FY 2016 Appropriations: NOAA Budget Grows 5.8%

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Publication date: 
22 December 2015

The annual spending law for FY 2016 increases spending at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 5.8 percent over FY 2015 levels and provides direction on matters including the nation’s next generation weather satellites, the next generation of weather radar technology, and a number of research and weather and water modeling programs

On Dec. 18, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the final FY 2016 annual spending bill. As FYI reported last Wednesday, the law appropriates $1.15 trillion in discretionary spending obligations and finalizes funding levels for the nation’s major science agencies, offices and programs through the end of September 2016, including for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Congress’ guidance for NOAA spending can be found on pages 7-13 of the law’s joint explanatory statement.


Agency / Office / Program FY14 actual FY15 enacted FY16 President's request FY16 enacted Change between FY15 and FY16
NOAA 5,322.5 5,448.9 5,982.6 5,765.6 5.8%
Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research 423.9 446.3 507.0 482.0 8.0%
Climate Research 154.2 158.0 188.8 158.0 0.0%
Weather & Air Chemistry Research 81.1 90.8 97.3 103.2 13.7%
Ocean, Coastal & Great Lakes Research 166.3 172.1 186.4 188.6 9.6%
National Weather Service 1,062.6 1,087.5 1,098.9 1,124.1 3.4%
Observations 205.3 210.8 204.9 216.4 2.7%
Central Processing 100.1 96.6 87.9 92.9 -3.8%
Analyze, Forecast and Support 474.7 483.1 489.8 496.0 2.7%
Dissemination 46.3 40.1 46.7 44.7 11.5%
Science & Technology Integration 123.1 123.6 134.2 138.8 12.3%
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Info Service 2,087.1 2,223.1 2,379.6 2,350.7 5.7%
GOES-R 940.4 980.8 871.8 871.8 -11.1%
Joint Polar Satellite System 820.6 916.3 809.0 809.0 -11.7%
Polar Follow On 0.0 0.0 380.0 370.0 NEW
* Figures in millions of U.S dollars


As the table above shows, NOAA is receiving a 5.8 percent increase in total spending between FY 2015 and FY 2016. Within that amount, NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is seeing an 8.0 percent bump, the National Weather Service (NWS) that provides the operational foundation for the nation’s weather forecasting is receiving a 3.4 percent bump, and NOAA’s earth observing satellite line office is receiving a 5.7 percent bump. This 5.8 percent increase for NOAA is in line with the 5.2 percent increase in overall federal discretionary spending in FY 2016.

Consistent with past years, the law provides full funding for the continued procurement and acquisition of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-series (GOES-R), respectively the nation’s next generation polar-orbiting and geostationary weather observing satellite systems. Together, these satellite systems contribute the lion’s share of data for numerical weather prediction for the U.S. In their committee reports, the Senate and House both express concern “with the challenges that plague these programs identified by the Government Accountability Office, Office of the Inspector General, and the NESDIS Independent Review Team.” Congress accordingly directs NOAA in the guidance to keep JPSS and GOES-R programs on-budget and on-schedule.

In other highlights for NOAA, the guidance for the FY 2016 spending law:

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

  • Provides $6 million for a Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, proposed in the Weather Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015, which will help bring the latest science at OAR into operations at the NWS;
  • Via House and Senate proposals, provides $13.5 million for supporting and expanding the National Integrated Drought Information System, including the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System;
  • Via House and Senate proposals, provides the President’s request for the Multi-Function Phased Array Radar (MPAR), a next generation and weather and aircraft radar capability;
  • Directs NOAA to establish an interagency committee to “formulate key requirements for a comprehensive MPAR development and acquisition strategy”;
  • Via a Senate proposal, provides up to $5 million to collaborate with the National Science Foundation on the Vortex-Southeast field research program “to better understand how environmental factors that are characteristic of the southeast U.S. affect the formation, intensity, and storm path of tornadoes for this region”;
  • Via a Senate proposal, provides at least $14.5 million for operations and staffing of the new National Water Center, which will serve as a clearinghouse for forecasting of all water-related issues facing the nation;
  • Continues to invest in NOAA’s supercomputing by providing $20 million for research supercomputer acquisition and $12.1 for High Performance Computing Initiatives;

National Weather Service

  • Via a House proposal, includes the President’s requested level of funding to extend the life of Next Generation Weather Radar infrastructure through 2030;
  • Via a House proposal, does not adopt NOAA’s proposal to reduce its number of information technology officers;
  • Provides $18 million for the National Mesonet Program, a national network of stations that make ground-based weather observations;
  • Via a Senate proposal, encourages the NWS to co-locate its local or regional facilities with universities;

National Environmental and Satellite, Data, and Information Service

  • Provides $370 million for the next generation polar-orbiting satellite mission, a new “polar follow-on program” to follow the JPSS;
  • Via a Senate proposal, directs NOAA to conduct an independent cost estimate for this new polar follow-on program;
  • Provides $10.1 million for the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate 2 program, for “ground reception and processing of Global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation satellite data, which will augment current data used for global weather forecasts and studies”;
  • Provides $1.2 million for a study or studies to “evaluate low-cost alternatives for a space weather constellation to support operational forecasting needs”;
  • Directs NOAA to enter into at least one pilot contract “to assess the potential viability of commercial weather data in its weather modeling and forecasting”; and

NOAA Education

  • Via a House proposal, does not adopt NOAA’s STEM education consolidation proposals.