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The Senate's Version of FY 2018: NASA, NSF, and DOE

Friday, July 28, 2017 - 14:06

The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed their version of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Energy & Water (E&W) fiscal year (FY) 2018 Appropriations bills. These bills appropriate funds for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as several other agencies. We summarize the Senate'e funding levels for NASA, NSF, and DOE below and, where possible, make comparisons to the President's FY 2018 Budget Request. You can read about the President's Request and the House versions of these budgets in previous blog posts.

The next step for these bills is consideration by the full Senate; ditto for the House versions. Assuming that the House and Senate each pass their version of the bills, then they will begin to "conference," to negotiate through the differences. The fact that the House and Senate also need to pass a Budget Resolution could alter the way all of this proceeds. See the previous post on the budget resolution and the AAAS page on The Federal Budget Process (The Congressional Process) for more information.

The table below summarizes the funding levels for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, NSF, and DOE's Office of Science, in millions of US dollars.

Account

FY 2016 Operating Plan FY 2017 Omnibus FY 2018 Request FY 2018 House FY 2018 Senate
NASA $19,285 $19,653.3 $19,092.2 $19,871.2 $19,500
Science Mission Directorate $5,589.4 $5,765 $5,711.8 $5,858.5 $5,571.8
Earth Science $1,921 $1,921 $1,754 $1,704 $1,921
Planetary Science $1,631 $1,846 $1,929.5 $2,120 $1,612
Astrophysics $762.4 $750 $816.7 $822 $816.7
Heliophysics $650 $678 $677.8 $677.9 $688.5
SMD's STEM Activation     [$37]     [$37]     [$44]     [$44]     [$44]
JWST $620 $569.4 $533.7 $533.7 $533.7
National Science Foundation $7,463.5 $7,472.2 $6,652.9 $7,339.5 $7,300
Research & Related Activities (R&RA) $6,033.6 $6,033.6 $5,361.6 $6,033.6 $5,918
Major Research Equipment & Facility Construction (MREFC) $200.3 $209 $182.8 $77.8 $182.8
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) $99.67 $99.67 $57.8 $57.8 $57.8
Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) $20 $20 $20 $20 $20
Department of Energy (DOE) $29,602.7 $30,786 $28,042 $29,888 $31,967
Office of Science $5,347 $5,392 $4,472 $5,392 $5,500
High Energy Physics $795 $825 $673 $700.6 $860

NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

The Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee provides $44 million for STEM Activation within SMD. The report indicates that Astrophysics will continue to administer SMD-wide education activities, but the funding is now included on a single line separate from the divisions. That said, the subcommittee does not indicate which division(s) will provide the $44 million; recall that the House version of FY 2018 indicated that each division would contribute to STEM Activation proportionately. In the FY 2017 Omnibus, Astrophysics and Planetary Science both contributed equally to STEM Activation. In prior years, Astrophysics contributed the full amount. In an attempt to make consistent comparisons within this table, we are showing the total funding level for each SMD division including any STEM Activation contributions. This is a different approach than we took in our summaries of the President's Request and the House versions of these funding levels.
EDIT
New information indicates that Astrophysics will contribute the full $44 million for STEM Activation in the Senate's version of the NASA budget. The table below presents the division funding levels with the STEM Activation funding subtracted from the division total. That means that the division funding levels that we are showing in the table below should be interpreted as the funding available for non-EPO division activities, like our previous summaries of the Request and the House versions.
 

Account

FY 2016 Operating Plan FY 2017 Omnibus FY 2018 Request FY 2018 House FY 2018 Senate
NASA $19,285 $19,653.3 $19,092.2 $19,871.2 $19,500
Science Mission Directorate $5,589.4 $5,765 $5,711.8 $5,858.5 $5,571.8
Earth Science $1,921 $1,921 $1,754 $1,691 $1,921
Planetary Science $1,631 $1,846 $1,929.5 $2,105 $1,612
Astrophysics $725.4 $731.5 $772.7 $812 $772.7
Heliophysics $650 $678 $677.8 $672.8 $688.5
SMD's STEM Activation     [$37]     [$37]     [$44]     [$44]     [$44]
JWST $620 $569.4 $533.7 $533.7 $533.7

Planetary Science

The subcommittee includes $660 million for Mars Exploration and $66 million for Near Earth Object Observations. This is $75.3 million and $16 million more than the President's Request, respectively. The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment's Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (AIDA DART) is supported at the FY 2017 level.

Astrophysics

The Hubble Space Telescope is supported at $98.3 million. The subcommittee includes $10 million for search for life technology development and $150 million for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) and expresses its support of the WFIRST independent analysis.

Heliophysics

The subcommittee expresses its support of the Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey and directs NASA to implement the recommendations in the survey. Specifically, the subcommittee directs NASA to implement a 2-year cadence of Explorer missions, alternating between small-scale (SMEx) and mid-scale (MidEx) with regular missions of opportunity (MO). The subcommittee also expresses support for the Diversity, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate (DRIVE) Initiative.
The subcommittee includes $10 million "for establishing a space weather research program" in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The subcommittee provides NOAA with $5 million additional funding for this. The appropriations for DOD is in the jurisdiction of another committee; that bill has not been discussed by the committee yet, so it's not clear what DOD would contribute to this effort.

National Science Foundation

The Senate CJS Subcommittee includes $647 million more than the President's Request for the NSF topline and $556 million more for the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) accounts. This does still represent a decrease of about 2% compared to FY 2017. The Appropriation's subcommittees do not generally dictate funding levels for directorates and divisions within R&RA. NSF usually spreads any increase or decrease proportionately across the directorates.

The subcommittee calls out the importance of NSF supported astronomical facilities and indicates that the NSF should "continue its support of world-class scientific research facilities and instrumentation to maximize its investments in research," exploring partnerships when feasible. The Green Bank Observatory (GBO) is specifically called out in the NASA section of the report. The subcommittee encourages NASA "to continue its use of GBO to support its Planetary Science Research program, including orbital debris monitoring activities."

The NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) has two new facilities being constructed through Major Research Equipment & Facility Construction (MREFC): the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The Senate CJS Subcommittee supports DKIST and LSST at the request level. The Senate CJS Subcommittee includes three Regional Class Research Vehicles (RCRVs) for Oceanography.

DOE-Office of Science

DOE's Office of Science funds astronomical science research through the High Energy Physics (HEP) office. HEP includes, among other things, the Cosmic Frontier, which includes the dark energy and dark matter experiments. These experiments include LZ [Large Underground Xenon (LUX) and ZonEd Proportional scintillation in LIquid Noble gases (ZEPLIN)], the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), and the LSST Camera. The Senate E&W Subcommittee support LSST Camera and LZ at the request level. DESI is supported at $17.5 million, which is $15.6 million more than the President's Request and $5.5 million more than the FY 2017 enacted funding level.

Additional Information

Heather Bloemhard
John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
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