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FY11 DOC Appropriations

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FY 2011 Department of Commerce Appropriations (1/13/11)

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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). For more background information on the Department of Commerce, NOAA, and NIST, visit the AGI Federal Agencies policy page.

For analysis of hearings held by the House and the Senate on NOAA and NIST appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Department of Commerce Appropriations Process


FY10 Enacted
House Action
Senate Action

NOAA (total)

4,748 5,554      

National Weather Service

1,000 1,003      

National Ocean Service

579 551      
National Environmental Satellite, Data, & Information Service 1,399 2,209      

Oceanic & Atmospheric Research

449 465      

Education Programs

55 21      

NIST (total)

856.6 918.9      

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)

3.6 4.1      
*Neither House nor Senate appropriations bills concerning the Department of Commerce were passed in the 111th Congress, and a continuing resolution has kept budgets at FY 2010 levels through March 2011.

 Continuing Resolution Holds 2011 Budget at 2010 Levels

Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 3082) and the President signed the measure into law on December 21, 2010. The measure keeps the federal government operating at 2010 funding levels until March 4, 2011. Discretionary spending would be about $1.16 billion more than 2010 levels, with most of the increase for the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Nuclear Security Administration (related to the implementation of the ratified START Treaty). The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (formerly the Minerals Management Service) will receive an additional $23 million for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico, but the increase is offset by a rescission of unobligated balances. Federal civilian employee salaries will be frozen for two years under the continuing resolution.

The 112th Congress will need to consider the FY 2011 budget as soon as the new session begins on January 5 and will need to balance their considerations with appropriations for FY 2012. Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has suggested that discretionary spending for FY2011 be cut by about $100 billion to FY 2008 levels, however, many legislators have publicly stated that such cuts are unlikely to gain passage.

The Senate had initiated FY 2011 omnibus appropriations with a target of $1.108 trillion for total spending as proposed by the McCain-McCaskill cap amendment. This level was $29 billion below the President's FY 2011 budget request. Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies would have received about $58 billion ($6.4 billion less than FY 2010), Energy and Water Development would have received $34.5 billion ($1.05 billion less than FY 2010) and Interior, Environment and Related Agencies would have reeceived $32.2 billion (equal to FY 2010). The omnibus negotiations template may serve as a blueprint for any potential omnibus for FY 2011 appropriations in the 112th Congress. A full year continuing resolution for FY 2011 is also a strong possibility.

President's Request for FY 2011

Dr. Jane Lubchenco summarized the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2011 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lubchenco, in her first year as the NOAA Administrator, started with a vision for NOAA, “An informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the oceans, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions.”

The President’s request would increase the budget of NOAA by $806 million for a total budget of $5,554 million. Lubchenco noted some of the increase was for advancing the science mission, especially the Arctic sciences and for strengthening climate research and services. Oceans and Coasts would receive $551 million, a decrease of $29 million, Fisheries would receive $992 million, a decrease of $26 million, Research and Climate would receive $465 million, an increase of $16 million, Weather would receive $1,003 million, an increase of  $3 million, Satellites would receive $2,209 million, a large increase of $911 million and Program Support would receive $515 million, an increase of $29 million.

Within Oceans and Coasts, two new initiatives would receive funding for the first time:  Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning would get $6.8 million and Regional Ocean Partnership Grants would get $20 million. The coastal and marine spatial planning would be conducted in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey. In Research and Climate, Lubchenco highlighted investments in Ocean Acidification of $12 million (+$6 million) and Climate Assessment Services, a new initiative would receive $10 million in new investments.

The biggest changes to the NOAA budget and organization would be in the Satellites program. Not only would Satellites get the largest increase for a total budget of $2,209 million, but the name and organization of NPOESS would change. NPOESS would be renamed the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and would receive a budget of $1,100 million (+$678 million). NOAA would only be responsible for the civilian satellite procurements and the military would be responsible for military satellite procurements. NOAA and the military would share the same ground system for the satellite. NOAA would be responsible for the afternoon orbit, while the military would be responsible for the early morning orbit. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would lead the acquisition for NOAA satellites. The stated purpose of the changes is to preserve critical operational weather and climate observations into the future. NOAA hopes the reorganization will help the satellite system progress without further significant delays or cost overruns.

According to Lubchenco NOAA annually provides 76 billion observations, 1.5 million forecasts and 50,000 warnings. Other satellites with increases highlighted in the budget presentation, included JASON-3 with a request of $50 million (+$30 million) and Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) with a request of $9.5 million, a new investment for NOAA.

Lubchenco included a slide with highlights of stimulus funding at NOAA. Of particular interest to the geoscience community are the following stimulus investments: $170 million for Climate Computing and Modeling, $74 million for Satellite Development and $40 million for Hydrographic Surveys.

