October 3, 2019

Senate Rejects Proposed Cuts, Expands Science Funding – Part 1

Posted by bphilip

Just before the 2019 fiscal year ended on 30 September, the Senate Committee on Appropriations considered and advanced ten of its twelve fiscal 2020 bills, including spending bills that fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Over the next two posts, we’ll detail the Senate’s spending and programmatic highlights for federal Earth and space science agencies.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Budget (rounded to the nearest million) FY19 FY20 President’s Budget Request (PBR) FY20 Senate Appropriations Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY19 Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY20 PBR
 Overall $5,424.70 $4,466.47 $5,337.34 -1.61% 19.50%
National Ocean Service $588.00 $391.60 $600.81 2.18% 53.42%
National Marine and Fisheries Service $909.00 $842.70 $944.81 3.95% 12.12%
Oceanic & Atmospheric Research $566.00 $335.10 $572.21 1.10% 70.76%
National Weather Service $1,163.00 $1,081.90 $1,163.00 0.00% 7.50%
NESDIS $1,700.00 $1,472.70 $1,531.32 -9.92% 3.98%
Mission Support $292.21 $262.20 $328.66 12.47% 25.35%
Office of Marine & Aviation Operations $326.00 $354.90 $344.42 5.65% -2.95%


Highlights from the Bill and Committee Report:

  • The report rejects many of the Administration’s proposed programmatic eliminations, including: the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science; the Climate Competitive Research; the environmental genomics program; the Tsunami Warning Program; and all cuts to Upper, Air, Surface, and Marine Observations.
  • OAR receives a $1 million increase for Arctic research,
  • To establish the Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), NOAA receives $7 million and is directed to provide the Committee a five-year strategic plan for EPIC.
  • The Committee expresses continued concern regarding the number of National Weather Service (NWS) employee vacancies and directs NWS to quickly fill all vacancies.
  • The decrease to NESDIS reflects a planned reduction in funding as NOAA’s flagship weather satellite programs enter the operational phase.
  • In recognition of ongoing spectrum concerns, NOAA is directed to submit a study assessing impacts to its weather satellites “with instruments operating within the 23.6-24 GHz band under an out-of-band emissions limit of -28 decibel watts.”
  • The Senate lauds NOAA for its work to provide “a workplace free from sexual assault and sexual harassment” and provides $1 million for continued implementation of NOAA Administrative Order 202-1106.
  • The Committee increases funding for Sea Grant by $7 million and continues funding all Sea Grant STEM education and fellowship programs.
  • The Committee affirms the importance of understanding atmospheric rivers and “provides $1,000,000 within Aviation Operations to better observe and predict these extreme weather events.”
  • Recognizing NOAA’s high-performance computing needs and limitations, the Committee provides $15 million for developing “a dedicated high-performance computing facility in collaboration with partners that have existing high-performance computing expertise and scientific synergies.”
  • Per the President’s request, the Committee provides $755 million for Polar Weather Satellites and $68.6 million for the Space Weather Follow-on.
  • The pilot commercial weather data initiative receives $3 million, and the program to initiate commercial purchase of radio occultation data for operational use receives $5 million.
  • The Committee approves and applauds NOAA’s $75 million budget request for new vessel construction.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Budget (rounded to the nearest million) FY19 FY20 PBR FY20 Senate Appropriations Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY19 Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY20 PBR
Overall $21,500.00 $21,000.00 $22,750.00 5.81% 8.33%
Science Mission Directorate $5,895.00 $6,303.70 $6,905.70 0.00% 9.55%
Earth Science $1,784.20 $1,780.00 $1,945.00 0.73% 9.27%
Planetary Science $2,758.00 $2,600.00 $2,631.10 -4.60% 1.20%
Heliophysics $720.00 $705.00 $735.00 2.08% 4.26%
James Webb Space Telescope $304.50 $353.00 $423.00 38.92% 19.83%
STEM Engagement $110.00 $0.00 $112.00 1.82%


