link to page 1 link to page 2

Updated September 1, 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 billions, 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

Department of Commerce (DOC), in the annual Commerce,
Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS), from NOAA budget
Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies
justifications and congressional explanatory statements.
Appropriations Act. Congress provides NOAA with
Notes: Direct obligations include annual appropriations, transfers,
discretionary and mandatory appropriations. Discretionary
and recoveries from prior year obligations. Amounts do not include
appropriations support two broad accounts—operations,
supplemental appropriations.
research, and facilities (ORF) and procurement, acquisition,
Issues for Congress
and construction (PAC)—as well as several relatively small
According to NOAA’s FY2021 budget summary, the
accounts. Mandatory appropriations generally provide a
requested budget supports priorities to (1) reduce the
small percentage of total NOAA appropriations and are
impacts of extreme weather and water events, (2) expand
disbursed to a variety of funds that support programs in
the “American Blue Economy,” and (3) advance space
NOS, NMFS, and OMAO. This CRS product examines
discretionary funding for ORF and PAC for FY2021 and
potential issues for Congress, such as NOAA’s proposed
Proposed Program Funding Changes
changes to certain grant programs, satellite programs, and
the agency’s role in space commerce, and the Promote and
For FY2021, NOAA proposed funding increases to 20
Develop American Fishery Products & Research Pertaining
activities under ORF and PAC, totaling over $159.6
to American Fisheries Fund (P&D Fund).
million, primarily for goods and services from federal and
nonfederal entities (Table 1). NOAA also requested a
Agency Funding
reduction or elimination of 105 activities totaling $976.4
million. Grants, subsidies, and contributions (GSC) make
The Administration requested a total of $4.86 billion in
up a majority ($573.2 million, 58.7%) of the $976.4
discretionary direct obligations for ORF and PAC for
million. GSC includes grants awarded to nonfederal
FY2021, including $4.63 billion in appropriations. Direct
entities, such as states, universities, and corporations. GSC
obligations include annual appropriations, transfers, and
proposed to be eliminated represents between 0.3%
recoveries from prior year obligations. The FY2021 direct
(NESDIS) and 34.5% (OAR) of the line offices ’ FY2021
obligations request is $645.3 million (11.7%) below the
base amounts. The remaining proposed eliminations are to
enacted FY2020 level provided in P.L. 116-93. As passed
services from nonfederal entities, advisory services,
by the House, H.R. 7617 includes Division B of the CJS
contracts with federal entities, personnel compensation and
and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2021. Division B
benefits, travel, and other program adjustments. The
would provide $5.68 billion for ORF and PAC direct
Administration proposed similar changes in the previous
obligations, $179.6 (3.3%) million greater than the FY2020
three fiscal years. In H.Rept. 116-455, referenced in Section
enacted level and $823.6 million (17.0%) greater than the
3(b) of H.R. 7617, the House Appropriations Committee
FY2021 request. Over the last 10 years, NOAA direct
stated its support for “NOAA’s ongoing collaboration with
obligations peaked in FY2018 (Figure 1). Since FY2012,
academia and the private sector through cooperative
the amounts enacted in the PAC account have ranged from
institutes and competitive research.”
about 28% to 41% of the total direct obligations.

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

Sources: CRS, using explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93; NOAA, Budget Estimates Fiscal Year 2021; H.Rept. 116-455; Division B
of H.R. 7617, as passed by the House.
Notes: NA = not available; ORF = operations, research, and facilities; PAC = procurement, acquisition, and construction.
The table shows the FY2020 NESDIS amount as noted in the explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93.
b. FY2021 base is equal to the FY2020-enacted amount plus expected “Adjustments-To-Base,” such as certain inflationary adjustments.
There is a discrepancy between the direct obligations totals noted in H.Rept. 116-455 ($5,678.4 mil ion) and as passed by the House in
Division B of H.R. 7617 ($5,679.7 mil ion). The table shows the amounts per line office from H.Rept. 116-455 and total direct obligations
and appropriations as passed in Division B of H.R. 7617.
d. “Total Direct Obligations,” or total program or funding level, include annual appropriations, transfers, and recoveries from 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 dol ars for the fiscal
year and do not include supplemental appropriations.
Satellite Programs
results of a National Academy of Public Administration
NOAA provides global weather and environmental data
study on the topic.
from satellites and other remote sensing technologies to
other federal agencies, the public, and the private sector.
P&D Fund
Congress may consider changes to NOAA’s satellite
The P&D Fund, an account outside of ORF and PAC, is
programs, including Geostationary Operational
financed through a mandatory transfer from the Department
Environmental Satellites (GOES). For instance, issues with
of Agriculture (USDA) to DOC of 30% of duties on
the main imaging instrument on GOES-17, which launched
imported fisheries products. In FY2021, NOAA proposed
in 2018, prompted NOAA and the National Aeronautics
that (1) Congress directly appropriate mandatory funding to
and Space Administration to convene a mishap
DOC rather than transfer amounts from USDA (the initial
investigation board and the DOC Office of the Ins pector
funding level would be equal to the expected transfer from
General (OIG) to complete an investigation. NOAA plans
USDA in FY2021, with adjustments in future years), and
to launch two more GOES in the next four years. In H.Rept.
(2) funds would be used for ORF activities only. In
116-455, the House Appropriations Committee directed
previous years, Congress has kept the transfer structure in
DOC to maintain oversight of NOAA satellite programs
place and directed NOAA to use the P&D funds to support
and instructed NOAA to continue to provide quarterly
specific ORF activities and the congressionally authorized
satellite briefings to the committee.
Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grant program, which supports
fisheries research and development projects. Division B of
Space Commerce
H.R. 7617, as passed by the House, retains the transfer from
Together with other agencies, DOC regulates and promotes
USDA and directs NOAA to use the funds for ORF Fishery
the commercial space sector, including commercial remote
Science and Management program activities, with no
sensing satellites. NOAA houses the Commercial Remote
mention of S-K grant funding. For more on the P&D Fund
Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office (CRSRA) and Office of
and S-K program, see CRS Report R46335, Saltonstall-
Space Commerce (OSC). NOAA’s FY2021 budget request
Kennedy Act: Background and Issues, by Harold F. Upton.
again proposed to elevate CRSRA and OSC to DOC as
departmental activities. As in past years, H.Rept. 116-455
Eva Lipiec, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
indicates that the House Appropriations Committee does
not approve the transfer, and Members are to await the

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
been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the
United States Government, are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be
reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include
copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permissio n of the copyright holder if you
wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material. | IF11518 · VERSION 3 · UPDATED