The House passed a FY2018 appropriations bill today that includes funding for the Department of Defense (DOD). The defense appropriations bill was bundled with three others into the "Make America Secure" appropriations bill, H.R. 3219. The only space-related amendment that was adopted during floor debate specifies $5 million for the Air Force's commercial weather data pilot program.
H.R. 3219 combines four of the 12 regular appropriations bills: Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), Energy-Water (the Department of Energy oversees the nation's nuclear stockpile), and Legislative Branch (which funds congressional operations). In total, the bill provides $789 billion. It passed 235-192 on largely party lines.
Of the total, $658 billion is for defense, substantially more than allowed under spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). The House has not passed a Budget Resolution or reached other agreement to modify the BCA caps, so the path forward for the legislation is unclear. By law, if Congress approves more money than allowed by the BCA caps, across-the-board cuts called a sequester automatically go into effect to reduce spending to the allowed limit. That happened in FY2013 for DOD and other government agencies. The effects were so dire that agreements were reached between Congress and the White House to lift the caps for FY2014-2015 and FY2016-2017, but nothing has been done so far with regard to FY2018.
Many aspects of the bill are controversial, such as funding to build the border wall with Mexico advocated by President Trump, but not with regard to space activities. The House Rules Committee prevented an amendment from being brought to the House floor for debate that would have prohibited spending funds to create a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy as directed in the House-passed version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
It allowed two other space-related amendments to be offered. The first, by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), specifies $5 million for the Air Force's commercial weather data pilot program to determine if commercially-available satellite data can be used in operational DOD weather forecasts. It is similar to NOAA's commercial weather data pilot program. Bridenstine created the NOAA program in a FY2016 appropriations bill. The companion DOD program was created last year and the FY2018 NDAA extends it for another year. The $5 million would pay for that extension. The amendment was approved by the House as part of an en bloc amendment offered today by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee.
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