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FY 2009 Department of Commerce Appropriations (02-27-09)

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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) 2009 Department of Commerce Appropriations Process

Account

FY08 Enacted
($million)
*
House Action
($million)
*
Senate Action
($million)

Department of Commerce (total)

7,658.5

8,919.4
8,706.9
9,402.4
9,267.5

NOAA (total)

3,988.4 4,103.9
4,288.0
4,445.9
4,365.2

National Weather Service

911.4 930.7
825.8
953.4
847.9

National Ocean Service

536.1 488.2
472.2
556.2
498
National Environmental Satellite, Data, & Information Service 955.1 1,157.9
179.2***
177.9***
187.4

Oceanic & Atmospheric Research

398.1 382.6
396.3
419.0
396.7

-- Climate Research

192.8 195.5
203.5
213.7
194.5

Education Programs

34.1 16.5
20.5
48.7
32.3

NIST (total)

755.8 638.0
784.5
813.5
819

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)

1.7 3.3
3.3
3.3
not specified

*Numbers reflect funding levels recommended by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively and do not represent action taken by the full body of either chamber.
**Represents recommendation for Operations, Research, and Facilities account only and does not include procurement and acquisition.

**Numbers represent the approved Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105) in the 111th Congress from February 25, 2009. The full House has approved the bill and now the full Senate is now considering the omnibus.

President's Request for FY 2009

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
On February 7, 2008 Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher presented the President's fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The total request is for $4.1 billion, a 5.2% increase or $203 million above last year's enacted level.

According to Lautenbacher, "this budget allows us to continue making significant investment to protect life and property through improved weather and extreme event forecasting. By investing in climate monitoring, research and modeling we further solidify the U.S. as the world leader in climate science."

In alignment with the improved weather forecasting goals outlined by Lautenbacher, the National Weather Service, would receive $930.7 million a 2% increase, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, would receive $1.2 billion, a 21% increase, while the other major divisions are slated for a decrease. The National Ocean Service would receive a total of $488.2 million, a 9% decrease from last year's funding level, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would receive $382.6 million, a 4% decrease.

The increases proposed in the National Weather Service (NWS) would target the Local Warnings and Forecasts Base with an increase of $23 million above FY08 for a total of $601.9 million. Hurricane and Climate Support Operations, that include NOAA's 15 new hurricane detection buoys, and the Tropical Ocean Atmosphere Array (55 buoys), would increase by $5.3 million, and Hurricane Forecast Modeling would increase by $4.3 million.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) would get the largest boost for a total budget of $1.16 billion, an increase of $203 million above FY08 levels. Within NESDIS the Geostationary Satellite System (GOES-R Series) would increase by $242.2 million above FY08 for the development of GOES-R instruments. The Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite Systems (POES), the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems (NPOESS), and the Geostationary Satellite System (GOES-N Series) would all see planned decreases as the systems are either in the final stages of development or are scheduled for launch; POES is scheduled to launch in February 2009 and NPOESS is scheduled to launch in 2013.

The President requested $488.2 million for the National Ocean Service (NOS), a 50% decrease from last year's funding level. Activities related to Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment would receive $157 million, a drop of $26 million below FY08. Within this program the Ocean Assessment account would receive $86 million (a decrease of $20 million, compared to FY08), the Reponses and Restoration account would receive $22.5 million (a decrease of $2.8 million), and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science account would receive $48.6 million (a decrease of $2.9 million). Funding for the Ocean and Coastal Management activities would total $98.8 million and includes $66.1 million for Coastal Zone Management grants. Also within NOS is $25.4 million, a $3.1 million decrease, for the Geodesy program.

While funding for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) overall falls by $15.5 million the Climate Research program within the OAR sees a boost of $2.7 million above FY08 levels for a total of $195.5 million. The Competitive Research program, which includes the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), and the Climate Data and Information program within Climate Research are the big winners with increases of $4.6 and $8.3 million for program totals of $134.7 and $8.3 million, respectively. The losers within Climate Research would be the Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, which may drop $1.9 million for a total of $51.6 million, and Climate Observations and Services, Abrupt Climate Change Research, and Drought Research Study programs which would be zeroed out in the FY09 budget request.

