Senate harder on science appropriations than House

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Many scientific federal efforts covered by the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies annual spending bill do relatively better under the House Appropriations Committee version than under the bill approved by its Senate counterparts on Sept. 15.

Both bills generally would appropriate for federal agencies less than they requested in President Barack Obama's budget submission in February, and in many cases agencies would receive less than Congress appropriated during the current fiscal year. Fiscal 2012 starts on Oct. 1; the House Appropriations Committee approved its version on July 13. Both committee's bills still face a vote by their full chambers, followed by a conference committee to iron out differences, followed by another round of voting at the chamber level. Or, Congress could fail to do any of those steps, as has been its wont

Among the programs to be reduced is the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Technology Innovation Program, which would receive no new funding under either the House or Senate Appropriations Committee versions. TIP was recently reauthorized by the America COMPETES Act and aims to accelerate innovation through research competitions.  Neither House nor Senate appropriators give much explanation why the program would receive no new funds. Senators simply write in their report accompanying the spending bill that "regrettably, the Committee is unable to provide funding to continue TIP grants." The TIP website says the program is "now updating its programmatic plan to reflect changing national priorities."

Senate appropriators also sound a warning over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Joint Polar Satellite System, stating that an estimated program cost of $11.9 billion through 2024, excluding climate sensors, will likely not be achievable during "the current fiscal climate."

"Nor will the Committee continue to allow a single satellite program to jeopardize the base funding for every other agency in this bill, including the erosion of NOAA's non-satellite operations," Senate appropriators add. They direct NOAA to modify the scope of the program by reducing total cost (excluding climate sensors) to $9.42 billion, "to keep weather forecasting as the prime objective of the JPSS mission," as well as to "minimize risk."

As a result, any associated climate sensors "that become the critical path for JPSS will be canceled," the Senate report says, adding that NOAA should explore the possibility of using a smaller platform to accommodate climate sensors.

For more:
- go to the THOMAS page for the House fiscal 2012 CJS spending bill (H.R. 2596)
- go to the THOMAS page for the Senate fiscal 2012 CJS spending bill (S.1572)
- read our coverage of the fiscal 2012 appropriations process

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