Early Outlines Indicate Steep Cuts within NOAA

Published: March 08, 2017


A preliminary OMB budget memo outlines a 17% cut in current funding levels for NOAA in FY2018.

According to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post on March 3, the Trump administration has placed the budget of the Department of Commerce, specifically the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on the chopping block.

New secretary, Wilber Ross, was confirmed by the Senate on February 27 and in his first address to agency employees on March 1, he stressed a number of immediate goals the agency must pursue, including launching more satellites under NOAA and securing appropriations from Congress.

What might be to Ross’ dismay, however, is the overall 18% budget cut facing Commerce and more specifically, the suggested 17% cut for the NOAA budget in FY2018 based on the OMB documents.

In the past, NOAA has enjoyed a subtle but steady increase in funding with a compound annual growth rate of 2% between FY2013 and FY2017:

This growth pattern will likely see an end with the FY2018 budget. Under the proposal, research under the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is at risk of losing $126 million (26%) in funding and $513 million (22%) in the office’s satellite data funding. Moreover, the $73 million National Sea Grant College Program that performs coastal research under the division is facing complete elimination.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data & Information Services is expected to be dealt the largest single cut in funding under NOAA, primarily under its National Centers for Environmental Information which collects key climate information. Other details from the memo include 5% cuts to the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service. It is unclear how much or if other offices under NOAA such as the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations will be affected by the expected decreases in funding.

An organization breakdown of NOAA is provided below to cast a wider picture of where the cuts may be targeted related to other NOAA programs: 

Though it seems like climate and environmental research and data are being targeted most by the cuts in funding, the IT sector will not exactly see a boost in spending either. As an example, the article states that the White House intends to come up with options to modernize outdated infrastructure but that “agencies should not expect increases in their fiscal 2018 discretionary-spending ‘toplines’ as a result.”

All of this makes one wonder about the upcoming acquisitions being procured under the PRO-TECH contract vehicle. PRO-TECH is a $3 billion program designed to provide professional and technical services to five categorized domains under NOAA, including ocean and weather programs (refer to GovWin Opportunity ID: 78803). If these very programs that the contract vehicle aims to support are strangled of funding, could the contract vehicle really reach its described potential and value?

Ultimately, these budget figures are undergoing the “passback” phase between the White House and agencies and will then eventually take their course through the appropriations process. Regardless, these preliminary figures give a window into the White House’s initial thoughts and priorities for the Department of Commerce.