The Weather and Air Quality Research program also within the OAR would increase by $5.5 million for a total of $57.6 million, while the Ocean, Coastal and Great Lake Research program would decline by $24.2 million for a total of $106.2 million. The potential loss in the Ocean, Coastal and Great Lake Research program would result specifically in decreases in the National Sea Grant College Program (a decrease of $2.1 million for a total of $55 million), and the Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lake Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes (a decrease of $2.2 million for a total of $20.8 million). Finally within the OAR, the Ocean Exploration and Research program, that now includes the National Undersea Research Program (NURP), would increase by $8.3 million above FY08 for a total of $27.8 million.

The NOAA budget documents are available at http://www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/~nbo/

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would see a decline in its overall budget from $756 million in FY08 to $638 million in FY09. Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said "I plan to seek detailed clarification from Commerce Secretary Gutierrez about proposed funding decreases for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In my view, such irresponsible cuts will hinder the Nation's capacity to generate robust economic growth."

However, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) within NIST would receive $6.26 million in the FY09 budget. Most of the proposed program funds, $5.55 million, would be slated for research and development, while the remaining funds would be utilized by NIST, the lead agency, in the management of the program. The NEHRP increase would be the result of the President's request of $3.3 million above the FY08 baseline level ($1.7million), plus the allocation of $1.5 million to NEHRP from a new Disaster Resilient Structures and Communities Initiative proposed by the Administration in the FY09 budget.

House Action

Omnibus Appropriations Considered by the 111th Congress
On February 25, 2009, the House quickly approved of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105), which would provide appropriations for most federal agencies for fiscal year 2009 (FY09). Currently most agencies are operating under a continuing resolution (CR) from the 110th Congress, which essentially sets budgets at FY08 levels. The CR expires on March 6, 2009, so Congress must either pass the omnibus or propose a new continuing resolution in order to avoid a shut down of the federal government. The quick action on the omnibus in the House means that the 111th Congress plans to pass an omnibus providing new appropriations for most federal agencies.

The House has sent the measure to the Senate, which will consider it during the first week of March. Significant changes are not expected as the House and Senate Appropriation Committees appear to have worked out differences left by the committees of the 110th Congress from 2008 before introducing H.R. 1105. The 111th Congress must work fast to compromise any remaining differences in order to get the bill to the President by March 6.

House of Representatives of 110th Congress Do Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The House was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

The House of Representatives considers funding for the Department of Commerce in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), DeLauro (D-CT), Price (D-NC), Obey (D-WI), Frelinghuysen (D-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Rogers (R-KY), Latham (D-IA), Aderholt (D-AL), and Lewis (D-CA).

Senate Action

Senate of the 110th Congress Does Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The Senate was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

The Senate considers funding for the Department of Commerce in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD, other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI), ), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), and Alexander (R-TN).

Conference Committee Action

 

Science Agencies Left Deflated as Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

On September 27th by a vote of 78-12, the Senate passed a continuing resolution, funding the majority of the government at fiscal year (FY) 2008 levels until March 6, 2009.  Senate action followed after the House passed the measure (H.R. 2638) on September 24th by a vote of 231-198. The continuing resolution package contains three FY 2009 spending bills – Defense funded at $488 billion, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs funded at $73 billion and Homeland Security funded at $40 billion - plus $23 billion in disaster relief funding.  The spending package also includes funding of $2.5 billion for the Pell Grant program, $75 billion for a domestic automakers and battery makers new technology loan program, and $5.1 billion for the low-income heating assistance program.

