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Updated January 9, 2020
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
FY2020 Budget Request and Appropriations
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
Figure 1. NOAA Requested and Enacted Direct
(NOAA’s) mission is to understand and predict changes in
Obligations, FY2011–FY2020 (nominal $ in billions)
weather, climate, oceans, and coasts; to share that
information with others; and to conserve and manage
coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. NOAA’s
work is divided among six line offices: National
Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
(NESDIS); National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS);
National Ocean Service (NOS); National Weather Service
(NWS); Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
(OAR); and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
(OMAO). NOAA also has an overall Mission Support (MS)
office, which provides planning, administrative, financial,
information technology, and other services to NOAA’s line
Source: Congressional Research Service, from NOAA budget
Congress generally funds NOAA, an agency of the
justifications and congressional explanatory statements.
Department of Commerce (DOC), in the annual Commerce,
Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations law.
Note: Amounts do not include supplemental appropriations,
Congress provides NOAA with discretionary and
rescissions, or sequestration.
mandatory appropriations. Discretionary appropriations
Issues for Congress
support two broad accounts—operations, research, and
facilities (ORF) and procurement, acquisition, and
According to NOAA’s FY2020 Bluebook, the FY2020
construction (PAC)—as well as several relatively small
budget supported NOAA’s priorities to (1) reduce the
accounts. Mandatory appropriations generally provide a
impacts of extreme weather and water events, (2) maximize
small percentage of total NOAA appropriations and are
the economic contributions of ocean and coastal resources,
disbursed to a variety of funds that support programs in
and (3) space innovation.
NOS, NMFS, and OMAO. This CRS product examines
ORF and PAC funding for FY2020 and potential issues for
Proposed Program Changes
Congress, such as NOAA’s proposed program changes, the
For FY2020, the Administration proposed increases to 22
agency’s requested changes to the Promote and Develop
subactivities totaling over $80 million, including a
American Fishery Products & Research Pertaining to
requested increase of $18.5 million in subactivity grants,
American Fisheries Fund, future satellite funding, and the
subsidies, and contributions (GSC; Table 1). GSC,
agency’s role in space commerce.
according to NOAA, includes grants awarded to nonfederal
entities, such as states, universities, and the private sector.
NOAA’s FY2020 budget request also proposed the
The Administration requested a total of $4.66 billion in
reduction or elimination of 96 subactivities and additional
discretionary direct obligations for ORF and PAC for
undescribed decreases totaling over $1 billion (Table 1). Of
FY2020, including $4.46 billion in appropriations.
the total, more than $490.4 million in GSC was proposed to
Direct obligations include appropriations, transfers from
be reduced or eliminated compared to the FY2020 base
NOAA funds, and recoveries of canceled prior-year
level. The remaining amount was composed of planned
obligations. Under P.L. 116-93, Congress provided $5.5
decreases to three satellite programs ($216.6 million) and
billion in direct obligations to NOAA for FY2020. The
proposed reductions and eliminations to advisory services,
enacted FY2020 direct obligations amount is $836.0 million
contracts with federal and nonfederal entities, personnel
(18%) more than NOAA’s FY2020 direct obligations
compensation and benefits, travel, and other program
request ($4.66 billion) and $40.7 million (0.7%) less than
adjustments ($303.6 million) (Table 1). Similar changes
the enacted FY2019 direct obligations level ($5.54 billion).
were proposed in NOAA’s FY2018 and FY2019 budget
Enacted direct obligations and appropriations for NOAA
requests. Congress, as it has in past years, “retains many of
ORF and PAC have generally increased over the last 10
these grant programs which allow States and communities
years, and they peaked in FY2018 (Figure 1). Since
to steer financial priorities through a bottom-up approach
FY2011, the PAC account has ranged from about 28% to
instead of Federal agencies driving local decisions from
41% of the total direct obligations.
afar” according to S.Rept. 116-127.
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Table 1. NOAA ORF and PAC FY2019-Enacted, FY2020-Requested, and FY2020-Enacted
Direct Obligations and Appropriations
(nominal $ in millions)
Sources: CRS from NOAA Budget Estimates Fiscal Year 2020; NOAA 2020 Budget Summary.
Notes: ORF = operations, research, and facilities; PAC= procurement, acquisition, and construction.
a. FY2019 and FY2020-enacted amounts do not include supplemental appropriations.
b. FY2020 base is equal to the FY2019-enacted amount plus expected Adjustments-To-Base, such as certain inflationary adjustments.
c. Proposed elimination of the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and Fisheries Disaster Assistance Fund are not included in the totals.
d. “Total Direct Obligations,” or total program or funding level, includes direct new appropriations, transfers from other NOAA accounts,
and recoveries of canceled prior-year obligations. Totals may differ due to rounding.
e. “Total Appropriations” are a part of the total direct obligations. They include the enacted or requested appropriation dollars for the fiscal
year and do not include recoveries of canceled prior-year obligations, transfers from other NOAA accounts, or supplemental
Changes to the Promote and Develop American
titled the Polar Weather Satellites (PWS). The request also
Fishery Products & Research Pertaining to
would have organized several other FY2019 subactivities
American Fisheries Fund (P&D Fund)
into new subactivities, titled Low Earth Orbit,
The P&D fund is financed through a mandatory transfer
Geostationary Earth Orbit, and Systems/Services
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of 30%
Architecture and Engineering (SAE). For FY2020,
of duties on imported fisheries products. In recent years,
according to the explanatory statement accompanying P.L.
NOAA has requested to transfer all of these funds to ORF,
116-93 and S.Rept. 116-127, Congress approved the
but Congress typically has required that a portion fund the
creation of the PWS and SAE subactivities but did not
Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grant program for fisheries
adopt the other proposed NESDIS budget and staffing
research and development projects. For FY2020, the
Administration requested Congress directly appropriate
funding to DOC to be “available for the same purposes as
previous receipt-funded activities.” According to P.L. 116-
Together with other agencies, DOC regulates and promotes
93 and S.Rept. 116-127, Congress required the transfer of
the commercial space sector, including commercial remote
funds from USDA and maintained the provision restricting
sensing satellites. NOAA currently houses the Commercial
the use of the P&D Fund to activities that “directly benefit
Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office (CRSRA) and
U.S. fisheries and fishery communities,” including the S-K
Office of Space Commerce (OSC). NOAA’s FY2020
budget request would have moved CRSRA and OSC to the
DOC, as part of the creation of the Bureau of Space
Future Satellite Funding
Commerce. In the explanatory statement accompanying
NOAA provides global weather and environmental data
P.L. 116-93 and S.Rept. 116-127, Congress did not approve
from satellites and other remote sensing technologies to
the proposal and directed the Secretary of Commerce to
other federal agencies, the public, and the private sector.
contract with the National Academy of Public
Congress has previously raised questions about NOAA’s
Administration to conduct an independent review of the
satellite programs, particularly Joint Polar Satellite System
(JPSS), regarding data continuity, program management,
and budget. For FY2020, NOAA requested to restructure
Eva Lipiec, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
the NESDIS budget and organization to “increase cost and
program efficiencies.” NOAA’s proposal would have
merged JPSS and Polar Follow On into a new subactivity
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): FY2020 Budget Request and Appropriations
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