FY2017 Commerce, Justice & Science Appropriations Bill Clears Senate Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today approved a $56.3 billion spending bill to support national security, law enforcement and American scientific innovation.

Subcommittee action advances the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act toward full committee consideration on Thursday.  The bill is $563 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the budget request.  

The Senate bill funds important programs within the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation.  It will support federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement grants, space exploration, basic science research, economic development programs, trade enforcement, and ocean observations and weather forecasting.

“Within prudent budgetary boundaries, this bill achieves a careful balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, economic development, scientific research, and space exploration,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  “Senator Mikulski and I once again worked together to create a bill that reflects our strong bipartisan relationship, and I look forward to its consideration by the full Appropriations Committee and the Senate.”
Bill Highlights:

Department of Commerce

The bill funds the U.S. Department of Commerce at $9.3 billion, a $70.8 million increase over FY2016, with strong support for economic development, enforcing trade laws, advancing cybersecurity research and development, protecting intellectual property rights, and improving severe weather forecasting.  

Economic Development Administration (EDA) – $254 million for EDA, including $100 million for its Public Works program, which supports brick-and-mortar projects in distressed communities across the nation.  Funding for EDA also includes $20 million for the Regional Innovation Program to promote and strengthen regional innovation clusters and place-based business startups.  

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) – $3.2 billion for USPTO to continue protecting ideas and advancing innovation by our nation’s inventors and entrepreneurs.  

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – $974 million for NIST, $10 million above the FY2016 enacted level, to strengthen the U.S. cybersecurity posture through cutting-edge research and development, expand opportunities in the areas of advanced manufacturing, and continue promotion of the highest-quality standards to maintain fairness in the marketplace.  Funding for NIST includes $25 million for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which supports private sector efforts in advanced manufacturing by establishing industry-driven institutes through open competition.   

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – $5.7 billion for NOAA, a $33.5 million increase above the FY2016 enacted level for core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; and severe weather forecasting.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s flagship weather satellites, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to save lives and protect property.  Funding for NOAA continues to target new areas of investment for fisheries management, including the testing and implementation of new technologies and management schemes to expand opportunities for American commercial and recreational fishermen.  

Bureau of the Census – $1.5 billion for the Bureau of the Census, $148 million over the FY2016 enacted level.  The bill directs the Census Bureau to continue its efforts to hold the costs of the 2020 Census lower than that of the 2010 Census and to maintain its focus on activities that will make such savings possible.

Department of Justice

The bill funds the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) at $29.2 billion, $156 million above the FY2016 enacted level.  Salaries and expenses for federal law enforcement agencies are funded with either a 1.5 percent increase or at the budget request level.  The constantly changing landscape of criminal activity at home and abroad tests the DOJ’s ability to deal with emerging threats, and this bill ensures that federal law enforcement agencies work together to focus limited resources in a manner that safeguards taxpayer dollars while preserving public safety.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – $9.45 billion for the FBI, a $652 million increase above the FY2016 enacted level, to enable the FBI to protect and defend against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats while also enforcing U.S. criminal laws.  The funding includes a $61 million increase for cybersecurity activities to neutralize, mitigate, and disrupt illegal computer-supported operations.  The bill provides $79 million for the Innocent Images National Initiative to target and investigate sexual predators on the Internet, and $646 million for the construction of the FBI’s new headquarters.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – $2.49 billion for the DEA, $34.1 million above the FY2016 enacted level, to allow the DEA to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States, including efforts to combat heroin use and prescription drug abuse.  The funding increase includes $12.5 million for the creation of four new enforcement groups concentrated on targeting, disrupting, and dismantling heroin trafficking.

United States Marshals Service (USMS) – $2.71 billion for the USMS, including:  $1.45 billion for federal prisoner detention expenses; $61.3 million to continue Adam Walsh Act enforcement to apprehend convicted sex offenders who fail to register as fugitives; no less than $5 million to implement the International Megan’s Law to alert foreign governments when registered sex offenders travel abroad; and, $7.65 million to establish a new Regional Fugitive Task Force.

