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Updated November 24, 2020
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
amounts enacted in the PAC account have ranged from
(NOAA’s) mission is to understand and predict changes in
about 28% to 41% of the total enacted direct obligations.
weather, climate, oceans, and coasts; to share that
information with others; and to conserve and manage
Figure 1. NOAA Requested and Enacted
coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. NOAA’s
Discretionary Direct Obligations, FY2012-FY2021
work is divided among six line offices: National
($ in billions, nominal)
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,
Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act. Congress provides NOAA with

discretionary and mandatory appropriations. Discretionary
Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS), from NOAA budget
appropriations support two broad accounts—operations,
justifications and congressional explanatory statements.
research, and facilities (ORF) and procurement, acquisition,
Notes: Direct obligations include annual appropriations, transfers,
and construction (PAC)—as well as several relatively small
and recoveries from prior year obligations. Amounts do not include
accounts. Mandatory appropriations generally provide a
supplemental appropriations.
small percentage of total NOAA appropriations and are
Issues for Congress
disbursed to a variety of funds that support programs in
According to NOAA’s FY2021 budget summary, the
NOS, NMFS, and OMAO. This CRS product examines
requested budget supports priorities to (1) reduce the
discretionary funding for ORF and PAC for FY2021 and
impacts of extreme weather and water events, (2) expand
potential issues for Congress, such as NOAA’s proposed
the “American Blue Economy,” and (3) advance space
changes to certain grant programs, satellite programs, the
agency’s role in space commerce, and
the Promote and
Develop American Fishery Products & Research Pertaining
Proposed Program Funding Changes
to American Fisheries Fund (P&D Fund).
For FY2021, NOAA proposed funding increases to 20
Agency Funding
activities (primarily goods and services from federal and
nonfederal entities) under ORF and PAC, totaling over
NOAA requested a total of $4.86 billion in discretionary
$159.6 million. NOAA also requested a reduction to or
direct obligations for ORF and PAC for FY2021, including
elimination of 105 activities, totaling $976.4 million.
$4.63 billion in appropriations (Table 1). Direct obligations
Grants, subsidies, and contributions (GSC) make up a
include annual appropriations, transfers, and recoveries
majority ($573.2 million, 58.7%) of the $976.4 million
from prior year obligations. Division B of the House-passed
reduction. GSC includes grants awarded to nonfederal
H.R. 7617 would provide $5.68 billion for ORF and PAC
entities, such as states, universities, and corporations. The
direct obligations, $179.6 million (3.3%) greater than the
proposed decreases to GSC represent between 0.3%
FY2020 enacted level and $823.6 million (17.0%) greater
(NESDIS) and 34.5% (OAR) of the line offices ’ FY2021
than the FY2021 request. The FY2021 Senate Committee
base amounts. NOAA’s other requests would decrease
Majority Draft bill would provide $5.62 billion for ORF
services from nonfederal entities, advisory services,
and PAC direct obligations, $122.1 million (2.2%) above
contracts with federal entities, personnel compensation and
the FY2020 enacted level and $767.4 million (15.8%)
benefits, travel, and other program adjustments. NOAA
above the FY2021 request. Over the last 10 years, enacted
proposed similar changes in the previous three fiscal years.
NOAA ORF and PAC direct obligations (in nominal
The FY2021 House and Senate bills would not implement
dollars) peaked in FY2018 (Figure 1). Since FY2012, the
the agency’s proposed GSC changes, with the House
Appropriations Committee report language stating support

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for “NOAA’s ongoing collaboration with academia and the
private sector through cooperative institutes and
competitive research.”
Table 1. NOAA FY2020-Enacted, FY2021-Requested, and FY2021 House-Passed and Senate Committee
Majority Draft Amounts for Discretionary ORF and PAC Accounts Direct Obligations and Appropriations
($ in millions, nominal)
FY2021 Senate
Line Offices
Majority Draft
Mission Support
Total Direct Obligationsd
Total Appropriationse
Sources: CRS, using explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93; NOAA, Budget Estimates Fiscal Year 2021; H.Rept. 116-455; H.R. 7617;
and Senate Appropriations Committee majority draft explanatory statement.
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 House-passed 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
FY2021 budget request proposed to move CRSRA and
NOAA provides global weather and environmental data
OSC out of NOAA and into DOC as departmental
from satellites and other remote sensing technologies to
activities. In report language accompanying the proposed
federal agencies, the public, and the private sector.
bills, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees did
Congress may consider changes, such as increased
not approve the relocation.
oversight or required reporting, to NOAA’s satellite
programs, including Geostationary Operational
P&D Fund
Environmental Satellites (GOES). For instance, issues with
The P&D Fund, an account outside of ORF and PAC, is
the main imaging instrument on GOES-17, which launched
financed through a mandatory transfer from the Department
in 2018, prompted NOAA and the National Aeronautics
of Agriculture (USDA) to DOC of 30% of duties on
and Space Administration to convene a mishap
imported fisheries products. In FY2021, NOAA proposed
investigation board and the DOC Office of the Inspector
that (1) Congress directly appropriate mandatory funding to
General (OIG) to separately complete an investigation.
DOC rather than transfer amounts from USDA, and (2)
NOAA plans to launch two more GOES in the next four
funds would be used for ORF activities only. In previous
years. In report language accompanying the proposed bills,
years, Congress has kept the transfer structure in place and
the House and Senate Appropriations Committees each
directed NOAA to use the P&D funds to support specific
directed DOC to maintain oversight of NOAA satellite
ORF fisheries activities and the congressionally authorized
programs. Both chambers also instructed NOAA to
Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grant program, which supports
continue to provide quarterly satellite briefings to the
fisheries research and development projects. H.R. 7617 and
accompanying report language would retain the transfer
from USDA and direct NOAA to use the funds for ORF
Space Commerce
Fishery Science and Management program activities, with
Together with other agencies, DOC regulates and promotes
no mention of S-K funding. The Senate Appropriations
the commercial space sector, including commercial remote
Committee bill and report language would direct NOAA to
sensing satellites. NOAA houses the Commercial Remote
(1) use the funds for activities that “directly benefit U.S.
Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office (CRSRA) and Office of
fisheries and fishery communities,” and (2) support the S-K
Space Commerce (OSC). As in previous years, NOAA’s
program. For more on the P&D Fund and S-K program, see

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations
CRS Report R46335, Saltonstall-Kennedy Act: Background
Eva Lipiec, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
and Issues, by Harold F. Upton.

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
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