FY19 Appropriations Bills: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Share This

Share/Save
Publication date: 
29 June 2018
Number: 
79

After providing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a 4 percent funding increase for fiscal year 2018, House and Senate appropriators are proposing 13 percent and 7 percent decreases, respectively, for fiscal year 2019. The decreases partly reflect planned ramp downs for NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs and the end of one-time funding provided for the acquisition of new aircraft.

On the heels of providing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with a 4 percent budget increase for fiscal year 2018, the House and Senate are advancing spending bills that would cut its funding in fiscal year 2019 by 13 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The decreases partly reflect planned ramp downs in the activity of key satellite programs, including the Joint Polar Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system. Appropriators are also treating the spending influx provided in fiscal year 2018 for the acquisition of a new Hurricane Hunter aircraft as one-time funding.

However, some of the House's and Senate’s proposed cuts also fall on NOAA’s research accounts. The House accepts the administration’s proposed 38 percent cut to Climate Research, while the Senate would cut Weather and Air Chemistry Research by 12 percent.

fy19-noaa-spending-bills.jpg

FY19 spending proposals for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Click to enlarge

Further details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. Additional funding direction and policy guidance can be found in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports that accompany the bills, and a side-by-side comparison of report language is provided at the end of this bulletin.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NOAA on May 17, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version on June 14. Neither the House nor Senate have yet scheduled full chamber votes on their respective bills.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

The appropriations committees soundly reject the Trump administration’s 41 percent proposed cut to NOAA’s $549 million Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). House appropriators permit a smaller 8 percent decrease while Senate appropriators opt to maintain the current level of funding for the research line office. The divergence primarily is in Climate Research, with the House accepting the administration’s cuts and the Senate rejecting them but calling for cuts to Weather and Air Chemistry Research.

Climate Research. As it did last year, the House embraces the administration’s request to cut 38 percent of NOAA’s $158 million Climate Research account. This would include the elimination of the $48 million Climate Competitive Research program that provides extramural grants in high-priority climate research areas. Within the remaining funds, the House report specifies $14 million for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), maintaining the current level of funding to “support competitive research grants, maintain existing NIDIS activities, and develop and expand the Regional Early Warning Information System.”

The Senate report, on the other hand, proposes a 1 percent increase for Climate Research and explicitly rejects the administration’s requests to eliminate Climate Competitive Research. It also specifies no less than $6 million for Arctic research and calls for the expansion of NIDIS and the Drought Regional Early Warning Information System.

Weather and Air Chemistry Research. The House proposes to maintain funding for Weather and Air Chemistry Research at the current level of $132 million. This amount is consistent with previously authorized levels in the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. The House report also rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the $20 million Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, a program authorized under the weather law that facilitates weather research-to-operations from OAR to the National Weather Service.

The Senate, meanwhile, proposes a $16 million, or 12 percent cut for Weather and Air Chemistry, $10 million of which would come from the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative. However, it rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the Air Resources Laboratory and shutter the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office, instead directing OAR to provide no less than current funding levels for both programs.

The Senate committee also proposes a $5 million increase to the $13 million U.S. Weather Research Program, specifying that at least $4 million of the total should go toward Airborne Phased Array Radar R&D, up to $1 million for research on infrasonic weather monitoring, and up to $2 million for support of research activities to improve snowpack and moisture monitoring data for the National Weather Service’s National Water Model. The Senate report also directs OAR to use program funds to “make grants available for the development of high resolution hydrologic modeling systems to address floods, drought, water quality, and ecosystem health,” with a focus on water issues in the Southeastern U.S.

Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research. The committees reject the administration’s 55 percent proposed cut to the $206 million Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research account, instead both proposing a 7 percent increase.

Research Supercomputing. Both committees reject the administration’s proposed 37 percent cut to the $41 million Research Supercomputing account, opting to preserve the elevated funding level provided in fiscal year 2018. The Senate report directs $15 million of this amount to support ongoing development of a new dedicated high-performance computing facility.

National Weather Service

The committees are in agreement on relatively steady funding for the $1.1 billion National Weather Service (NWS). House appropriators propose a 1 percent decrease, while Senate appropriators would maintain funding at the current level.

NWS staffing. House and Senate appropriators remain concerned about the number of staff vacancies within NWS. Both committees direct NOAA to provide reporting on staff positions in its 2019 spend plan, with the Senate report specifying “a separate accounting of all NWS filled and open positions, including the length of time the positions have been unfilled.” They also direct NOAA to continue providing the committees quarterly briefings on NWS staffing.

The House report explicitly rejects the administration’s NWS workforce savings plan included in this year’s budget request. While the Senate report does not weigh in on the plan, it does encourage NOAA to provide Congress with a proposal for eliminating redundant and unfunded vacancies in next year’s budget request, and meanwhile instructs NOAA to “continue efforts to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible” until any future proposals have been approved by Congress.

National Centers for Environmental Prediction. Senate appropriators once again reject the administration’s proposal to consolidate the Climate Prediction Center into the Weather Prediction Center within the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

Observations. Both committees reject the administration’s proposed cuts to observation activities, including the National Mesonet Program, which serves as a central coordinating hub for non-federal weather observations data. The Senate report stresses the Mesonet program is “an important component of any effort to effectively develop a ‘Weather-Ready Nation’” and notes it expects “future NOAA budget requests will continue to reflect it as a priority.”