Highlights from the Bill and Committee Report:

  • The Committee explicitly states that funding priorities for NASA “should not be interpreted as suggestions” but should be treated “like any other statutory requirement.”
  • The report includes directions to NASA to implement the recommendations of the 2017 Earth science decadal survey and submit a report delineating how its 2021 budget request will fulfill the planetary science decadal survey.
  • The Committee directs the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program to “adhere to the lunar science priorities established by decadal surveys and the National Research Council’s Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon,” that meets the needs of both lunar and human exploration. The funding provided supports a “regular cadence of at least one robotic mission to the lunar surface per year.”
  • The bill requires NASA to continue its DART technology demonstration mission, with launch expected by 2022, and is reminded of “its mandate to detect 90 percent of objects greater than 140 meters that threaten Earth by 2020.”
  • The Committee provides the requested $182 million for implementation of alternating Small and Mid-sized Heliophysics Explorer missions and includes language supporting the Diversify, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate [DRIVE] initiative.
  • As a response to the Space Weather Action Plan and Decadal Survey recommendations, the committee specifically provides $20 million for space weather applications.
  • The bill rejects the proposed cancellation of NASA’s STEM engagement programs. Space Grant receives $47 million and is required to support all 52 participating jurisdictions “at no less than $760,000.”


National Science Foundation (NSF)
Budget (rounded to the nearest million) FY19 FY20 PBR FY20 Senate Appropriations Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY19 Percent Change Senate FY20 vs FY20 PBR
Overall $8,075.00 $7,066.00 $8,317.00 3.00% 17.70%
Research & Related Activities $6,520.00 $5,662.96 $6,769.67 3.83% 19.54%
Education & Human Resources $910.00 $823.47 $937.00 2.97% 13.79%
Major Research Equipment & Facilities $295.74 $223.23 $253.23 -14.37% 13.44%
National Science Board $4.37 $4.10 $4.50 2.97% 9.76%
Office of Inspector General $15.35 $15.35 $15.70 2.28% 2.28%
Agency Operations and Award Management $329.54 $336.89 $336.90 2.23% 0.00%


Highlights from the Bill and Committee Report:

  • The Committee encourages NSF to fully fund its U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments and provides fiscal year 2019 level funding for the new Facility Operation Transition pilot and operation of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).
  • The Committee expresses support for NSF’s 10 Big Ideas framework and directs NSF to maintain its core research “at levels not less than those provided in fiscal year 2017” with a new increase in funding helping to support the 10 Big Ideas.
  • The Committee provides $190 million in funding for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program and directs NSF to share the findings of its reexamination of EPSCoR eligibility criteria with Congress before taking any action to remove a State from the program.
  • The Committee recommends that NSF “invest in additional high-end computational systems” and create a funded budget line in future budget requests “to support world-class leadership computing for the national open science community.”
  • NSF is directed to coordinate with the academic research community in developing a plan to ensure continued access to “capabilities comparable to those currently provided by existing NSF marine research facilities.”
  • Mid-scale research infrastructure receives $75 million, which is $30 million more than requested.
  • Funding for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction receives a cut because the three Regional Class Research Vessels and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope completed construction.
  • The Committee rejects the proposed cuts to the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education, the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, and the Graduate Research Fellowship and funds these programs at fiscal year 2019 levels.




While a government shutdown was avoided, thanks to the recent passage of a continuing resolution, Congress only has only eight weeks to negotiate and pass all twelve spending bills and send to the President for approval. The ten spending bills advanced by the Senate Appropriations Committee will now go before the full Senate for a vote, leaving two bills awaiting action.


Although the Senate rejected major cuts to science funding proposed by the White House and provided strong funding for science overall, several science agencies still face significant spending and programmatic cuts, especially NOAA and NASA. Contact your legislators today and share the value and importance of fully funded scientific programming.


Part 2 of our deep dive will look into appropriated funding for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).