The President’s FY 2018 budget had originally called for a collective downsizing of NOAA activities, with particularly steep reductions to core research programs. During last summer's funding debate, appropriators in turn rejected the breadth of these proposed cuts, though the House and Senate still disagreed on certain areas including climate research. In the end, thanks to the recent budget deal that lifted federal discretionary spending caps, NOAA was granted an overall funding boost, which trickled down to core research as well as key satellite development funding.
Bottom Line: The total NOAA discretionary budget increases by $234 million or 4.1 percent in FY 2018 (see Funding Table linked above). The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) receives a total $34 million or 6.7 percent funding increase. Support is maintained for current development on NOAA’s geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites, alongside a ramp-up in funding for a burgeoning Polar Follow-on program.
- Within OAR, the Weather and Air Chemistry Research Program sees a large 15.6 percent boost, with funding upticks for laboratories and cooperative institutes as well as the U.S. Weather Research Program. The Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, which was recently established to quickly transition the latest weather research into forecasting products, doubles in funding to $20 million in FY 2018.
The Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Research Program is slated for a total 6.7 percent increase, with $3 million in new funding for an Ocean Joint Technology Transfer Initiative.
- The Polar Follow-on (PFO) satellite program, which was targeted for large cuts in the request, was instead boosted by $90 million to a total $419 million in FY 2018. The PFO program is made up of two new polar orbiting weather satellites (JPSS-3 and JPSS-4) that will ensure continuity of data.
- The National Weather Service’s Office of Science and Technology Integration, which oversees weather forecasting modeling and research-to-operations transition programs, was given a $6.4 million increase above its FY 2017 enacted level of $136.6 million.
- NOAA climate research remains flat-funded, for the third year in a row.
- The National Sea Grant College Program escaped proposed elimination, and was given a small $2 million uptick to a total $65 million in FY 2018.
- Congress also rejected the proposed termination of federal funding for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
- Both the Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite R-Series (GOES-R) and Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) obtained the funding amounts requested by the Administration and Congress to stay on schedule.
- NOAA received $75 million, as requested, for continued construction of a second NOAA vessel Class A.
In Historical Context: Within NOAA’s research portfolio, individual programs have seen very different fates in recent years, as seen in the graph above. Weather research funding has been allowed to grow considerably over the past decade. Meanwhile, climate research has declined by 30.4 percent below FY 2009 levels, after adjusting for inflation.
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Photo Credit: Personnel of NOAA Ship RAINIER