FY 2007 Department of Commerce Appropriations (3-21-07)

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The primary interest for the geoscience community in the Department of Commerce appropriations is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

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.

Founded in 1901, NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration. NIST's mission is to develop and promote measurement, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. NIST carries out its mission in four cooperative programs including the NIST Laboratories, the Baldrige National Quality Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the the Advanced Technology Program. NIST is also the lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Department of Commerce Appropriations Process

Account

FY06 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)

Department of Commerce (total)

6,410.1 6,149.0 5,950.0 NA 5,950.0

NOAA (total)

3,911.5 3,684.1 3,390.2 NA 3,390

National Weather Service

848.2 881.9 885 NA 848

National Ocean Service

590.5 413.1 315.1 NA 315

Oceanic & Atmospheric Research

379.6 348.7 338.9 NA 338

-- Climate Research

177.3 181.2 184.0 NA 177

Education Programs

18.3 19.3 26.5 NA 18

NIST (total)

752.0 586.3 627 NA 627

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)

0 2 0 NA 0

* Continuing Resolution numbers are approximate and may change.

President's Request for FY 2007

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On February 9th, Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher presented the fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that totals $3.7 billion, a 5.8% decrease from last year's allocation. Most major divisions are slated for a decrease with the exception of the National Weather Service that would receive $881.9 million a 4% increase and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service that would receive $1 billion, a 8.6% increase. The National Ocean Service would receive a total of $413.1 million, a 30% decrease from last year's funding level, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would receive $348.7 million, an 8.2% decrease. The NOAA budget reports its Line Office funding split between the Operations, Research and Facilities (ORF) account, which supports most of the research activities at the agency, and the Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC) account, which supports some research in areas such as supercomputing and the development of a national tsunami warning system.

Within the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) the PAC account is slated for an increase of 10.8% for a total of $10.4 million that will be used primarily for supercomputing research for the Climate Change Computing Initiative. Other activities in OAR are supported by the ORF account that would be decreased by 8.6% overall for a total of $338.3 million. Climate Research, one of the four themes in the OAR request, would total $181.2 million, a 6.8% increase from last year. This amount includes $125.7 million for the Competitive Research Program that includes activities such as drought impact research to support the National Integrated Drought Information System and a new climate reanalysis datasets to improve operational climate prediction. In addition, within the Competitive Research Program funding for the Integrated Ocean Observing System would increase by $6.1 million to continue to build and maintain the Global Ocean Observing System. This amount, according to the budget document, will allow for the completion of 59% of the planned system and will keep the program on track for completion in 2010. The requested $6.3 million for Climate Data and Information is more than double last year's allocation and funds programs such as the Climate Reference Network and the Global Climate Observing System. The Weather and Air Quality Research request is $41.2 million, a 39% decrease. This account includes $38.2 million for laboratories and cooperative research and $3 million for the Tornado/Severe Storm Research (Phased-Array Radar). The OAR budget also includes $103 million for Ocean, Coastal and Great Lake Research, an 18.7% decrease, that supports the National Sea Grant College Program ($54.8 million), the National Undersea Research Program ($9.2 million), and Ocean Exploration ($15.1 million). Funding for Information Technology, Research and Development and Science Education would more than double for a total of $12.9 million that will focus primarily on high performance computing for improved forecasts.

The Office of National Ocean Service (NOS) requested $394.5 million, a 20% decrease from last year's funding level. Activities related to Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment would receive $126.4 million (-40%) that funds the Ocean Assessment account ($54.7 million), the Reponses and Restoration account ($24.7 million), and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science ($47 million). Funding for the Ocean and Coastal Management activities would total $127.9 million and includes $66.1 million for Coastal Zone Management grants. Also within NOS is $24.3 million, a 23.5% decrease, for the Geodesy program.