The continuation of FY 2008 spending levels for federal agencies which support the geosciences, means a significant decrease in real dollars for research relative to rising costs. There will be increasing competition for decreasing research funds, delays for some programs, deferments of new initiatives, uncertainties in budget planning, uncertainties in workforce levels (with potential layoffs) and fewer resources for education and training. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-Office of Science), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were slated to receive healthy increases to their bottom-line research budgets in FY 2009 thanks to the passage of the America COMPETES Act in 2007. COMPETES authorizes a doubling of these budgets over 7 to 10 years. Unfortunately the lack of follow through in the appropriations process and the snowballing economic crisis of the past month make these increases untenable.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will maintain a flat budget, however the CR did include funding for the 2010 U.S. Census, so the Department of Commerce is less likely to raid other agencies such as NOAA to cover the U.S. Census shortfall.

President Bush has indicated that he will sign the stopgap measure, funding the government past the end of his administration.  It is unclear how the next Congress will address spending for the remainder of FY 2009. While the next Congress and the next administration have the option to consider a different budget for FY 2009, the recent economic storm leaves any prediction on future appropriations very murky.

More details about the research budgets of specific science agencies in the CR is available from AAAS.

Appropriations Hearings

House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration FY 2009 Budget
April 10, 2009

Witnesses
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Committee Members Present
Chairman Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)
Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI)
Michael Honda (D-CA)
Ranking Member Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

On April 10, the House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chairman Alan Mollohan (D-WV) began the hearing by congratulating NOAA scientists who received the Nobel Peace Prize for their participation in the Intergovernmental Panel report on Climate Change. While Mollohan expressed his pleasure that the administration requested an increase in NOAA’s budget for FY 2009, he noted his concern that the increase was not spread evenly across agency programs and that the increase was not enough to overcome the historically flat funding received by the agency as well as the flat funding levels planned over the next five years.

Ranking member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) also seemed pleased with the increase requested by the administration, highlighting investments in the administration’s Ocean Initiative, and stating his interest in hearing about the current state of NOAA’s satellite programs, which would get the largest boost in FY 2009, increasing by $203 million over FY 2008 enacted levels.

Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, NOAA’s administrator was the sole hearing witness. Lautenbacher began his testimony by highlighting the accomplishments of NOAA in 2007, including the receipt of the Nobel Prize by NOAA scientists, progress on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-series (GOES-R), implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the expansion of tsunami preparedness by the U.S.

Lautenbacher noted that the FY 2009 request “includes the level of resources necessary to carry out NOAA’s mission,” and that “we have focused our increases on satellite continuity and operations and maintenance support for our aircraft and NOAA vessels.”

Mollohan’s initial questions to Admiral Lautenbacher focused on the agency’s ability to fulfill its entire mission and congressional mandates with the proposed budget request. Lautenbacher responded that the agency has to prioritize its budget and that while he does not know how much it would cost NOAA to fulfill its entire mission he believed the number would be substantially higher than what is budgeted each year.

Frelinghuysen focused his questions on the status of NOAA’s satellites, requesting an update of GOES-R and international negotiations to maintain U.S. Earth observation data.  Lautenbacher stated that substantial progress had been made with our international partners at the recent summit in South Africa. China and Brazil agreed to share data from satellites that are similar to Landsat.  Lautenbacher also discussed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for acquisition and management of GOES-R. Under the MOU the agencies’ roles have been clarified with the NOAA administrator controlling milestone authority.  GOES-R completed a milestone in 2007 with the contracting of the main instrument, the advanced baseline imager, but despite progress the launch of GOES-R will be delayed by four months due to shortfalls in the FY 2008 enacted budget.

Lautenbacher stated that if the launch dates of the satellites can be maintained there will be continuity in the data and that his concerns regarding data continuity arise with the launch of the GOES P-series, indicating if the launch is beyond 2011 then there will be problems.

