Congressional Agreement on Funding FY 2017
By Heather Bloemhard
The fiscal year (FY) 2017 began on 1 October 2016 with a continuing resolution (CR) — actually, 3 CRs, the most recent of which will expire 5 May 2017. The expectation has been that Congress would eventually reach an agreement to fund the full fiscal year. That agreement, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, has been announced. For updates on this bill as it comes to the House and Senate floors for votes, please refer to our Information on Relevant Policies.
The table below summarizes the funding levels for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE), in millions of US dollars.
|Account||FY 2016 Operating Plan||FY 2017 Request||FY 2017 Omnibus|
|Science Mission Directorate||$5,589.4||$5,600.5||$5,765|
|Office of Science||$5,347||$5,672.1||$5,392|
|High Energy Physics||$795||$818||$825|
Below you will find some details for each of these accounts, including the funding levels for some specific programs. Please note that not every program is listed here because Congress does not determine the funding level for every program within an agency. The agency will be able to determine the funding level for programs not mentioned in the bill or in the report language. These agency-determined levels will need to be within the total allowed funding level set by Congress.
The Office of Education within NASA has come into the spotlight because of the FY 2018 Budget Blueprint plan to eliminate the office. This bill continues to fund the Office of Education with $100 million for FY 2017. That includes $18 million for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), $40 million for Space Grant, and $32 million for the Minority University Research and Education Project.
The bill includes $363 million for the Outer Planets program with $275 million for the Europa mission and specifies that the Europa orbiter should be launched by 2022 with the lander launching by 2024, both on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Mars program is funded at $647 million, with $408 million for Mars 2020 and $15 million for a Mars helicopter technology demonstration. Planetary research is funded with $284.7 million, which includes $60 million for Near-Earth Object (NEO) observations. The bill also provides $224.8 million for Discovery, $136.5 million for New Frontiers, and $190 million for Technology.
Astrophysics + STEM EPO
The bill includes $105 million for the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), $85.2 million for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astrophysics (SOFIA), and $98.3 million for Hubble. The bill also fully funds the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at $569.4 million.
* The Science Mission Directorate's education and public outreach activities are still book kept and administered by the Astrophysics division, but the bill instructs that the $37 million for these activities are "to be derived equally from Planetary Science and Astrophysics."
The bill includes general language about support for the continued implementation of the heliophysics programs.
The $8 million increase to the NSF-top line is entirely for the Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction (MREFC) budget line, specifically for Regional-Class Research Vehicles for the Oceanography division. There are two astronomical observatories currently being constructed through MREFC funding — the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Both DKIST and LSST are fully-funded in this bill. The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account, which funds NSF's competed grants programs, is flat-funded.
DOE's Office of Science funds astronomical science research through the High Energy Physics office (HEP). HEP includes, among other things, the Cosmic Frontier, which includes the dark energy and dark matter experiments. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is funded at $12 million, Large Underground Xenon (LUX) and ZEPLIN (ZonEd Proportional scintillation in LIquid Noble gases) are funded at $12.5 million, and the LSST Camera is at $45 million.