The National Weather Service requested $881.9 million, which includes $98.4 million from the PAC account for system acquisition and construction. The remaining funds are focused on operation and research programs. Funding for Local Warning and Forecasts would total $28.7 million and includes a range of activities: weather data buoys, strengthening the U.S. tsunami warning program, transferring the Wind Profilers from research to operations, expand efforts to improve aviation weather services, support of the Air Quality Forecasting Program, support for the Space Environment Center, support for the U.S. Weather Research Program, and continued implementation of the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Services.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) would receive $1033.9 million, of which more than half comes from the PAC account. This $884.3 million includes $439.6 million for the Geostationary System (GOES), $89.9 million for the Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite Systems (POES), and $337.9 million for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS). The ORF funding for NESDIS would total $149.6 million, a 15.8% decrease from last year's allocation. This decrease in part reflects the agency's attempt to reduce the operational support for non-NOAA satellites. The request includes a $0.7 million for Coral Reef Monitoring. NOAA's Data Centers and Information Services requested $51.9 million, a 26.9% decrease from last year's allocation.

The NOAA budget documents are available at http://www.ofa.noaa.gov/%7Enbo/07bluebook_highlights.html

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Overall NIST would see a significant reduction in its overall budget from $752 million in FY 2006 to $586 million in FY 2007. The Scientific and Technical Research and Services would see an increase from $397 million in FY 2006 to $472 million in FY 2007, while the Industrial Technology Services would see a decrease from $176 million to $46 million. Construction of Research Facilities would also see a large decrease from $174 million to $68 million in FY 2007.

In 2004 President Bush signed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) reauthorization (P.L. 108-360). This legislation reauthorized NEHRP for another five years and authorized $176.5 million dollars in spending spread over four agencies (NIST, FEMA, USGS and NSF). As the lead agency, NIST was eligible to receive $8 million in FY 2004, $10 million in FY 2005 and $13 million in FY 2006, however, NIST has not received any funding in these years and the program remains without coordinated leadership. For FY 2007, the President's request calls for $2 million for earthquakes, wind hazards, wildfires at the urban interface and complex systems-multihazards analysis at NIST. About 70% of these funds will be for NEHRP and wind hazards.

House Action

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On June 29, the House completed its work on the fiscal year 2007 spending bill for the Department of Commerce (H.R. 5672), which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Below are highlights from the accompanying report (H. Rept. 109-520) to the House bill for geoscience-related programs in NOAA. Total funding for the agency would total $3,390.2 million, which is 8% less than the President's request and a 13% reduction from last year's funding level. The NOAA budget is reported along two general types of funds within the discretionary request that goes to Congress: the Operations, Research, and Facilities (ORF) account and the Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC) account.

Funding for the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) office would total $328.5 million from the ORF account, which is $9.8 million less than the request, and would receive the requested $10.4 million from the PAC account that supports supercomputing for climate change modeling. The National Sea Grant College Program would receive $52 million, and the Weather and Air Quality Research program would receive its requested $41 million. The ORF account includes $184 million for Climate Research programs, and the report language provides additional comments on the climate change research:

"The recommendation includes $130,000,000 for a consolidated competitive climate research program for the Climate Program Office, an increase of $4,288,000 above the request. Within this amount, the Committee encourages NOAA to implement a new competitive national program for partnerships in coastal and ocean observing. This funding will focus on creating a federation of regional observing systems to accelerate the achievement of an integrated ocean observing system. Within the amount available under OAR, the Committee encourages NOAA to continue Arctic research activities and support planning activities related to the upcoming International Polar Year."

The National Ocean Service (NOS) office would receive $315.1 million from the ORF account, a decrease of $79 million from the request. The report does not include any of the requested $12.7 million in PAC funding for NOS. Within the funding provided to NOS, $112.3 million would be for base Navigation Services activities and $22 million would be for Geodesy programs.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office would receive $781.9 million from the ORF account and $100.4 million from the PAC account, for a total of $882.3 million, which is $0.6 million less than the request for NWS. During the House floor debate an amendment was offered by Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to increase funding for the NWS by $2.7 million and that amendment was approved bringing the total funding to $885 million. Within the ORF account for NWS, the House recommends that $20.4 million for Local Warnings and Forecasts, which includes funding for the U.S. tsunami warning network. The report continues by stating:

"The recommendation for Local Warnings and Forecasts also includes $5,000,000 for the Space Environment Center; continues funding for Alaska tsunami warning observations and the hurricane mitigation cooperative research initiative; and continues funding for air quality forecasting programs including $1,750,000 to establish air quality and meteorological monitoring equipment throughout the Shenandoah Valley and utilize computer modeling software and data processing hardware to gather, analyze and disseminate real-time and predictive information to local decision makers, research programs, and the general public. Within the amount provided for Advanced Hydrological Prediction Services, the Committee expects that NOAA will continue to support critical upgrades to the Susquehanna River Flood Forecasting and Warning System.

The Committee notes that, of the approximately 500 coastal communities determined to be at high risk of tsunami, only 25 communities have been recognized by NWS as TsunamiReady. The Committee expects NOAA to evaluate the TsunamiReady program to determine why participation is low, and make any necessary corrections to eliminate barriers to participation. The Committee expects NOAA to continue to work with each at-risk coastal community to ensure that emergency officials understand potential tsunami hazards and are prepared to take necessary actions. In addition, the Committee directs NOAA to develop comprehensive risk based strategic plans for all tsunami programs, including metrics for measuring progress toward achieving program goals."

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) office would receive $145.3 million from the ORF account and the requested $884.3 million from the PAC account. This funding level would be $4.3 million less than the budget request. Within the allocated amount, the House recommends that $113.4 million be used for the next generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) and that $20.3 million be used for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS). The committee comments that the recommendation to fully fund the NPOESS request "does not constitute an endorsement of future funding requests for the full costs of a reconstituted NPOESS program."

The House would provide about $26.5 million for education programs and the House report requests the following uses for the education funds:

"The recommendation for Education Programs consolidates funding for a number of continuing activities and a general education fund. The Committee expects that this funding level will support the following activities: JASON; continuing bay and watershed education programs; Chesapeake Bay interpretive buoys; Education Partnership Program/Minority Serving Institutions; education activities related to ocean exploration and undersea research; and the Virginia Science and Engineering Outreach program. In addition, the recommendation includes language, as requested, regarding two NOAA educational scholarship programs. The Committee expects that these two continuing programs will be funded from the amount provided for Education Programs."

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The House recommended a total budget of $627 million for NIST, about $41 million more than the President's request. The appropriations would provide an additional $72 million to support the American Competitiveness Initiative and the House report recommended these funds be distributed in the following manner:

"In addition, the Committee recommendation includes new investments of $72,000,000 to support the American Competitiveness Initiative, focusing on physical science research and standards development that will foster innovation. Specifically, funding is recommended for the following activities: (1) enhancing NIST's national research facilities (+$30,000,000), including support for the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Center for Neutron Research; (2) furthering the work of NIST's laboratories and technical programs (+$28,000,000), including support for developing a robust hydrogen economy to reduce the Nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy, creating manufacturing innovation through supply chain integration, building the infrastructure for innovation through quantum information science developments, furthering structural safety from hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes, and developing next generation materials; and (3) opening markets for American workers and exporters through development of international standards and innovation (+$14,000,000), including support for developments in measurement science and enhancements in bioimaging, cybersecurity, and biometric identification technologies."

NIST is the lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and some of the new $28 million for NIST technical programs would probably be given to run this program. The House did not specify a particular funding level for NEHRP at this time.

Full text of the appropriations bill (H.R. 5672) and the committee report (House Report. 109-520) can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.

The Science, State, Justice and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Representative Wolf (R-VA). Other members include Reps. Taylor (R-NC), Kirk (R-IL), Weldon (R-FL), Goode (R-VA), LaHood (R-IL), Culberson (R-TX), Alexander (R-LA), Mollohan (D-WV), Serrano (D-NY), Cramer (D-AL), Kennedy (D-RI) and Fattah (D-PA).

