Spending Deal Averts Shutdown, Funds Science Agencies Through September

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Publication date: 
15 February 2019

Final appropriations legislation enacted today provides steady or increased funding to research programs at science agencies that have been operating on stopgap spending from the outset of fiscal year 2019.


Trump National Emergency Speech

President Trump announces he will sign final spending legislation for fiscal year 2019 and declare a national emergency to divert additional funds to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

(Image credit – The White House)

President Trump signed legislation today that provides funding through Sept. 30 to all the agencies that have been operating on stopgap appropriations since October. The move averts a repeat of the recent funding lapse that shuttered many federal science agencies. The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 83 to 16 yesterday, and the House quickly followed suit with a vote of 300 to 128.

The chart below shows the budget amounts that the legislation provides for NASA, the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and U.S. Geological Survey. All will receive steady or increased funding for their main research accounts, though NOAA and NIST’s budget toplines will decrease due to expected drops in funding for satellite acquisition and facility construction, respectively.

The joint explanatory statement containing policy and detailed funding direction for each agency is posted here. Tables detailing final funding levels for agency programs are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

Agency funding outcomes

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate budget will rise 11 percent to just under $7 billion, though the increase is distributed unevenly across its four divisions.

Earth Science will see a marginal increase, remaining near $1.9 billion, while the budget for Planetary Science will surge 24 percent to $2.8 billion. Within that amount, the legislation provides $545 million for work on a mission that will perform multiply flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa and $195 million for a follow-on lander mission. These amounts match those proposed by former Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who was the strongest advocate for the missions in Congress.

Heliophysics will see a 5 percent increase to $720 million, while the combined budget for Astrophysics and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will rise 8 percent to just under $1.5 billion. The legislation raises the statutory cap on development costs for JWST by $800 million to $8.8 billion to accommodate cost overruns arising from problems encountered during final integration and testing of the telescope. The explanatory statement sharply criticizes NASA for “overall poor basic workmanship” on the project. It also specifies $312 million for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, which the administration proposed to cancel.

NSF will receive a 4 percent overall budget increase, building on a similar increase it received during the last appropriations cycle. The agency’s budget now stands at just over $8 billion, of which $6.5 billion is for its six research directorates and $910 million is for its education directorate. The legislation also provides the requested amounts for construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, while ramping up funding for acquisition of new oceanographic research vessels and modernization of NSF’s facilities in Antarctica.

NOAA’s budget will decrease 8 percent to $5.4 billion largely due to a planned ramp down in funding for satellite acquisition programs. Funding for the Office of Atmospheric and Oceanic Research will increase 3 percent to $566 million, with the budget for climate and weather research programs remaining steady in the face of the administration’s large proposed cuts to them.

NIST’s budget will drop 18 percent to just under $1 billion, though funding for the agency’s research programs will stay steady at $725 million. The overall drop is entirely due to a large decrease in the Research Facilities Construction account, which Congress funded at an elevated level last year to accelerate renovation of buildings on NIST’s campuses in Maryland and Colorado.

USGS’s overall budget will receive a marginal increase, remaining near $1.2 billion, while a few major programs will see more substantial changes. After receiving one-time funding for earthquake and volcano monitoring infrastructure upgrades last year, the Natural Hazards budget will decrease 7 percent to $166 million, freeing up resources for other programs. For instance, the Energy and Mineral Resources budget will rise 11 percent to $89 million.

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