Overall the President’s budget request would provide a needed boost for NOAA and help them move critical satellite systems forward. Now it will be up to Congress to determine NOAA’s budget and decide on priorities for the agency. NOAA does not have an organic act and Congress seems unlikely to consider such legislation within an extremely busy second session. NOAA, within weeks of the budget release, initiated a Climate Services Portal that has not been specifically mandated by Congress and the appropriations process may be the key place where Congress will express their support or opposition to a new Climate Services initiative within NOAA.

For more details about the NOAA FY2011 budget please visit the NOAA Budget website

For more details about the NIST FY11 budget, please visit the NIST budget website.

House Action


The House of Representatives considers funding for NOAA and NIST in the subcommitte for Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Serrano (D-NY), Murphy (D-PA), Obey (D-WI) (ex officio), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Aderholt (R-AL), and Lewis (R-CA) (ex officio).

Senate Action


The Senate considers funding for NOAA and NIST in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI) (ex officio), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Ranking Member Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Alexander (R-TN), Voinovich (R-OH) and Murkowski (R-AK).

Conference Committee Action


Appropriations Hearings

  • March 17, 2010: House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Sciece Hearing on FY 2011 NOAA Budget
  • March 3, 2010: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Hearing on “NOAA’s FY 2011 Budget Request”

House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Hearing on NOAA FY 2011 Budget Overview
March 17, 2010

Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Committee Members Present
Alan Mollohan, Chair (D-WV)
Frank Wolf, Ranking Member (R-VA)
Jo Bonner (R-AL)
C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MO)
Adam Schiff (D-CA)

The fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) represents a 17 percent, or $808.6 million, increase over FY2010 for a total of $5.6 billion. Of the 17 percent increase, $678.6 million would go to restructuring the NPOESS satellite program. NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco is pleased with the FY2011 budget, saying it “includes new research and development investments to strengthen our science (including climate) mission and foster innovation; provides investments to rebuild and improve fisheries and the economies and communities they support; and proposes targeted investments to sustain and enhance satellite observations.”

Lubchenco was excited by President Obama’s budget priorities reflecting that “healthy oceans matter” and strengthening the NOAA climate services. As part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, NOAA’s FY2011 budget includes $435 million in support funding “with $77 million in new increases for core climate services and observations.” To make sure NOAA can maintain continuity of satellite weather and climate data, $1.1 billion total will be invested in restructuring NPOESS to create the new Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Lastly Lubchenco stated that one of her top priorities is education. She wants to maximize the effectiveness of NOAA’s education programs by utilizing the recommendations from a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report just released in early March 2010.

Chairman Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Ranking Member Frank Wolf (R-VA) were concerned about the NPOESS budget and the proposed restructuring. They wanted to know how the program was previously arranged, how JPSS would alleviate the problems NPOESS faced, and if Lubchenco was satisfied with the new proposal. NPOESS is a weather and climate satellite monitoring program run jointly by NOAA and Department of Defense (DOD), with some additional support from NASA. By 2009, the program had overrun its cost estimates by about 85 percent and spending billions of extra dollars.

Nine Government Accountability Office reports and an independent evaluation, all concluded that NPOESS had a low probability of success. This conclusion, Lubchenco explained, was due to the fact that often the priorities of the three agencies did not align making decision-making difficult. Priorities were set by an NPOESS executive committee, which consisted of representatives from NOAA, DOD, and NASA. Contributing to the low probability of success, the DOD executive committee representative did not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the agency. Therefore, committee action would be overruled by DOD headquarters.

When Lubchenco arrived at NOAA, she started reviewing the program and found the “status quo was simply unacceptable.” The new plan for JPSS is to have DOD run the early morning orbit—the one most crucial for national defense—and NOAA run the afternoon orbit—the most important for weather and climate data. NASA, NOAA, and DOD will continue to jointly run the ground system and share unclassified data. Lubchenco expressed her pleasure with the proposed solution, saying the risk to losing continuity of satellite data will be “less substantial” and “more manageable.”

The JPSS program aims to get the first satellite, with all the same instruments as the NPOESS program, launched in 2015. This is 6 months after the original NPOESS launch date, but 18 months before the most recent NPOESS estimate. The FY2011 budget has money for procuring a launch bus for JPSS. The only concern is if DOD does not contribute the planned funds, the U.S. could lose continuity of data. Lubchenco is working to make the importance clear to DOD and others to ensure full funding. If DOD rescinds their funds, Lubchenco thought JPSS would be delayed by an additional 6 months and almost certainly result in a data gap. Currently NOAA and DOD each contribute half of the NPOESS budget.

Chairman Mollohan asked about NOAA’s international collaboration and if the agency was pursuing more partners in the future. Lubchenco responded that the European satellite agency is currently monitoring the mid-morning orbit for NPOESS and sharing their data with the U.S. The U.S. maintains additional joint satellite programs with Europe, Japan, and others while looking for more partnership opportunities.

