The president's 2017 budget request: Commerce Department

Increase in funding to support 2020 Census, environmental satellites and NIST computing initiatives

The president's fiscal 2017 budget request to Congress earmarked $9.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Commerce Department - $487 million more than the fiscal 2016 enacted level.

The proposal reflects the administration's commitment to freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum and improving industry's cybersecurity risk management practices through use of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework, said a Feb. 9 press release from the department. It also continues initiatives associated with cybersecurity automation, cybersecurity information and identity authentication, said the statement.

The department is responsible for a wide range of activities from promoting trade and manufacturing, to the collection and dissemination of critical environmental and weather data, to spurring broadband connections, to establishing cybersecurity standards.

Among its most important agencies is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which requested $5.85 billion in total discretionary appropriations – a funding level slightly above the $5.77 billion enacted in fiscal 2016, according to the department's budget in brief (pdf).

NOAA's proposed budget would include $2.3 billion to fully fund the next generation of weather and environmental satellites, with $393 million for the Polar Follow-On satellite program enabling NOAA to maintain an optimal launch schedule, helping minimize the risks associated with any potential gap in weather data, said a fact sheet.

Under the proposal, the National Weather Service, which provides weather, water and climate forecasts and warnings, would get $1.1 billion for fiscal 2017. That figure includes additional funding for critical infrastructure but a slight cut in workforce – the agency proposed 89 fewer full time equivalent employees in fiscal 2017 than in the current year.

The budget request included $1.6 billion support for the Census Bureau, a $263 million increase over the fiscal 2016 enacted level.

"The Budget provides $1.6 billion to support key development and implementation of innovative design methods necessary to achieve these goals for the 2020 Decennial Census. This includes $103 million allotted for the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing IT system that provides a foundation for newly automated 2020 data collection and processing operations," said the Commerce press release.

The president's total discretionary request for NIST was $1 billion, a $50.5 million increase over the fiscal 2016 enacted level. 

"The requested funds will help NIST continue to push the frontiers of measurement science, which is at the heart of all technological innovation," said NIST Director Willie May in a statement. "Our new work will enable advances that will lead to vastly more powerful computers, more efficient manufacturing and more effective spectrum sharing for increased communications capabilities to meet current and future public safety needs." 

The Commerce Department budget request also included $6.4 million to support a Digital Services team. The team will manage projects that – due to rapid deadlines or high visibility – need immediate attention and work more broadly to improve all of Commerce's systems "so that they are state of the art and provide the end user with the latest technological advances and prowess," said the budget in brief.

For more:
- read the press release
- download the Commerce Department portion of the budget (.pdf)
- download the Commerce Department's budget in brief (.pdf)