The House report also rejects the administration’s requested reductions for the ocean observing TAO array. The Senate report directs NOAA to provide adequate funding for the TAO and DART arrays, and further calls on NOAA to develop a schedule for restoring existing data buoy operability and a strategy for minimizing future outages. Both committees reject the administration’s proposed reductions to the Tsunami Research and Operational Warning Program.

Science and Technology Integration. The Senate would maintain funding for the $143 million Science and Technology Integration program, rejecting the administration’s proposed 14 percent cut, while the House would cut funding by a more modest 4 percent. Both committees reject the administration’s proposal to reduce support for investments in numerical weather prediction modeling, and the Senate report specifies no less than current amounts.

National Water Model and Center. The House and Senate appropriators continue to show support for the relatively new National Water Center (NWC), which serves as the agency’s clearinghouse for national water forecasting research and capabilities, including the National Water Model (NWM). The House report does not accept the administration’s proposed reductions to the NWM, while the Senate report provides no less than current funding amounts for NWC and rejects any planned delays for upgrades to the NWM. Both committee reports specify $6 million to support collaborative efforts to “improve fine and large-scale measurements of snow depth and soil moisture data” that can be incorporated into the NWM.

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

The planned ramp downs in activity in NOAA’s flagship satellite programs comprise most of the 21 percent and 17 percent decreases proposed by the House and Senate, respectively, for the $2.1 billion National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

Polar satellites. While House and Senate appropriators agree to provide at least the requested funding for the two polar-orbiting satellite programs — the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Polar Follow On (PFO) — they remain divided on how to classify and organize the programs. The two programs together aim to support the development and launch of four next-generation polar satellites through the 2030s.

As part of an effort to organize NESDIS into thematic portfolios, the administration is proposing to merge the JPSS and PFO accounts into a new “Polar Weather Satellites” program. The administration is requesting $878 million for the new program, which includes a planned $204 million, or 26 percent decrease for the JPSS program. With the JPSS-1 satellite having been launched successfully last year, decreases in baseline funding for the program are expected over the next several years, and the administration states the requested funds will enable NOAA to keep the program on track to meet its next two target satellite launch dates in fiscal years 2026 and 2031.

The House report provides the “requested amount” of $572 million for JPSS and $306 million for PFO. The Senate, meanwhile, accepts the administration’s proposal for the new Polar Weather Satellites program and provides $928 million, $50 million above the requested amount. As part of its approval of a merged account, the Senate underscores existing language included in the spending bill on the $11.3 billion life cycle cost cap for JPSS and adds language capping life cycle costs for PFO at $7.6 billion.

Geostationary satellites. As in past years, both House and Senate committees provide the requested level for NOAA’s flagship Geostationary Environmental Operational Satellite – R Class (GOES-R) program. Following the launch of GOES-17 in March 2018, the GOES-R project baseline is falling in fiscal year 2019 by 21 percent to $408 million, with remaining funding going to prioritize future GOES-R series satellites.

Space Weather Follow On. Both House and Senate reports provide the requested $10 million for the Space Weather Follow On satellite, with the Senate report specifying an additional $2 million to be used to pursue launch options for a compact coronagraph.

National Centers for Environmental Information. The Senate report provides $61 million for the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), and specifies not less than the current level of $6 million for the Regional Climate Centers. The House report provides $60 million for NCEI.

Commercial Weather Data Pilot. The committees diverge on their proposals for the Commercial Weather Data Pilot, which assesses the value of using commercial data in NOAA weather modeling and forecasting products. The House report specifies the requested $6 million, consistent with the amount authorized in the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, while the Senate report specifies only $3 million.

Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

The House and Senate reports both propose to cut funding for the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, by 46 percent and 28 percent respectively. Congress provided the line office with an additional $121 million in fiscal year 2018 for the acquisition of a new Gulfstream IV Hurricane Hunter aircraft as backup for current aircraft capabilities.

Education

House and Senate appropriators flatly reject the administration’s proposal to eliminate NOAA’s $28 million Office of Education, as they did in fiscal year 2018.

Report language

The following expandable tabs offer side-by-side comparisons of language from the House and Senate appropriators' reports on NOAA.

Cross-agency

Explanation for budget decreases

Senate: The Committee commends the Department for its work to bring down the costs associated with NOAA’s Procurement, Acquisition and Construction [PAC] accounts. The decrease in PAC resources in fiscal year 2019 reflects, as expected, the reduced financial need of NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs as the satellites launch and enter into the operational phase. Furthermore, several significant, one-time procurements including aircraft were fully funded in fiscal year 2018. While overall funding for NOAA is below the fiscal year 2018 level, the reduction in PAC resource needs alleviates the strain on other operations and research areas critical to NOAA’s core mission. This allowed for an increase above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level in NOAA’s Operations, Research, and Facilities accounts.

Extramural research

House: The Committee continues to believe that NOAA benefits from collaboration with academia and the private sector through cooperative institutes and competitive research. These relationships build broad community engagement, leverage external funding for mission-oriented research, strengthen the science within NOAA, and advance scientific knowledge.

Disaster funding

House: The Committee expects the funds provided in fiscal year 2018 for disaster recovery efforts, including: repair and replacement of observing assets, Federal real property, and equipment; marine debris assessment and removal; mapping, charting and geodesy services; improving weather forecasting, hurricane intensity forecasting and flood forecasting and mitigation capabilities; improving operational and research supercomputing infrastructure; and repair and replacement of National Estuarine Research Reserves real property and observing assets to be used expeditiously.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

Cooperative institutes

House: The Committee has heard concerns that NOAA’s current Cooperative Institutes, labs and science centers do not fulfill NOAA’s needs for advanced monitoring and predictive modeling to explore deep water issues and their effect on the U.S. coastline. The NOAA Research Council shall, within 180 days of enactment of this Act, submit to the Committee a report that includes an assessment of NOAA’s requirements and capabilities for research in these areas and a proposal on how NOAA could leverage external partners to meet any identified gaps.