Senate Action

The Senate did not complete action on the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2007 before the 109th Congress adjourned on December 15, 2006. Instead Congress passed four continuing resolutions to keep the agencies affected by this bill running on either fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved funding levels, whichever was the lower amount of the two. See the continuing resolution action below for more details on how the fiscal year 2007 budget was eventually finished by the 110th Congress.

The United States Senate considers funding for the Department of Commerce in the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Gregg (R-NH), other members include Sens. Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Inouye (D-HI), Mikulski (D-MD), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI) and Murray (D-WA).

Continuing Resolution Action

The 110th Congress Finishes the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The Senate passed a year-long continuing resolution for the 9 unfinished appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 (H.J. Res. 20) on February 14, 2007 without any significant changes to the House version of this continuing resolution (see below). The President signed the bill into law (Public Law 110-5) on February 15, 2007. All federal agencies, except the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, will have their budgets defined by this continuing resolution through September 30, 2007. Departments with potential unstipulated funds have 30 days to inform Congress how they will distribute these funds.

House Passes Fourth Continuing Resolution with Some Increases for Science and Education

Even though the President released his fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th, Congress still has to finish work on the budget for fiscal year 2007. The nascent 110th Congress decided in January to consider passing another continuing resolution for the full year rather than try to pass 9 separate appropriation bills leftover from the 109th Congress.

On January 30th, the House passed a new continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 20) that would fund most of the government at the lowest of two possible levels either the fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved levels. The resolution worked out jointly by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV) added some adjustments that would increase funding for some research and education. The resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks and hopes to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process is put in place.

The adjustments would include a proposed 6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for the National Science Foundation, so the agency would receive an increase of $335 million for a total budget of $5,916.2 million and $4,665.95 million would be allocated for Research and Related Activities, a 7.7 percent increase for that account. The Office of Science in the Department of Energy would receive a 5.6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for a total budget of $3,796.4 million. The Office would see a $200 million increase plus $130 million of previously earmarked funds that can be re-allocated for other purposes. Also within the Department of Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources program would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million to accelerate research and development activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

No adjustments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were included in the joint resolution, so NOAA and NASA would have flat budgets. However, some funds for research and development would be available because earmarks would be eliminated. In addition, the resolution specifies funding levels for NASA's science mission as follows: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $10 billion, of which $5.2 billion would be for science, $890 million would be for aeronautics research and $3.4 billion would be for exploration systems.

The U. S. Geological Survey would receive $977.6 million, which includes a restoration of the President's requested cut to the Mineral Resources Program (about a $22 million increase) and a small increase over the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Smithsonian Institution would receive $533 million, a decrease compared to a budget of $618 million for fiscal year 2006. Congress did specify, however, that the Smithsonian would not be required to fund a specific grant for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers or the reopening of the Patent Office Building. This may free up some funds for research, infrastructure and fixed costs.

The resolution also would include increases for Pell Grants for undergraduate education, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in every state, for parks and other lands to cover budget shortfalls and for the Forest Service/Wildland fire management account to meet shortfalls caused by the intense 2006 wildfire season.

The legislation now must be considered by the Senate and then if necessary voted on again by both chambers. If the legislation passes, it would then need to be signed by the President. The current continuing resolution expires on February 15th, so Congress does not have much time left. If Congress is unable to pass this legislation or some amended resolution, the government will shut down the day after Valentine's Day.

More information about the federal research and development budget for fiscal year 2007 is available at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

New 110th Congress Considers Fiscal Year 2007 Budget

The 110th Congress, which started their first session on January 4, 2007, has indicated that they plan to extend the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the 109th Congress for the full year, rather than trying to work out a new budget for the 9 unfinished bills. This means that the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have started FY 2007 without the potential budget increases proposed by the President and the previous Congress. The 109th Congress had supported the President's American Competitiveness Initiative by increasing funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by 15 percent, the National Science Foundation by almost 8 percent and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories by 21 percent in appropriations work.

