Trump Administration Proposes Deep Cuts to NOAA Budget

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration is proposing a 13.57 percent reduction in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021, according to budget documents.

The $4.63 billion proposal would cut NOAA spending by $727.64 million below the FY 2020 budget. Although key satellite and commercial data purchasing programs would received increases, dozens of other programs would see their funding reduced or eliminated completely.

NOAA’s climate change research programs would be reduced by more than half from $169.5 million to $83.2 million. President Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese government to destroy the American economy.

Among the programs targeted for termination are numerous research and education grants, the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), which manages the nation’s civilian weather satellite programs, would see its budget reduced slightly by $8.29 million to just above $1.5 billion.

The table below shows the proposed funding levels for key NESDIS satellite and data purchase programs.

NOAA FY 2021 Budget Request (Thousands of Dollars)
ProgramFY 2020 EnactedFY 2021 RequestedChange
Polar Weather Satellites745,000657,835(87,165)
Geostationary Systems – R (GOES R) Weather Satellites304,056334,50030,044
Space Weather Follow On (SWFO)64,000108,11544,115
Commercial Data Purchase5,00015,00010,000
Cooperative Data and Rescue Services11,35014,4003,050
Geostationary Earth Orbit 010,00010,000
Commercial Weather Data Pilot3,0008,0005,000
COSMIC 2/GNSS RO5,8925,8920

The program that funds the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft would be cut by nearly $87.2 million.

“NOAA proposes a decrease to Polar Weather Satellites (PWS) which is sufficient to maintain the planned production and launch cadence,” budget documents said. “NOAA will continue the build of the JPSS-2 instruments and spacecraft, as well as the JPSS-2 satellite level integration and testing, in order to maintain the JPSS-2 launch schedule.”

NOAA plans to launch the JPSS-2 satellite in the second quarter of FY 2022, which would be between January and March 2022. (FY 2022 will begin on Oct. 1, 2021.)

The proposed budget would also fund work on the JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 spacecraft, whose launch dates have yet to be determined.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R (GOES-R) weather satellite program would receive an increase of just over $30 million to $334.5 million.

“These funds will continue sustainment of the GOES-R Series Ground System, including replacement of the IBM servers, in compliance with requirements under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L.113-76) that limits…using appropriated funds to acquire a high- or moderate-impact system produced, manufactured, or assembled by China, and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to discontinue use of Chinese data systems by FY 2022,” budget documents said.

The Space Weather Follow On satellite would receive a budget boost of $44.1 million. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2024, will supplement observations of the sun by NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and the NASA-ESA Solar and Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO). Both spacecraft are beyond their design lives.

The budget for the purchase of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Radio Occultation (RO) data from commercial companies would increase from $5 million to $15 million.

RO can provide date about conditions in the Earth’s atmosphere by measuring the change in radio signals as they pass through it.

“GNSS RO has the potential to be a cost-effective means to provide atmospheric profiles necessary for accurate weather forecasts,” documents said.

The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate GNSS RO (COSMIC-2/GNSS RO) program analyzes the purchased data. The budget for this program would remain at $5.89 million.

Funding for the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program would increased from $3 million to $8 million to “continue the execution of pilots for the next available commercial data type. These pilots are critical to NOAA’s future satellite architecture as they assess operational viability of possible future commercial capabilities,” NOAA said.

The $3.5 million increase in the Cooperative Data and Rescue Services program would support the launch of the Argos-4 Advanced Data Collection System (A-DCS) instrument aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital Testbed 3 (OTB-3) satellite.

The French space agency CNES is providing the instrument as a hosted payload. OTB-3 is scheduled for launch in August 2021.

NOAA is also requesting $10 million to develop the next-generation geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) imager instrument. There is no funding in NOAA’s FY 2020 budget for this work.

NOAA is part of the Commerce Department. The Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on March 5, 2020, at 10:00 am EST on the department’s budget request.