FY 2016 Funding Bill for NASA, NIST, NOAA and NSF Moving on House Floor

Publication date

The House of Representatives has started its multi-day consideration of H.R. 2578, the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill.  Yesterday evening the White House issued a seven-page Statement of Administration Policy announcing its strong opposition to the bill, signaling the President’s intention to veto the legislation.

The House Appropriations Committee approved this $51.4 billion bill by voice vote on May 20. It provides a 2.9 percent increase for NASA , a 1.0 percent reduction for NIST, a 5.2 percent reduction for NOAA, and a 0.7 percent increase for NSF over current funding levels.  FY 2016 funding for all federal domestic discretionary programs is essentially level with current funding under the Budget Control Act.

Looking ahead to the House debate, Democrats will object that the Republican budget blueprint unrealistically constrains appropriations for programs funded through this and other FY 2016 funding bills.  Republicans will counter that their budget resolution adheres to the Budget Control Act (BCA) that was supported by many Democrats and signed into law by the President in 2011. Many Members of Congress – from both parties – agree that the BCA will make it very difficult to effectively fund government programs in FY 2016.  Congressional Republicans contend that it is up to the White House and congressional Democrats to offer a new budget deal modifying the BCA that does not include new taxes; not surprisingly, Democrats counter that it is up to Republicans to offer an agreement that does include new revenues.  This underlying disagreement will not be settled until much later this fall.

The Statement of Administration Policy discusses overall budget constraints.  Regarding R&D, the introduction states “The bill drastically underfunds critical investments in research and development that are key to advancing U.S. economic competitiveness and reducing taxpayer costs for securing essential weather satellite data and conducting an effective 2020 census.”  In addition: “It also cuts support for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that will help end our reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts, critical space technology investments that will help pave the path to reaching Mars, and earth science research that is helping us understand how our climate is changing and how to respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events.”

The Statement comments on specific R&D programs; selections follow:


Earth Science Missions: “The Administration opposes the bill’s reductions of Earth Science by more than $200 million, jeopardizing missions that are helping us respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events and understand how the climate is changing. The bill also eliminates the launch of a key instrument used by western States to manage water supplies -- while at the same time adding $500 million above the requested level for the Space Launch System rocket.”

Space Technology: “The Administration urges the Congress to fully fund the FY 2016 Budget request for NASA Space Technology. Compared to the request, the bill reduces funding for these investments by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system; advanced, high power solar electric propulsion; and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry.”

Commercial Crew Program: “The Administration is disappointed that the Committee underfunded NASA's Commercial Crew program by $243 million. This would delay the date for launching U.S. astronauts to the space station with U.S. rockets and force a continued reliance on Russian capabilities, which currently require payments to Russia of approximately $500 million per year.”



Labs: “The Administration urges the Congress to fund NIST research at the requested level given the important contributions that NIST makes to the U.S. economy. Instead, the bill would eliminate funding for the lab-to-market initiative, constraining benefits to commercial entities and taxpayers from moving cutting-edge technologies out of Federal labs into the market. It would also reduce NIST funding for research that can strengthen U.S. leadership in the industries of the future, such as cyber-physical systems and biomanufacturing.”

Manufacturing Programs: “The Administration strongly objects to the lack of funding provided for manufacturing programs at NIST that would strengthen U.S. manufacturing at a time when an historic resurgence in U.S. manufacturing is taking hold. In particular, the Committee provides none of the requested funds for the Department of Commerce to establish two manufacturing institutes as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that are designed to bridge the gap between basic research and product development for technology areas. These institutes encourage investment and production in the U.S. creating good jobs now and preparing American workers for future opportunities in the advanced manufacturing sector. In addition, the funding level in the bill would not allow the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to provide its services to additional small and medium-sized manufacturers.”



Infrastructure: “The Administration objects to the bill's funding level for NOAA's Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction program, which precludes needed long-term infrastructure investments to collect critical environmental data. While the bill includes the requested funding for the current generation of critical weather satellites, it fails to provide the necessary resources to initiate the development of the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites. The continuity of these satellites has been highlighted as a high risk by independent groups and the Government Accountability Office. In addition to informing the day-to-day operations of businesses and individuals, weather data from NOAA satellites help predict the potential impact of extreme weather events, which lets communities and emergency responders prepare. Not only would the bill heighten the risk of a gap in satellite coverage, but its shortsighted reductions mean that the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites would cost taxpayers more. In addition, the Administration urges the Congress to provide the funding necessary to acquire a NOAA research vessel. NOAA's aging research fleet plays a critical role in the research and management of marine resources, directly supporting coastal economies and environmental stewardship.”

Operations: “The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the National Weather Service; however, the Administration opposes the funding levels provided for the National Ocean Service and climate research programs, which are 15 percent and 32 percent below the FY 2016 Budget request, respectively. The reductions impact two high priority programs that help communities prepare for the effects of natural disasters and other ramifications of climate change and provide the science necessary to inform their preparations. The Administration also urges the Congress to provide the requested funding to support infrastructure permitting consultations, which would reduce project timeframes and support economic development.”



“The Administration strongly objects to the $7.4 billion funding level provided for NSF. This level is $329 million below the FY 2016 Budget request. The bill would lead to about 600 fewer research grants, affecting about 7,900 researchers, technicians, and students.  Especially hard hit by this reduction would be the geosciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, which would be reduced by 20 percent. The Committee's allocation of resources to specific disciplines would interfere with NSF's ability to respond to scientific opportunity.”