U.S. Attorneys – $2.30 billion for the Executive Office for United States Attorneys and the 94 U.S. Attorneys offices.  This funding includes $46.4 million, the full budget request, to continue the focus on Adam Walsh Act investigations and prosecutions related to the sexual exploitation of children.  No less than $36 million is provided for increased civil rights enforcement, and no less than $58.33 million, which is $2.66 million over the budget request, for combating cybercrime, including the investigation and prosecution of cyberattacks and cyber intrusions.

Federal Prison System – $7 billion for the federal prison system, or the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  These funds provide for the operating needs of federal prisons and include the requested funding of $1 million to continue the medication-assisted treatment pilot program for inmates with heroin and opioid addiction.

Law Enforcement Grant Programs – $2.36 billion for state and local law enforcement and crime prevention grant programs, which includes grants for state and local law enforcement, the Office on Violence Against Women, and juvenile justice programs.  The bill provides $384 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG); approximately $170 million for initiatives to address Rape Kit and other DNA evidence backlogs; $49 million in support for Drug Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts; $75 million for Second Chance Act grants to reduce recidivism for adults released from jail by offering substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, and other rehabilitation services; $10 million for COPS Office Anti-Heroin Task Forces grants; and $7 million for COPS Office Anti-Methamphetamine Task Forces grants.

Crime Victims Fund (CVF) – The bill provides a $2.957 billion distribution from the CVF in FY2017, which is $957 million above the request.  This amount will result in a distribution for victim service programs that approximately equals the three-year average of collections into the fund.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $19.3 billion for NASA, $21 million over the FY2016 enacted level and $1 billion above the FY2017 NASA budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research.  This includes:
•    $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $150 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $920 million above the request.  The SLS is the nation’s launch vehicle that will enable humans to explore space beyond current capabilities.  The funding maintains the current schedule for the first launch of SLS, and provides $300 million in critical funding for upper stage engine work for future crewed missions in 2021 and beyond.
•    $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $30 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $247 million above the request, to enable a crewed launch in 2021.  Orion is the NASA-crewed vehicle being designed to take astronauts to destinations farther than ever before, including Mars.
•    $5.4 billion for Science, $194 million below the FY2016 enacted level and $92.5 million above the request.  This funding encompasses missions from the Earth to the Moon, throughout the solar system, and the far reaches of the universe.  
•    $1.18 billion, the same as the request, to further develop a domestic crew launch capability.  Once developed and fully tested, these vehicles will help end the United States’ reliance on Russia for transporting American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
•    $687 million for Space Technology, the same as the FY2016 enacted level and $4.1 million below the request.  Funding is included to advance projects that are early in development that will eventually demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration.

National Science Foundation (NSF) – $7.5 billion for NSF, maintaining the FY2016 enacted level.  Funding is provided for basic research across all scientific disciplines to support the development of effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] programs and to grow the next generation of scientists.
•    $159 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV) instead of the two RCRVs, as proposed by NSF.  By having three regional ships, the Gulf of Mexico and the East and West coasts will be able to have their own dedicated RCRV to maximize research time in each region.

Related Agencies

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – $395 million for the LSC, which is $10 million more than the FY2016 enacted level.  LSC provides civil legal aid in high-need areas across the United States through a competitive grant process.

Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) – $59.3 million for USTR, an increase of $4.9 million over the FY2016 enacted level.  As the federal government’s lead negotiator for trade agreements, this increase will strengthen the bargaining position of the USTR, as well as its trade coordination and enforcement actions.   

Oversight and Accountability

The measure includes provisions that ensure accountability and oversight of funds within this bill, including:
•    Requires the Inspectors General to conduct random audits of grant funding to combat waste and fraud.
•    Establishes an early warning system on cost overruns and requires agencies to notify the Committee when costs grow more than 10 percent.
•    Prohibits grants and contracts to tax cheats.
•    Requires agencies to report conference spending to the Inspectors General.
•    Requires all departments and agencies to link all contracts that provide award fees to successful acquisition outcomes, and prohibits funds to pay for award or incentive fees for contractors with below satisfactory performance.
•    Requires all departments and agencies funded in this act to provide full access to documents and data for their respective Inspectors General to conduct investigations and audits.
•    Requires each agency to report on all efforts made to address the duplication identified by the annual Government Accountability Office duplication reports, along with identifying substantive challenges and legal barriers that could help the agency further reduce duplication.