Senate: The Committee provides $4,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level for Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and expects the administration to fully fund Cooperative Institutes at appropriate levels in future years, including those currently supporting NOAA ’s coastal resilience mission.

Additionally, not less than 90 days after enactment of this act, NOAA is directed to update its ‘‘Prospectus for Cooperative Institutes in the 21st Century’’ plan to include the procedures under which a university or other academic institution can apply for Cooperative Institute status. The Committee continues to strongly support well established institutes, including those focused on watershed effects on marine ecosystems, remote sensing, and long-term monitoring of oil spill impacts on marine ecosystem health.

Weather and Air Chemistry Research

House: The Committee includes $131,516,000 for Weather and Air Chemistry Research, which is $39,786,000 above the request.

Senate: The Committee rejects OAR’s proposed elimination of the Air Resources Laboratory [ARL], as well as OAR’s proposed closing of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] Program Office. The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount for ARL and the UAS Program Office.

The Committee encourages NOAA to collaborate with NASA and other agencies to develop and deploy UAS capabilities for environmental sensing applications. These UAS assets should be deployed to benefit existing data collection and modeling needs and goals, including for weather prediction, earth system monitoring, and environmental and climate research.

Joint Technology Transfer Initiative

House: The recommendation rejects the proposed termination of this program and funds it at $20,000,000.

VORTEX-Southeast tornado field study

House: The Southeastern United States commonly experiences devastating tornadoes under variables and conditions that differ considerably from conditions in other areas. OAR shall continue the VORTEX–SE initiative at the enacted level to better understand how environmental factors that are characteristic of the Southeast United States affect the formation, intensity and storm path of tornadoes.

Senate: The Southeastern United States commonly experiences devastating tornadoes under variables and conditions that differ considerably from the Midwest, where tornado research has historically been focused. Within funds provided for Weather and Air Chemistry Research Programs, no less than $5,000,000 is provided for OAR to continue collaborating with the National Science Foundation’s Vortex-SE initiative to better understand how environmental factors that are characteristic of the Southeastern United States affect the formation, intensity, and storm path of tornadoes for this region

Climate and drought research

House: The recommendation includes $13,500,000 to support competitive research grants, maintain existing NIDIS activities, and develop and expand the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System.

Senate: The Committee rejects OAR’s request to eliminate Climate Competitive Research and Arctic Research. Instead the Committee provides $2,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount, including for the support and expansion of the National Integrated Drought Information System and the Regional Drought Early Warning Information System.

Snowpack and soil moisture monitoring

Senate: The Committee strongly supports NOAA’s continued development of the National Water Model to improve operational forecasts at NOAA’s National Water Center. Within funding provided for OAR’s U.S. Weather Research Program, up to $2,000,000 is for research activities to improve fine and large-scale measurements of snow depth and soil moisture data that can be used to expand and improve the National Water Model and contribute directly to the mission of NOAA’s National Water Center.

Hydrologic modeling grants

Senate: The Committee recognizes the success of the National Water Model in advancing flood forecasting and predicting other water related hazards. Within funding for the U.S. Weather Research Program, OAR shall make grants available for the development of high resolution hydrologic modeling systems to address issues related to floods, drought, water quality, and ecosystem health. Research should include addressing water-related issues in the Southeastern United States, including those relating to agriculture.

Arctic research

Senate: The Committee provides no less than $6,000,000 for arctic research funded under OAR’s Climate Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and Regional Climate Data and Information.

Infrasonic weather monitoring research

House: The Committee believes that advanced infrasound signal processing methodologies and studies have the potential to improve forecast accuracy and encourages NOAA to continue research in this area.

Senate: Within funding provided for the U.S. Weather Research Program, the Committee provides up to $1,000,000 to support external research opportunities with academic institutions in infrasonic monitoring methods of violent weather. The Committee believes that advanced infrasound signal processing methodologies and studies, deployed through a network of infrasound arrays to detect tornadoes and hurricanes, have the potential to improve forecast accuracy.

Multi-function Phased Array Radar program

Senate: The Committee recognizes the importance of the MPAR program in the development and implementation of the next generation weather and aircraft radar surveillance network. The Committee directs NOAA to maintain its leadership in the MPAR research and development effort as the program transitions to the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar [SENSR] program, and encourages continued work on a Memorandum of Understanding among NOAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security that delineates each agency’s or Department’s needs regarding the function and timeline of a joint multi-use and multi-function radar system.

Airborne Phased Array Radar program

Senate: Within funding for NOAA’s U.S. Weather Research Program, no less than $4,000,000 is provided to research and develop aircraft-based hazardous weather observing systems, such as APAR. NOAA shall coordinate these research and development activities with the National Science Foundation.

Integrated ocean acidification research

House: The Committee encourages NOAA, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to implement a program to competitively award prizes under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 3719) to stimulate innovation to advance the understanding, research, or monitoring of ocean acidification or its impacts or to develop management or adaptation options for responding to ocean acidification. In prize competitions, the Committee encourages NOAA to prioritize communities, environments, or industries that are currently in distress due to the impacts of ocean acidification.

