NOAA Environmental Satellites Win Funding

Congress has apparently decided to allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to move ahead with a troubled new Earth-observing satellite system, but at the cost of cuts to some of NOAA's nonsatellite programs.

The news comes in a House of Representatives-Senate conference report released last night on a spending bill affecting several federal agencies that is expected to pass Congress by the end of the week. Overall, the bill provides $4.9 billion for the agency, a 7% boost over current spending, but 11% less than what the Obama Administration had requested.

Essentially, all of the $306 million increase would go to the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), a two-satellite system scheduled to have its first launch in 2016. In total, JPSS would get $924 million to keep it moving—a bit less than the $1 billion the agency had said it needed to keep it on schedule and avoid gaps in data collection. Although details were not available, it appears the agency will also have to cut some nonsatellite programs—including its ocean and fisheries research efforts—in order to pay for the satellites.

The conference agreement also rejects the Administration's request to spend $322 million on a new Climate Service. The service would have consolidated a number of climate-related programs within NOAA into a new, Weather Service-like office. House Republicans have strongly objected to the planned shift in contentious hearings featuring NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.