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Updated January 4, 2021
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
Figure 1. NOAA Discretionary ORF and PAC Direct
(NOAA’s) mission is to understand and predict changes in
($ in billions, nominal)
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
Congress generally funds NOAA, an agency of the
CRS, from NOAA budget justifications and congressional
Department of Commerce (DOC), in the annual Commerce,
Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies
ORF = operations, research, and facilities; PAC =
Appropriations Act. Congress provides NOAA with
procurement, acquisition, and construction. Direct obligations include
discretionary and mandatory appropriations. Discretionary
annual appropriations, transfers, and recoveries from prior year
appropriations support two broad accounts—operations,
obligations. Amounts do not include supplemental appropriations.
research, and facilities (ORF) and procurement, acquisition,
and construction (PAC)—as well as several relatively small
Issues for Congress
accounts. Mandatory appropriations generally provide a
According to NOAA’s FY2021 budget summary, the
small percentage of total NOAA appropriations and are
requested budget supports priorities to (1) reduce the
disbursed to a variety of funds that support programs in
impacts of extreme weather and water events, (2) expand
NOS, NMFS, and OMAO. This CRS product examines
the “American Blue Economy,” and (3) advance space
discretionary funding for ORF and PAC for FY2021 and
potential issues for Congress, such as NOAA’s proposed
changes to certain grant programs, satellite programs, the
Proposed Grant Programs Funding Changes
agency’s role in space commerce, and the Promote and
For FY2021, NOAA proposed funding increases to 20
Develop American Fishery Products and Research
activities (primarily goods and services from federal and
Pertaining to American Fisheries Fund (P&D Fund).
nonfederal entities) under ORF and PAC, totaling over
$159.6 million. NOAA also requested a reduction to or
elimination of 105 activities, totaling $976.4 million.
NOAA requested a total of $4.86 billion in discretionary
Grants, subsidies, and contributions (GSC) made up a
direct obligations for ORF and PAC for FY2021, including
majority ($573.2 million, 58.7%) of the proposed reduction.
$4.63 billion in appropriations (Table 1)
. Direct obligations
GSC includes grants awarded to nonfederal entities, such as
include annual appropriations, transfers, and recoveries
states, universities, and corporations. The proposed
from prior-year obligations. Under P.L. 116-260, Congress
decreases to GSC represented between 0.3% (NESDIS) and
provided $5.65 billion for ORF and PAC direct obligations,
34.5% (OAR) of the line offices ’ FY2021 base amounts.
$149.4 (2.7%) greater than the FY2020 enacted level and
NOAA’s other requests would decrease services from
$794.7 million (16.4%) greater than the FY2021 request.
nonfederal entities, advisory services, contracts with federal
As part of the $5.65 billion total, Congress provided $5.37
entities, personnel compensation and benefits, travel, and
billion in appropriations. Over the last 10 years, enacted
other program adjustments. NOAA proposed similar
NOAA ORF and PAC direct obligations (in nominal
changes in the previous three fiscal years. Under the
dollars) peaked in FY2018 (Figure 1)
. Since FY2012, the
explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-260,
amounts enacted in the PAC account have ranged from
Congress maintains FY2020 levels or increases funding for
about 27% to 41% of the total enacted direct obligations
grant programs and retains the H.Rept. 116-455 language
(e.g., for FY2021, PAC is 27.4% of the total).
stating support for “NOAA’s ongoing collaboration with
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations
academia and the private sector through cooperative
institutes and competitive research.”
Table 1. NOAA FY2020 Enacted and FY2021 Requested, House-Passed and Senate Committee Majority Draft,
and Enacted Amounts for Discretionary ORF and PAC Accounts Direct Obligations and Appropriations
($ in millions, nominal)
Total Direct Obligations
CRS, using explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-93; NOAA, Budget Estimates Fiscal Year 2021
; H.Rept. 116-455; H.R. 7617;
Senate Appropriations Committee majority draft explanatory statement; and explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-260.
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 above 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.
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. Under the explanatory statement accompanying
federal agencies, the public, and the private sector.
P.L. 116-260, Congress approved the request to merge
Congress may consider changes, such as increased
CRSRA and OSC but retained the combined office within
oversight or required reporting, to NOAA’s satellite
NOAA rather than moving it to DOC, as requested.
programs, including Geostationary Operational
Environmental Satellites (GOES). For instance, issues with
the main imaging instrument on GOES-17, which launched
The P&D Fund, an account outside of ORF and PAC, is
in 2018, prompted NOAA and the National Aeronautics
financed through a mandatory transfer from the Department
and Space Administration to convene a mishap
of Agriculture (USDA) to DOC of 30% of duties on
investigation board and the DOC Office of the Inspector
imported fisheries products. In FY2021, NOAA proposed
General to separately complete an investigation. NOAA
that (1) Congress directly appropriate mandatory funding to
plans to launch two more GOES in the next four years.
DOC rather than transfer amounts from USDA, and (2)
Under the explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-
funds would be used for ORF activities only. In previous
260, Congress retains H.Rept. 116-455 language
years, Congress has kept the transfer structure in place and
accompanying the House bill that directs DOC to maintain
directed NOAA to use the P&D funds to support specific
oversight of NOAA satellite programs and provide
ORF fisheries activities and the congressionally authorized
quarterly briefings to Congress.
Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) grant program, which supports
fisheries research and development projects. The
explanatory statement accompanying P.L. 116-260 directs
Together with other agencies, DOC regulates and promotes
NOAA to follow FY2020 Senate direction, which required
the commercial space sector, including commercial remote
the transfer of funds from USDA and maintained the
sensing satellites. NOAA houses the Commercial Remote
provision restricting the use of the P&D Fund to activities
Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office (CRSRA) and Office of
that “directly benefit U.S. fisheries and fishery
Space Commerce (OSC). As in previous years, NOAA’s
communities,” including the S-K grant program. For more
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) FY2021 Budget Request and Appropriations
on the P&D Fund and the S-K program, see CRS Report
, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
R46335, Saltonstall-Kennedy Act: Background 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
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.
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