19 July 2017

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

Heather Bloemhard Vanderbilt University

Capitol building at sunsetThe House Appropriations Committee recently passed 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 House's funding levels for NASA, NSF, and DOE below and, where possible, make comparisons to the President's FY 2018 Budget Request. You can read more details about the President's Request in a previous blog post.

We're still waiting for the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Energy & Water (E&W) Appropriations subcommittees versions of these budgets, but we expect them in the next couple of weeks. Remember that the House and Senate must pass identical versions of these bills and the President must sign them before they can go into effect. The deadline for all of this is 30 September 2017.

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.


FY 2016 Operating Plan FY 2017 Omnibus FY 2018 Request FY 2018 House
NASA $19,285 $19,653.3 $19,092.2 $19,871.2
Science Mission Directorate $5,589.4 $5,765 $5,711.8 $5,858.5
Earth Science $1,921 $1,921 $1,754 $1,691
Planetary Science $1,631 $1,846 $1,929.5 $2,105
Astrophysics $725.4 $731.5 $772.7 $812
Heliophysics $650 $678 $677.8 $672.8
SMD's STEM Activation $37 $37 $44 $44
JWST $620 $569.4 $533.7 $533.7
National Science Foundation $7,463.5 $7,472.2 $6,652.9 $7,339.5
Research & Related Activities (R&RA) $6,033.6 $6,033.6 $5,361.6 $6,033.6
Major Research Equipment & Facility Construction (MREFC) $200.3 $209 $182.8 $77.8
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) $99.67 $99.67 $57.8 $57.8
Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) $20 $20 $20 $20
Department of Energy (DOE) $29,602.7 $30,786 $28,042 $29,888
Office of Science $5,347 $5,392 $4,472 $5,392
High Energy Physics $795 $825 $673 $700.6


For SMD overall, the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee directs "that the priorities outlined in the decadal surveys for Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, and Heliophysics shall drive NASA mission priorities."

The subcommittee also directs that each of the SMD divisions will proportionally allocate funding for STEM Activation, "resulting in a dedicated budget line for each division’s EPO [Education and Public Outreach] activities." The total STEM Activation funding is $44 million. To be consistent with our summary of the FY 2018 Budget Request, the funding levels that we present for each division have this STEM Activation funding subtracted from the division total. That means that the division funding levels that we are showing in the table above should be interpreted as the funding available for non-EPO division activities.

Planetary Science

The subcommittee includes $175 million more funding, compared to the President's FY 2018 Request, for NASA's Planetary Science. Each program, Research, Discovery, New Frontiers, Mars Exploration, Outer Planets & Ocean Worlds, and Technology, is also increased compared to the FY 2018 Request.

This includes an additional $62 million for Mars Exploration (total $646.7 million) to continue research and development of the Mars 2022 orbiter and an additional $70 million for the Europa Clipper and Lander missions (total $495 million).

In the report about the House CJS Appropriations Bill, the subcommittee also expressed support for the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), Juno, and the preservation and accessibility of impact craters on Earth. The subcommittee directs NASA to conduct an assessment "on the utilization of asteroid-based natural resources to support US government and commercial space exploration missions and timeframes for when such resource extraction could possibly occur."


The subcommittee includes an increase compared to the FY 2018 Request for NASA's Astrophysics. In this version of the budget, Astrophysics would no longer be responsible for providing all of the funding for STEM Activation. This means that the increase to Astrophysics is $39 million. Within that increase, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) would be increased by $5.3 million (total $85.2 million).

The House CJS Subcommittee funds the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) at the request level, but directs that $20 million will support the continued development of the Starshade technology demonstration effort. The Space Techonology Misison Directorate includes additional guidance for NASA to "accelerate work on Starshade and WFIRST to ensure...that Starshade will launch and be capable of working with WFIRST."

The subcommittee expressed support for Astrophysics's programs and requested reports on NASA's plans for observatories in the X-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths and the need for and benefits of probe class missions. The subcommittee also "encouraged" NASA to collaborate with the National Academies of Science on a "permanent Decadal Survey for Exoplanet Exploration." The subcommittee would then expect NASA to use the recommendations in such a survey to develop "long-term plans for systematic interstellar exploration missions to Earth-like planets harboring life in our galactic neighborhood."


Heliophysics is supported with $672.8 million. The decrease in funding, compared to the request, is due to the division's $5.1 million contribution to STEM Activation.

National Science Foundation

The Committee does not adopt the Administration’s proposal to reduce Research and Related Activities. The Committee believes that strategic investments in the physical science areas are vitally important for the United States to remain the global leader in innovation, productivity, economic growth, and good-paying jobs for the future.

The House CJS Subcommittee's budget for NSF includes an additional $686.6 million for the NSF topline and $672 million for Research and Related Activities (R&RA) compared to the FY 2018 Request. 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 decrease in the NSF topline compared to FY 2017 is due to a decrease in the funds for the Major Research Equipment & Facility Construction (MREFC) account.

The subcommittee emphasized the importance of the astronomical facilities run by the NSF, "US-based astronomy facilities continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and maintain excellent world-class scientific research." NSF is directed to sustain support at no less that the FY 2017 levels. NSF must also inform the Appropriations committee before implementing any final divestment and must keep the committee informed on all efforts to find partners as a part of the divestment process.

The NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) has two new facilities being constructed through MREFC, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The House CJS Subcommittee supports DKIST and LSST at the request level. This version of the bill does not include the 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. The House Energy and Water Subcommittee supports the HEP office with an additional $27.6 million compared to the FY 2018 request, however funding levels are still down compared to the FY 2017 Omnibus. HEP's dark energy and dark matter experiments are supported with $29.5 million. 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 LSST Camera is supported at the request level.

Our understanding of DESI's current funding profile indicates that the project will have to re-baselined to fit within the funding level for these experiments included in the House bill.

Additional Information