These proposed increases will be lost if the CR is extended for a full year. The 110th Congress has indicated that it might consider "limited adjustments" to some appropriations when they bring forward a new CR that will be extended until September 30, 2007. Adjustments might include bringing all programs to at least their FY 2006 funding levels to avoid some of the steep cuts proposed by the House or Senate or providing specific funding increases for some specific programs.

If the CR is extended for a full year without any adjustments, here is how federal agencies that support Earth science research and development would be affected. The National Science Foundation would see a reduction in funding of about $439 million and this reduction would translate into a loss of about 800 new research grants for FY 2007. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be funded at the House-proposed level of $3.4 billion, which is $288 million below the President's request, almost $1 billion below the Senate-proposed level and more than $500 million below the FY 2006 budget. Such a significant reduction for NOAA would impede progress for core programs, such as the National Weather Service functions and stifle the development of new programs, such as the National Water Quality Monitoring Network, a national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the implementation of the recently updated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive almost the same funding as they received in FY 2006 with no significant increases or decreases to research and development funding.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a useful summary of the affect of the CR on the FY 2007 budget for research and development (R&D) that is available online. The AAAS analysis concludes that the federal investment in basic and applied research funding will decrease for the third straight year, that the federal investment for development is increasing, and that the increases for research and development will go primarily to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense research and development budget for FY 2007 is a record-breaking $76.8 billion, thanks to a 4.8 percent increase (about $3.5 billion). The Department of Homeland Security research and development funding will be slashed by 22 percent, giving them a FY 2007 budget of about $1.0 billion.

Please see the American Association for the Advancement of Science, R&D Budget and Policy Program for more details on the federal budget for R&D.

Third Continuing Resolution: December 8, 2006 to February 15, 2007

The 109th Congress returned from the mid-term election recess and was unable to complete any of the unfinished appropriation bills. Only the appropriations for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security were finished in September and only these large departments started fiscal year 2007 on October 1, 2006 with new budgets. Before turning out the lights, Congress did pass another continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 102) through February 15, 2007. The continuing resolution (CR) means that all of the other federal agencies will be funded at the lowest funding level of three options, the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House approved FY 2007 budget or the Senate committee approved FY 2007 budget.

One quirk of the current CR is that congressionally-designated FY 2007 funding for specific projects (earmarks) are not specified, allowing the funds designated for these earmarks to be used for other projects. This gives federal agencies with earmarks some flexibility in transferring funds to alleviate shortfalls in core programs.

H.J. Res. 102 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

Second Continuing Resolution: November 17, 2006 to December 8, 2006

The 109th Congress was unable to reach any agreements or compromises on the 9 unfinished appropriations bills and passed a second continuing resolution to keep the government funded at some level before adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday.

H.J. Res.100 is available from Thomas, thomas.loc.gov

First Continuing Resolution: October 1, 2006 to November 17, 2006

The 109th Congress adjourned on September 29th with lots of work left to complete when they return after the mid-term elections for at least one lame duck session from November 13-17. The biggest task to complete is the fiscal year 2007 budget for much of the federal government. Congress is likely to try to combine many separate bills into one large appropriation bill called an omnibus and if this happens, then policymakers are also likely to try to balance budget priorities for such an omnibus by applying a small rescission (probably about 1%) across all programs. It is also possible that Congress will not be able complete their budget work in November and may return for an additional lame duck session in December.

Congress passed only two of 12 fiscal year 2007 appropriation bills - one for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one for the Department of Defense. The DHS appropriations bill contains a continuing resolution for the other appropriation bills that have not been completed. The resolution extends to November 17 and maintains the funding of all government agencies, except DHS and DOD, at the lower value of three possible levels: the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House-approved funding or the Senate committee approved funding. The House completed work on all 11 of their appropriation bills, however, the 12 Senate bills have not been considered by the full chamber and thus remain with their respective committees.

Appropriations Hearings

 

Sources: Department of Commerce, NOAA website and budget office, NIST website, and NEHRP Coalition documents .

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

Contributed by Margaret Anne Baker and Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last Update March 21, 2007