Ranking Member Wolf asked Lubchenco to provide a list of the previous NPOESS executive committee members and the proposed list of new members. Since it seemed like mostly a human failure in the NPOESS program, he strongly encouraged NOAA to find all new people to staff the committee.

Wolf also asked about the proposed NOAA Climate Service, which is a new line item in the FY2011 budget. He wanted to know what sort of formal approval was needed, and what sort of restructuring was occurring. Lubchenco explained that the NOAA Climate Servic will collect already existing assets that are distributed across various NOAA line offices in one place. This sort of reprogramming does not require a formal authorization, but will need approval from the Department of Commerce, Office of Management and Budget, and this appropriations committee. NOAA plans to work closely with the authorizing committees, regardless, as they move towards full implementation. During this whole process the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) will be conducting an external review to help in implementing and planning an effective reorganization of the line offices into the NOAA Climate Service.
Lastly, Wolf and Lubchenco discussed the direction for NOAA’s education programs. Wolf expressed how crucial education is to maintain U.S. competitiveness, especially when NOAA can contribute to education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Wolf was concerned the budgeted $20.8 million was insufficient, and made it seem like the U.S. is neglecting its oceans. “We are absolutely neglecting the oceans,” agreed Lubchenco. However, she stressed that NOAA needed to be strategic in teaching school children the importance of the oceans. She again pointed out the recent NAS report, and said they will be using that document to identify and scale-up NOAA programs identified as most effective and complementary to other education programs.

Chairman Mollohan closed the hearing by thanking Dr. Lubchenco for her service thus far at NOAA and complementing her leadership, saying he was very impressed by the management she has brought to NOAA.

No webcast of this hearing is available.


Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Hearing on NOAA’s FY 2011 Budget Request”
March 3, 2010

Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Committee Members Present
Maria Cantwell, Chair (D-WA)
Olympia Snowe, Ranking Member (R-ME)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
George LeMieux (R-FL)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)

The hearing on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request focused predominately on fisheries, but did cover some of the new science initiatives proposed in the president’s request. Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are concerned that most of the budget increase is consumed by the satellite program, claiming there is only a 2.4 percent overall increase if the satellite funding is removed. Cantwell worried that satellites are being funded at the expense of other programs, and Snowe cited a $44 million decrease for oceans, coasts, and fisheries. Snowe lauded the new climate service, saying that “coordinating NOAA’s program is an excellent first step.”

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco highlighted recent NOAA accomplishments: its notable role in tsunami warnings and advisories, and its increasing role as a global leader in climate data and monitoring. She noted the new Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force (IOPTF) has developed a draft framework for marine spatial planning which may be used to determine FY2011 investments in the program.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) asked more about the IOPTF and marine spatial planning. He wanted to know how the spatial planning regions would be defined and who would set the priorities for the region. Lubchenco said the priorities would be regional in scope and set by the appropriate state governors. NOAA would help frame some of the overarching priorities, but she was unsure how much of an active role the agency would take. Alaska would be a region on its own, and she was undecided on who would help collaborate on the priorities.

Begich continued to ask about the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease areas, and how the IOPTF and marine spatial planning will affect the sites. Lubchenco explained that NOAA and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) are discussing the issue, and the IOPTF has made recommendations about the OCS. Beyond that, the control lies with MMS. NOAA has just advised MMS to consider the IOPTF recommendations.

As the IOPTF moves forward, Begich is concerned that the economic impacts are not being considered in the policy recommendations. He felt this is essentially “water zoning,” and the recommendations could affect oil and gas, and future alternative energy opportunities. Lubchenco clarified that the IOPTF framework for marine spatial planning “simply lays out the concept of doing what you’re calling ‘zoning’, it simply says we need a mechanism for considering the combination of activities that can coexist in an area to minimize conflicts among users and to minimize impact on the environment. It does not propose any particular changes in uses.” Begich requested that the final report include economic analyses as part of those plans and frameworks.

Begich also wanted to know what funds NOAA was putting into oil spill research and ocean acidification monitoring sensors. Lubchenco thought oil spill research did not have an increase, which concerned Begich. As for ocean acidification, Lubchenco explained that the proposed increases in the FY2011 budget would look into the consequences of ocean acidification on different species. Addressing the need for better monitoring and more widespread sensors is not included in this budget, but would be in long-term planning.

The rest of the hearing focused on the NOAA fisheries programs. Chairwoman Cantwell’s opening statement, Dr. Lubchenco’s testimony, and a video archive of the entire hearing is available from the committee web site.


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

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Prepared by Linda Rowan and Corina Cerovski-Darriau, AGI Government Affairs Staff.

Last updated January 13, 2011



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