A portion of the hearing was dedicated to Lautenbacher’s knowledge or input in the Commerce Department’s decision to transfer $27 million from NOAA’s FY 2008 budget to the 2010 census program.  Lautenbacher stated that this decision was made above him and that he was not consulted regarding the impacts the transfer would have on his agency. Mismanagement by the Census Bureau and the contractor, Harris Corporation, has resulted in an estimated shortfall of $160 to $230 million in FY 2008 and an additional $600 to $700 million is needed in the FY 2009 for the completion of the constitutionally mandated census.  The large amount of money needed to keep the 2010 census on track may strain the budgets of other agencies within the Commerce Department, including NOAA and NIST.

-MEG

line

House Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation of the hearing on “NIST’s FY 2009 Budget Request: What Are the Right Technology Investments to Promote U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness? “
March 11, 2008

Witnesses
Dr. James Turner, Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Dr. James Serum, Chairman, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology
Dr. Mary Good, Founding Dean, George W. Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR
Dr. Peter Fiske, Vice President for Research and Development, PAX Scientific, Inc.
Mr. Michael Coast, President, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center and
Chairman of the Board, American Small Manufacturers Coalition

Members Present
Chairman David Wu (D-OR)
Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)

Dr. Turner, the acting director for NIST, testified that the agency would receive a 22 percent increase for core research in the President’s budget request compared to enacted funding in fiscal year (FY) 2008. The increase is consistent with the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), which calls for a doubling of research funding at NIST over 10 years. The budget proposal includes 17 initiatives, of which 5 are new. Under the most urgent environment, safety and security concerns, Turner included Climate Change Science: Measurements and Standards, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the Disaster Resilient Structures and Communities initiatives. All three are high priorities and involve geoscience and geo-engineering research. Turner’s written testimony also mentions some tough times for NIST because the FY2008 budget was well below the requested level. In particular NIST faces a budget shortfall of $13.5 million for salary and other anticipated costs and $15 million for facilities. These shortfalls will require NIST to slow down new hires and facility maintenance and repair.

While the budget request for NIST includes an essential increase for research, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP with $89 million in FY2008) and the Technology Innovation Program (TIP, with $65 million in FY2008) would be essentially zeroed out in the President’s budget request for FY 2009. Chairman Wu noted in his written remarks “The COMPETES Act clearly established Congressional priorities for NIST.  However, the budget request this year largely ignores any of Congress’ input.  The request is 28 percent lower than NIST’s FY09 authorization.  In fact, NIST is the only science agency included in COMPETES whose budget request is actually lower this year than last year.” Specifically the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110-69) calls for funding for MEP and TIP, which are not included in the request.

In addition, the America COMPETES Act required NIST to deliver a 3-year programmatic planning document (reviewed by the NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology) to Congress at the time of the submission of the President’s budget. NIST delivered the document in February 2008, however, Chairman Wu indicated that the document falls short of its mandate because it leaves out some programs and does not lay out a strategic plan that is suitable for the competitive challenges of the 21st century.

The second witness, Dr. Serum, the chair of the NIST VCAT, agreed with Chairman Wu’s concerns about the plan. He suggested NIST was “dramatically underfunded” and that the committee has consistently called for a more effective strategic plan. There are about 700 measurements needed right now across many industries and NIST needs a “visible” process for setting priorities about which measurements to complete first. Dr. Serum also noted the importance of “ad hoc” studies, such as the World Trade Center Disaster, but cautioned that care was needed to manage external influences. He also noted the proactive partnerships between NIST and other agencies and specifically highlighted the Hollings Marine Laboratory in South Carolina run in partnership with NOAA as a good example.

The other three witnesses focused most of their oral comments on the termination of MEP and TIP and called on Congress to re-instate funding for these programs. Chairman Wu and Representative Ehlers seemed very supportive of MEP and TIP. Both programs were authorized for more than $100 million each for FY 2009 in the America COMPETES Act and Chairman Wu went as far as to suggest that the Administration “obey the law” when it comes to funding for these programs.

-LR

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

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

Prepared by Linda Rowan and Marcy Gallo, AGI Government Affairs Staff.

Last Update October 6, 2008.

 

 

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