High-performance computing

Senate: The Committee recognizes NOAA’s high-performance computing needs and its current limitations on providing high fidelity results in near real-time. Within funding provided for OAR Research Supercomputing, $15,000,000 shall be used to continue to develop a dedicated high-performance computing facility in collaboration with partners that have existing high-performance computing expertise and scientific synergies. OAR is encouraged to find a funding balance in HPC resources with the partnerships that are currently in existence, with an emphasis on finding synergies with existing NOAA infrastructure.

Sea Grant program

Senate: The Committee again flatly rejects the administration’s proposed elimination of NOAA’s Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee provides an increase of $6,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount for the Sea Grant program and its research, education, extension, and outreach activities, which are critical for coastal communities and benefit the entire Nation. This level of funding supports the key focus areas in the program’s strategic plan: sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, healthy coastal ecosystems, environmental literacy, and workforce development. In addition, the Committee directs NOAA to continue funding all Sea Grant STEM education and fellowship programs. Further, NOAA is directed to continue its partnership with academic programs that provide legal expertise related to Sea Grant’s mission and also encourages the Sea Grant program to prioritize providing training, education, outreach, and technical assistance for young fishermen.

Additionally, the Committee understands that the Sea Grant pro- gram provides no less than $1,000,000 in annual base funding, or $4,000,000 over the course of the 4-year grant cycle, to each Sea Grant program with Institutional or College Program status. NOAA is directed to continue this funding model for Sea Grant programs receiving Institutional or College Program status in fiscal year 2019.

National Weather Service

Analyze, Forecast, and Support

House: The recommendation includes $500,000,000 for Analyze, Forecast, and Support activities. The recommendation does not adopt the proposed NWS workforce savings; nor does it adopt the proposed reduction in developing and implementing aviation tools and capabilities. This level includes $5,000,000 to address the backlog in facilities maintenance requirements. The recommendation assumes that the technical transfers proposed in fiscal year 2018 were both executed in fiscal year 2018 and continue in fiscal year 2019.

National Centers for Environmental Prediction

Senate: The Committee does not adopt the NWS proposal to consolidate centers under NCEP in fiscal year 2019.

National Mesonet Program

House: The recommendation provides $236,000,000 for observation activities. The recommendation includes $22,000,000 for the National Mesonet Program, $14,500,000 above the request.

Senate: The Committee provides $19,000,000 for the continuation and expansion of the National Mesonet Program. Funds should be made available through a competitive weather data procurement that sustains coverage of areas currently included within the national mesonet, as well as an expansion of coverage in high risk areas. NOAA is also encouraged to add new observations such as total lightning data, regional aircraft observations, and vertical column measurements in tornado-prone areas. Additionally, within funds provided, NOAA is encouraged to incorporate state mesonet data into the national mesonet network. NOAA should require that awardees provide mesonet data in formats that can be integrated by NWS for use in forecasts and severe weather alerts. Of the funds provided, up to $500,000 may be used for Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System activities, and up to $500,000 may be used for costs associated with the National Mesonet Program Office. The Committee views the National Mesonet program as an important component of any effort to effectively develop a ‘‘Weather-Ready Nation’’ and expects that future NOAA budget requests will continue to reflect it as a priority.

National Buoy Data Center / TAO array

House: The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reduction to the TAO array, and funds it at the enacted level.

Senate: The Committee provides sufficient funding to maintain, at a minimum, NDBC operations at 80 percent data availability. The Committee directs NOAA to provide adequate funding to support maintenance and service of the Tropical Atmosphere/Ocean Array [TAO] and Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis [DART] array across the equatorial Pacific. The Committee further directs NOAA to include a schedule to restore existing data buoy operability and its strategy to minimize outages in the future as part of the agency’s spending plan.

Central Processing

House: The recommendation includes $90,000,000 for Central Processing. The recommendation fully funds the requested increase for Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System cyclical replacement. The recommendation does not adopt the proposal to slow the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services Expansion.

Senate: Within increased funding for Central Processing, the Committee provides NWS’s full request for AWIPS Cyclical Refreshment.

The Committee rejects NWS’s proposal to slow the expansion of AHPS, which will enable greater information on the magnitude and likelihood of floods and droughts across certain areas of the nation. No less than the fiscal year 2018 amount is provided for AHPS activities.

National Water Model / National Water Center

House: The Committee does not adopt the proposed decreases for numerical weather prediction modeling; the national water model; or Operations and Workforce Analysis testing and evaluation.

The recommendation continues to provide $6,000,000 for research activities to improve fine and large-scale measurements of snow depth and soil moisture data that can be used to expand and improve the National Water Model and contribute directly to the mission of NOAA’s National Water Center. These funds shall be executed in coordination with OAR to collaborate with external academic partners.

Senate: The Committee does not approve the requested decrease to the IWP program, which is funded across multiple NWS budget lines. Instead, the Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for IWP. Similarly, the Committee rejects slowing the development of the National Water Model and provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 level for its continued and expedited development.

The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted level for operations and staffing of the National Water Center [NWC] to develop and operate IWP. NWS shall leverage this funding with resources provided to NOS for IWP and resources provided to OAR for remote sensing of snowpack and soil moisture measurements.

