Ocean Currents

Straight A’s for the Senate on NOAA Funding

Photo: Tax Credits via Flickr

The House of Representatives did not do very well when I gave them grades last week on their answers to three key questions about funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Senate has released their funding proposal—let’s see if they did any better:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?         GRADE: A

The Senate’s proposal would fund NOAA at $5.6 billion, $150 million above the President’s request for next year. That extra $150 million would go to mitigating the effects of fishery disasters declared around the country. The rest of the $5.4 billion closely aligns with the President’s request, targeting important programs like ocean acidification for long overdue funding increases.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. The truth is we need to be investing in these vital programs at significantly higher levels. However, in this fiscal climate, providing funding above the level requested by the President’s budget is a significant step.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?       GRADE A

Here, the Senate gets it right again. Unlike the House bill, the Senate doesn’t cut tens of millions of dollars from the National Marine Fisheries Service or more than $100 million from the National Ocean Service. Instead, the Senate version makes it clear that programs that support a healthy ocean and healthy ocean economies are not going to bear the brunt of automatic spending cuts.

The Senate also acknowledges that NOAA has a dual mission for an important reason: NOAA’s “wet side” programs contribute to disaster preparedness and mitigation, and support severe storm tracking and weather forecasting systems. Without support for both its wet and dry missions, NOAA can’t do either.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?            GRADE A

So far, so good. While it is possible that we may still see attacks on the National Ocean Policy as this appropriations process moves forward, the Senate bill is free of such attacks for now.

Ultimately, unless some broader deal is worked out in the meantime, the Senate will have to go to conference with the House and decide what a final funding bill for the next year at NOAA will look like. Hopefully the Senate can maintain its A average.


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