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April 24, 2020
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
Figure 1. NOAA Requested and Enacted
(NOAA’s) mission is to understand and predict changes in
Discretionary Direct Obligations, FY2012–FY2021
weather, climate, oceans, and coasts; to share that
($ in bil ions, nominal)
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
Congress generally funds NOAA, an agency of the

Source: Congressional Research Service, from NOAA budget
Department of Commerce (DOC), in the annual Commerce,
justifications and congressional explanatory statements.
Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations law.
Congress provides NOAA with discretionary and
Notes: Direct obligations include appropriations, transfers from
mandatory appropriations. Discretionary appropriations
NOAA funds, and recoveries of canceled prior-year obligations.
support two broad accounts—operations, research, and
Amounts do not include supplemental appropriations, rescissions, or
facilities (ORF) and procurement, acquisition, and
construction (PAC)—as well as several relatively small
Issues for Congress
accounts. Mandatory appropriations generally provide a
small percentage of total NOAA appropriations and are
According to NOAA’s FY2021 budget summary, the
disbursed to a variety of funds that support programs in
requested budget supports priorities to (1) reduce the
NOS, NMFS, and OMAO. This CRS product examines
impacts of extreme weather and water events, (2) expand
discretionary funding for FY2021 and potential issues for
the “American Blue Economy,” and (3) advance space
Congress, such as NOAA’s proposed changes to certain
grant programs, the Promote and Develop American
Fishery Products & Research Pertaining to American
Proposed Program Funding Changes
Fisheries Fund, satellite programs, and the agency’s role in
For FY2021, NOAA proposed funding increases to 20
space commerce.
activities under ORF and PAC, totaling over $159.6
million, primarily for goods and services from federal and
Agency Funding
nonfederal entities (Table 1). NOAA also requested a
The Administration requested a total of $4.86 billion in
reduction or elimination of 105 activities totaling $976.4
discretionary direct obligations for ORF, PAC, and other
million. Grants, subsidies, and contributions (GSC) make
small accounts for FY2021, including $4.63 billion in
up a majority ($573.2 million, 58.7%) of the $976.4
appropriations, according to the agency’s FY2021 budget
million. GSC includes grants awarded to nonfederal
summary. Direct obligations include appropriations,
entities, such as states, universities, and corporations. GSC
transfers from NOAA funds, and recoveries of canceled
proposed to be eliminated represents between 0.3%
prior-year obligations. The FY2021 direct obligations
(NESDIS) and 34.5% (OAR) of the line offices’ FY2021
request is $193.0 million (4.1%) higher than the
base amounts. The remaining proposed eliminations are to
Administration’s FY2020 request, and $643.0 million
services, such as aircraft repair, from nonfederal entities,
(11.7%) less than the enacted FY2020 level noted in the
advisory services, contracts with federal entities, personnel
explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93. Enacted
compensation and benefits, travel, and other program
discretionary direct obligations for NOAA over the last 10
adjustments. The Administration proposed similar changes
years peaked in FY2018 (Error! Reference source not
in the previous three fiscal years. For FY2020, Congress
found.). Since FY2012, the enacted PAC account has
stated that it “retains many of these grant programs which
ranged from about 28% to 41% of the total enacted direct
allow States and communities to steer financial priorities
through a bottom-up approach instead of Federal agencies
driving local decisions from afar” (S.Rept. 116-127).

link to page 2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations
Table 1. NOAA FY2020-Enacted and FY2021-Requested
Discretionary ORF and PAC Accounts Direct Obligations and Appropriations
($ in millions, nominal)
Decreases or
Line Offices
from Base
from Base
Mission Support
Total Direct Obligationsc
Total Appropriationsd

Sources: CRS, FY2020 - explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93; and FY2021 - NOAA Budget Estimates Fiscal Year 2021.
Notes: NA = not available; ORF = operations, research, and facilities; PAC= procurement, acquisition, and construction.
a. FY2020 NESDIS PAC enacted amounts differ between the two sources noted. The explanatory statement amount is used in this table.
b. FY2021 base is equal to the FY2020-enacted amount plus expected Adjustments-To-Base, such as certain inflationary adjustments.
c. “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.
d. “Total Appropriations” are a part of the total direct obligations. They include the enacted or requested appropriation dol ars for the fiscal
year and do not include recoveries of canceled prior-year obligations, transfers from other NOAA accounts, or supplemental
Promote and Develop American Fishery Products
approved the agency’s proposal to merge JPSS and Polar
& Research Pertaining to American Fisheries Fund
Follow On into one subactivity (Polar Weather Satellites).
(P&D Fund)
NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space
The P&D fund is a small account that is financed through a
Administration jointly convened a board to study the 2018
mandatory transfer from the U.S. Department of
malfunction of the advanced baseline imager on GOES-R
Agriculture (USDA) of 30% of duties on imported fisheries
(leading to periodic loss of infrared data) issued
products (e.g., $183.8 million transferred to NOAA in
recommendations in July 2019. Congress may consider
FY2020). NOAA is again proposing that Congress directly
whether NOAA has appropriately responded to these
appropriate mandatory funding to DOC, rather than
recommendations. The DOC Office of the Inspector
transferring amounts from USDA. According to NOAA, the
General has also expressed interest in the GOES-R
funds would support previously funded activities and the
program—the office initiated an audit in March 2020 to
initial funding level would be equal to the expected transfer
assess the program’s progress in achieving launch readiness
from USDA in FY2021, with adjustments in future years.
for the next mission, named GOES-T.
As in the previous three fiscal years, the Administration’s
request would transfer all P&D funds to ORF, leaving no
Space Commerce
funding for the Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grant program.
Together with other agencies, DOC regulates and promotes
In recent years, Congress has directed the agency to use
the commercial space sector, including commercial remote
P&D funds to benefit U.S. fisheries and fishing
sensing satellites. NOAA currently houses the Commercial
communities (rather than ORF activities broadly) and
Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office (CRSRA) and
“reject[ed] the administration’s proposal to eliminate the S-
Office of Space Commerce (OSC). NOAA’s FY2021
K grant program,” as described in S.Rept. 116-127.
budget request again proposes to move CRSRA and OSC to
DOC. In FY2020, Congress did not approve the proposal
Satellite Programs
and directed the Secretary of Commerce to contract with
NOAA provides global weather and environmental data
the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct
from satellites and other remote sensing technologies to
an independent review of the proposal. The contract was
other federal agencies, the public, and the private sector.
awarded on March 2, 2020.
Congress has previously raised questions about NOAA’s
satellite programs, particularly the Joint Polar Satellite
Eva Lipiec, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational
Environmental Satellites (GOES). In FY2020, Congress

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to
congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of Congress.
Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public understanding of information that has
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