The Committee is pleased with research-to-operations efforts at the NWC between NWS and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. This relationship highlights how separate entities and agencies can work together to transfer research into operational solutions that benefit the Nation. The NWC serves as the first ever clearinghouse for research and operational forecasting of all water-related issues facing our Nation, including: severe floods, storm surge, droughts, and water quality, among others. Given the importance of NWC to better protect lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, NOAA is directed to expedite staffing and operations at NWC to achieve full operating capability as soon as possible. Furthermore, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the NWS Office of Water Prediction, and to foster development of the NWC as a center of excellence for water resources prediction and related decision support services, funding is provided within Analyze, Forecast, and Support to increase staffing levels at the NWC Water Prediction Operations Division above the planned fiscal year 2018 staffing levels. The NWS is directed to post and fill future vacancies within the Office of Water Prediction expeditiously, and NWS is encouraged to consolidate personnel, as deemed necessary to create staffing efficiencies, to the NWC. The Committee directs NOAA to provide a report no less than 45 days after enactment of this act with an updated staffing plan that includes an update on commitments from partner agencies and a timeline for achieving baseline operating capability in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.

The Committee provides no less than $6,000,000 for NWS, in coordination with existing academic research consortiums, such as the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, to collaborate with external academic partners to improve fine and large-scale measurements of snow depth and soil moisture data that can be used to expand and improve the National Water Model and contribute directly to the mission of NOAA’s National Water Center.

The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted level for Central Processing under NWS PAC, which includes not less than $4,500,000 to procure operational high-performance computing resources to enable modeling improvements associated with the IWP initiative.

Storm surge / inland flooding modeling technology

Senate: The Committee recognizes the need to deploy more precise, accurate, and real-time modeling technology that is tailored to specific regions. These activities would improve and complement NOAA’s Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes [SLOSH] model. The Committee directs NOAA to expand existing collaborations with research universities that will produce better predictive capabilities than NOAA’s current SLOSH model provides. The Committee directs NOAA, in collaboration with academic research institutions and other Federal agencies, to integrate improved technologies into standard modeling operations for storm surge and inland flooding.

The Committee is aware that flood evacuations are typically planned for storm surge flooding and not the subsequent inland flooding that occurs with major weather events. The Committee encourages NWS, in coordination with State and Federal partners, to advance its inland flooding model based on the assessment of flood potential using sensor and elevation data to determine areas of impact, as well as safe evacuation paths and shelter locations. NWS and its partners should focus on obtaining information that can be applied to a model for inland evacuation planning, and be used by communities interested in a tested inland flood evacuation network plan. The model should eventually be integrated with the National Water Model to provide comprehensive, real-time evacuation information.

Facilities

Senate: Within funding for Analyze, Forecast and Support, the Committee provides $8,000,000 for the NWS’s highest priority facilities repair and deferred maintenance requirements at Weather Forecast Offices [WFOs].

The Committee provides $11,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 enacted amount for Facilities Construction and Major Repair for NWS to address its most pressing major construction needs among the Weather Forecasting Offices.

Tsunami warning program

House: As required in the Tsunami, Warning, Education and Research Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–25), this recommendation funds both the National Tsunami Warning Center and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. It fully supports the responsibilities for these centers enumerated in Section 504(d)(2) of that Act.

Senate: The Committee rejects NWS’s proposed cut to the Tsunami Warning Program. Funding is provided at no less than the fiscal year 2018 amounts, including for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation program grants, to ensure that high-quality tsunami watches, warnings, and advisories are issued to safeguard lives and property.

Sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction / numerical weather prediction modeling

House: The Committee does not adopt the proposed decreases for numerical weather prediction modeling; the national water model; or Operations and Workforce Analysis testing and evaluation.

Senate: The Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 level for Mid-Range Weather Outlooks, including seasonal to sub-seasonal forecasting, and Investments in Numerical Weather Prediction Modeling, which provides critical support to the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, among other important forecasting activities.

Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project

Senate: Furthermore, the Committee urges NOAA to expedite the project plan described by the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act (Public Law 115–25). The Committee encourages NWS to reduce errors in tracking and intensity forecasts of hurricanes by identifying technology and methods available to significantly improve hurricane forecasting.

Staff vacancies

House: The recommendation provides not less than $625,000,000 for salaries and benefits of NWS employees, which fully funds the annualized civilian pay raise from fiscal year 2018. The Committee expects the National Weather Service to continue to hire in fiscal year 2019, and to have additional FTEs on board by the end of the fiscal year. The Committee expects that budget requests from the National Weather Service include all funds necessary to pay for staff, yet the Committee consistently hears of staffing and management challenges within NWS. NOAA and the Department of Commerce are directed to ensure that NWS fulfills its critical mission to protect the lives and property of our nation’s citizens. In its fiscal year 2019 spend plan, the NWS shall include a separate accounting of all NWS funded positions. In fiscal year 2019, the Committee directs the NWS to continue the quarterly management, staffing and budget briefings first required in fiscal year 2018.

Senate: The Committee is very concerned with the continued number of NWS employee vacancies. Given the importance of the NWS mission to protect the lives and property of our Nation’s citizens, extended vacancies are unacceptable—particularly when the Committee has provided more than adequate resources and direction to fill vacancies expeditiously for the past several fiscal years. Because NWS has failed to respond satisfactorily to the Committee’s concerns regarding these vacancies, NOAA is directed to present a separate accounting of all NWS filled and open positions, including the length of time the positions have been unfilled, in its fiscal year 2019 spend plan. The spend plan shall also include the specific funding proposed for all NWS employees and associated expenses that are separate from other program costs.

