Congress

Senate panel OKs $51 billion for Commerce, Justice, Science

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The Senate subcommittee charged with funding NASA, the Commerce and Justice Departments, and the National Science Foundation approved a $51.2 billion appropriations bill for those agencies, which will be taken up by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on June 5.

The Senate's topline numbers, released in a summary, match closely with the appropriations approved on the House side, but there are significant differences in funding for some tech-focused agencies. The House is seeking a slightly higher $51.5 billion appropriations package while the details of the Senate bill won't be released until the full committee approves it.

Both the House and Senate propose funding the Justice Department at about $26 billion and NASA at about $18 billion. The House is seeking $7.4 billion for NSF, while the Senate wants $7.2 billion. The House recommends $8.4 billion for Commerce, but a comparable number isn't available on the Senate side. Both chambers appear to favor funding in line with Obama administration requests for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's high-profile Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series.

However, some key differences between the House's and Senate's bills can be read from the summary. House lawmakers want $856 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, while the Senate would provide $900 million. One sticking point is the House's desire to limit funding for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a plan designed to come up with a new system for managing identities online.

The House would also like to trim the budget of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which manages federal spectrum holdings and develops policy in a number of technology areas in partnership with private-sector stakeholders. The Obama administration has requested $51 million for the agency, while the House wants to see its budget cut to $36.7 million -- in part because of the agency's support for a plan to cede supervision of domain name functions, which it runs through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to a nongovernmental, global authority.

The Senate also plans to seek caps on costs for major acquisitions, including NOAA's weather satellites and NASA's space telescopes, and require that agencies notify appropriators when projects costs grow by more than 10 percent of their original budget, described in Senate documents as an "early warning system on cost overruns and techno-boondoggles."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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