the line offices have developed their own research programs in parallel with that of OAR. Budget pressures leave no room for `science projects', nor duplication of effort. The Committee suspects that the drift of research in unproductive directions is largely due to the artificial separation of OAR from the line offices it supports. NOAA is directed to report to the Committees on Appropriations on the costs and benefits of breaking OAR up into its constituent parts and distributing those parts as desirable to the other line offices. The report should specifically address how the newly configured research sector will directly assist line offices in developing timely solutions to problems confronting NOAA now and in the next 5 years."

In an odd effort to cut funding within NOAA, the Committee decided not to fund the Space Weather Center. Their reasoning was that "the `Atmospheric' in NOAA does not extend to the astral. Absolutely no funds are provided for solar observation. Such activities are rightly the bailiwick of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Air Force." (This action led to an oversight hearing by the House Science Committee. For information about that hearing, click here).

Conference Committee Action

On December 8th the House of Representatives approved the Consolidated Appropriations bill for FY04 by a vote of 242-176. Unable to chart the financial course the government will take next year by considering the thirteen appropriations bills one-by-one, Congress "wrapped" the seven outstanding bills together in a catchall legislative vehicle called an 'omnibus' bill. This bill, H.R. 2673, which includes funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has not yet been passed by the Senate. Instead, all departments and agencies covered in the $328 billion bill will be funded at FY03 levels through January 31, 2004. The Senate has tentatively scheduled their vote on this legislation for January 20, 2004 at 2:30 p.m.

In the report accompanying the bill, the Conference Committee detailed final spending perameters for NOAA in the coming year. Programs and projects that the House trimmed from NOAA's budget were restored and NOAA received a $400 million increase over the President's request and $530 million more than last year. The National Weather Service was granted an increase to $730 million for better weather forecasting. This is a 5% increase over last year but slightly less than the Administration's request. The National Ocean Service received a 16% increase over last year, which is a 24% increase over the President's request and nearly 30% more than the House had proposed. Despite the Senate's harsh words for OAR, the program also received an increase to $401 million, $29 million more than last year and $75 million more than the administration requested.

Sources: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, E&ENews Publications, Senate Committee on Appropriations, House Committee on Appropriations, Library of Congress, Washington Post, and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program staff

Last Update December 10, 2003

 

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