The Committee also recognizes that some vacant NWS positions may be redundant and invites the Department to submit a justification for eliminating redundant unfunded vacancies in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, to include a full list of positions proposed for elimination, including reasoning for each elimination. Until such time as a plan to eliminate those vacancies is approved, NWS is directed to continue efforts to fill all vacancies as expeditiously as possible. Furthermore, the Committee adopts direction provided in the Explanatory Statement accompanying Public Law 115–141 regarding quarterly briefings on NWS staffing.

The Committee remains concerned about potential NWS staffing reductions in Alaska. As a part of the Explanatory Statement accompanying Public Law 115– 141, the Committee directed the NWS to provide a report about how the NWS plans to maintain or improve forecasting and communication around the State, especially in the most remote areas. The Committee looks forward to receiving and reviewing this report, and reminds NWS that any staffing changes must comply with the reprogramming procedures set forth in section 505 of this act.

Information technology officers

Senate: The Committee does not approve the NWS proposal to consolidate ITOs in fiscal year 2019. NWS was invited to submit a proposal for a single pilot Regional Enterprise Application Development and Integration [READI] team comprised of volunteer ITOs. However, the Committee has not yet received such a proposal. Should NWS decide to submit a proposal for a single pilot READI team project, its subsequent successes and challenges will assist the Committee in evaluating the larger consolidation proposal if resubmitted in future fiscal years.

Radar and satellite spectrum

Senate: As NOAA continues its study to evaluate sharing the 1675–1680 MHz GOES band, the Committee directs the agency to consult with private industry about the potential application of spectrum sharing technology for shared commercial use. Furthermore, NOAA is encouraged to study opportunities for early entry and flexible access to the 1300–1350 MHz spectrum band through use of private sector spectrum sharing technologies that protect Federal incumbents while making spectrum available for commercial use. The Committee believes such a study may provide additional options for the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar [SENSR] program to both enable commercial use of the 1300–1350 MHz spectrum band and reduce technology risk in the multistakeholder SENSR program.

National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service

Joint Polar Satellite System / Polar Follow On

House: The recommendation includes $572,240,000, the requested amount, for JPSS. The Committee commends NOAA on the successful launch of JPSS–1, and expects NOAA to incorporate lessons learned from JPSS–1 into the planning and execution of the remaining JPSS satellites.

The Committee provides $305,751,000, the requested amount, for PFO. The Committee is pleased that NOAA has found savings and efficiencies to reduce the cost of this program in fiscal year 2019, and expects NOAA to continue to seek and achieve savings in future years of the PFO program. As requested, this recommendation supports procuring spacecraft for JPSS 3 and JPSS 4 in fiscal year 2019. The Committee understands that PFO is planned to complete KDP–C in fiscal year 2019, and expects to receive the program baseline in fiscal year 2019.

Senate: The Committee provides $927,991,000 for Polar Weather Satellites, which is $50,000,000 above the request. While the Committee approves combining the Joint Polar Satellite System [JPSS] and Polar Weather Follow-on [PFO] program offices, section 104 of the act maintains language capping the life cycle cost of JPSS to $11,322,125,000 and adds language capping the life cycle cost of PFO at $7,573,000,000.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R Series

House: The recommendation includes $408,380,000 for the GOES–R program, as requested.

NOAA Satellite Observing System Architecture study

House: The Committee notes that the fiscal year 2017 Appropriations Act required NOAA to brief the Committee on the results of the NSOSA in fiscal year 2017 and yet the Committee has not received this briefing midway through fiscal year 2018. This is unacceptable.

Quarterly satellite reports and oversight

House: The Committee expects the Department of Commerce to ensure that NOAA’s satellite programs are proceeding within the cost estimates and meeting program milestones. The Committee expects to be notified promptly if any issues arise that could jeopardize the current launch schedules. The Department of Commerce shall remain engaged in the overall management of Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), Polar Follow-On, and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES–R).

NOAA shall provide quarterly briefings to the Committee on all NOAA satellite programs not later than 30 days after the end of each quarter. These briefings shall include the status of obligations for each program, including spacecraft, launch, sensor, integration, and ground components, and proposed changes to the fly out charts. NOAA shall also include in these briefings updates on all of its operational satellite systems.

The Committee reiterates its desire that OIG and GAO staff be permitted at NOAA’s monthly satellites meetings. To further aid the Committee in its oversight function, NOAA shall provide biannual updates to the Committee regarding the status of implementing OIG, GAO, and Independent Review Team recommendations for NOAA’s satellite programs.

Senate: The Committee directs NOAA to provide quarterly programmatic and procurement status reports of all satellites actively orbiting, in space but in standby mode, and under development unless any reprogramming, system failure, construction delay, or other extraordinary circumstance warrants an immediate update. As part of the agency’s quarterly satellite briefing, NOAA shall include updates on preparations and enhancements necessary to accommodate an increased volume of satellite data and shall compare initial cost estimates to actual expenditures.

Space Weather Follow On

Senate: The Committee provides $12,000,000 for NOAA’s space weather sentinel activity. Funding above the request shall be used for NOAA to pursue launch options for a compact coronagraph. The Committee notes the necessity of having the Federal Government develop and implement a coherent space weather architecture that addresses scientific, national security and meteorologically operational requirements using a constellation of lower cost satellites, akin to a NASA Explorer Class framework, and expects to receive a plan before the end of fiscal year 2018. While NASA’s heliophysics program generally addresses the scientific needs and priorities for this domain, it has also been utilized for operational requirements, despite the fact that these satellites are generally not designed for that purpose and are capable of providing forecast warning times of just minutes to a few days. Hence, the Nation must design a space weather program that addresses current needs, particularly given the vulnerability of our communications and electrical infrastructure to severe space weather events and the devastating effects those events would have on the economy.

Metop-C

Senate: The Committee provides $40,000,000 for Projects, Planning, and Analysis to support pre-launch testing and Ground Support Equipment of U.S. instruments on Metop-C, which is scheduled for launch in October 2019. These instruments will provide complementary data to the JPSS morning orbit in polar satellite data and are critical for maintaining Numerical Weather Prediction model accuracy for 3–7 day forecasts.

National Centers for Environmental Information

Senate: The Committee recommends $60,642,000 for NCEI, which consolidated several programs previously funded separately. While the Committee supports the current budget structure for NESDIS, it is essential to ensure that key programs continue to receive adequate funding. Specifically, the Committee provides not less than the fiscal year 2018 enacted levels of $6,000,000 for Regional Climate Services, $3,650,000 for Regional Climate Centers, and $5,500,000 for Coastal Data Development. NOAA shall consider the Coastal Data Development program as the central repository to manage data collections and information services of the various Gulf of Mexico Restoration activities funded in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill for scientific stewardship. Furthermore, within NCEI, the Committee encourages NOAA to fully support critical international partnerships, including the Global Climate Observing System.

The Committee rejects the proposed elimination of the Big Earth Data Initiative and provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 amount for the program.

Commercial weather data

House: The Committee provides $6,000,000 to ensure NOAA has the resources necessary to thoroughly assess commercial data opportunities. If NOAA determines that data or services licensed and evaluated through the Commercial Weather Data Pilot Program are cost effective and operationally viable for meeting a NOAA observation requirement, NOAA is directed to pursue the potential of the commercial system to provide an ongoing operational service as part of the NOAA observation architecture.

Senate: The Committee provides $3,000,000 to support the assessment and potential use of commercial data in NOAA’s weather modeling and forecasting through pilot purchases of commercial data.

COSMIC-2 / Radio occultation data

Senate: The Committee is concerned about NOAA’s continued access to high quality radio occultation [RO] data for operational forecasts, and continued research to improve modeling capacity. Under Public Law 115–25, NOAA was directed to conduct a commercial pilot project to acquire RO data, and to proceed with the COSMIC program of record. While the Committee is optimistic about the role for commercial RO data, continued operational data is critical for weather forecasting. With NOAA’s cancellation of COSMIC 2B and the original COSMIC program nearing the end of its life, the Committee directs NOAA to develop and submit a plan within 180 days of passage to manage the risk of an RO data gap and preserve the quality of NOAA forecasts. The plan should include a report on the implementation of the RO provisions of Public Law 115–25.

Office of Satellite and Product Operations

House: The recommendation includes $150,000,000 for the Office of Satellite and Product Operations. This activity funds the command and control of NOAA’s operational satellites. The recommendation supports the proposed increase for IT security. It is paramount that NOAA identify and mitigate vulnerabilities affecting the availability, integrity, security and delivery of NOAA’s data. The Committee expects the Comprehensive Large Array data Stewardship System to be adequately funded in order to support the long-term preservation of and access to data from NOAA’s observing systems.

Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

Atmospheric rivers

House: Atmospheric rivers are responsible for more than 40 percent of the precipitation on the West Coast. Improving the understanding and forecasting of atmospheric rivers is critical to improving water management and flood control on the West Coast. The recommendation includes $3,000,000 for increased winter storm observations to better observe and predict these extreme storm events.

Senate: As part of the Explanatory Statement accompanying Public Law 115–141, the Committee requested a report about the feasibility and potential benefit of using airborne assets to conduct storm monitoring of the U.S. West Coast, with a particular interest in atmospheric rivers. The Committee looks forward to the submission of the report. Furthermore, within Aviation Operations, up to $1,000,000 may be used for additional monitoring of atmospheric rivers.

Aircraft recapitalization

House: The fiscal year 2018 Appropriations Act funded both a Hurricane Hunter and a jet propeller aircraft to conduct soil moisture, water resources, and gravity-based vertical datum survey missions. The Act also required that NOAA submit an updated NOAA Aircraft Recapitalization Business Case and Timeline within 120 days of enactment of that Act. The Committee looks forward to promptly receiving the Business Case and Timeline.

Fleet recapitalization and maintenance

House: Fleet Deferred Maintenance.—The recommendations provides $6,785,000 above the request in Operations, Research, and Facilities, and $9,122,000 above the request in Procurement, Acquisition and Construction to address deferred maintenance of NOAA’s fleet. The Committee looks forward to receiving the briefing required in the fiscal year 2018 Appropriations Act regarding vessel maintenance requirements, and requires an updated report within 60 days of enactment of this Act.


Buy American Provisions.—In recognition of the economic and national security importance of the domestic shipbuilding industrial base, the Department of Commerce, NASA, and NSF are reminded of the Buy American provisions contained in law that apply to the Department of Defense, particularly 10 U.S.C. 2534(a)(3) and (4) regarding air circuit breakers, welded shipboard anchor, mooring chain with a diameter of 4 inches or less, and, to the extent they are unique to marine applications, gyrocompasses, electronic navigation chart systems, steering controls, pumps, propulsion and machinery control systems, totally enclosed lifeboats; certain powered and non-powered valves; and certain machine tools for metal-working machinery. In awarding any new contracts related to the acquisition, construction, or conversion of a marine vessel, the Department of Commerce, NASA, and NSF are urged to make every effort to acquire, consistent with schedule and cost competition requirements, only U.S. manufactured components, consistent with 10 U.S.C. 2534 and for auxiliary equipment (including pumps) for shipboard services; propulsion equipment (including engines, reduction gears, and propellers); shipboard cranes; and spreaders for shipboard cranes.

Dropsondes

Senate: The Committee recognizes the importance of dropsondes as a critical tool for atmospheric data collection, including for hurricane forecast modeling. The Committee directs NOAA to provide, within 90 days of enactment of this act, a comprehensive accounting of its dropsonde use for data collection, including acquisition costs, for fiscal year 2018. Furthermore, the Committee encourages NOAA to outline specific dropsonde acquisition costs as part of its fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Unmanned surface vehicles

House: The recommendation includes no less than the enacted level for a competitive data acquisition program that uses Unmanned Surface Vehicles to augment NOAA’s observational suite.

Senate: The Committee is concerned about NOAA’s ability to meet the demand for at-sea research days with its current combination of an aging fleet and charter vessels, as well as responding to emerging mission requirements. The Committee recognizes that USVs are not a replacement for crewed research ships, but are a synergistic complement to crewed ships’ capabilities. Within funding for Marine Operations and Maintenance, the Committee provides up to $3,000,000 for the competitive acquisition of USVs data as a cost-effective augmentation for relevant research missions and fisheries data collection.

Unmanned aircraft systems

Senate: The Committee urges NOAA to expand its data collection for hurricane forecasting to include all levels of the atmosphere below 60,000 feet above sea level and notes the potential of UAS platforms to accomplish this expanded mission while reducing costs and likely promoting more reliable hurricane forecast models. The Committee encourages NOAA to improve collaboration with other science agencies of the Federal government to share and expand limited UAS availability, including working with NASA to utilize UAS platforms to supplement data collection from manned hurricane hunter missions.

Capital assets

Senate: Any decisions related to laying up any vessels, grounding any aircraft, or decommissioning any capital asset are subject to the standard reprogramming procedures set forth in section 505 of this act. Any changes from the spending plan shall also be subject to section 505 of this act. NOAA shall continue to provide the Committee with a monthly operational status of the fleet and aircraft.

National Ocean Service

Integrated Ocean Observing System

House: The recommendation includes $37,500,000 for IOOS regional observations. The Committee supports IOOS’ efforts to expand its use of underwater gliders.

Senate: The Committee directs NOAA and the IOOS regions to work with Federal agencies collecting regional observations to better integrate and disseminate information with the goal of reducing duplicative efforts and to provide users with streamlined access to observational information. In addition, within funding provided above the request for IOOS, NOS shall work to complete and operate the National High Frequency Radar System, and is encouraged to utilize autonomous underwater gliders in support of the observing system’s mission.

Integrated Water Prediction / National Water Center

Senate: Within funding provided for Coastal Zone Management and Services, the Committee provides no less than the fiscal year 2018 level for NOS to continue supporting the development and operation of the Integrated Water Prediction program with NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Education

Office of Education

House: The Committee includes $28,500,000 for NOAA’s Office of Education. Of this amount, $16,000,000 is provided to continue the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, and $7,500,000 is provided to continue the Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B–WET) regional programs.

Senate: The Committee rejects the proposal to eliminate NOAA’s Office of Education. Within the funds provided for NOAA’s Education Program, $5,000,000 is for competitive educational grants, which includes continued support for Environmental Literacy Grants and for improving geographic literacy; $15,500,000 is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions; and $7,500,000 is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs. NOAA is encouraged to engage students in live, interactive programming using telepresence technology.

Hispanic-serving institutions

Senate: The Committee encourages NOAA to consider the creation of a Cooperative Science Center at a Hispanic Serving Institution to help educate and train the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and one that is underrepresented in NOAA’s scientific workforce.

Other provisions

Construction and facilities maintenance

House: The Committee looks forward to receiving the report required in the fiscal year 2018 Appropriations Act and requires an updated report containing the same information be provided 30 days prior to obligating the funds provided in 2019. NOAA funds and manages facility maintenance requirements out of nearly every line office and out of Mission Support. In fiscal year 2019, NOAA shall submit to the Committees a report that includes: (1) an assessment of whether this is the most efficient means to fund and manage NOAA’s construction and facilities requirements, (2) potential options to more effectively and efficiently manage and fund NOAA’s facilities and construction requirements; and (3) a proposal about how to improve and streamline NOAA’s facilities management process.

Senate: The Committee provides $10,000,000 for NOAA’ s highest priority facilities repair and deferred maintenance requirements. NOAA has significant facilities repair and deferred maintenance liabilities and the Committee’s is concerned by reports, including the Department’s OIG Report, ‘‘NOAA: Repair Needs Data Not Accurate, and Real Property Utilization Not Monitored Adequately,’’ (OIG–17–032–A), that indicate NOAA is not appropriately managing its real property maintenance needs. Thirty days prior to obligating any of these additional facilities repair and deferred maintenance funds, NOAA shall submit a report providing the following information: (1) a NOAA-wide prioritized list of its deferred facilities maintenance needs, including an explanation of how such list was developed; (2) an estimate of the total amount and composition of deferred facilities maintenance, including an explanation of how such estimate was developed; (3) how NOAA maintains information on, and manages, its deferred maintenance needs and activities; and (4) an update on addressing the recommendations of OIG–17–032–A.

About the author

awolfe [at] aip.org
+1 301-209-3182

Explore FYI topics: