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US Government Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

Tube sponge attracting cardinal fishes, golden sweepers and wrasses. (Photo Credit: Nick Hobgood)
As fiscal austerity remains the norm after the Great Recession, U.S. President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2015 that seeks to increase spending to spur growth in the economy, cut into the deficit and introduce more than $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade.

The White House forecasts that the deficit will decrease to 1.6 percent of the national economy by 2024, which would be the smallest annual deficit before the Great Recession.

Obama's budget has as its starting point a spending deal agreed to in late 2013 between Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. This deal tried to stem sequestration cuts that were set to affect government agency budgets in 2014 and 2015. It also established a top-line number through September 2015 for agency spending, The Washington Post reported. The bipartisan budget deal leaves open the prospect of full sequester cuts starting in 2016, though.

Midterm elections will be held this fall, and if Democrats do well in Congressional seats, then Obama could have the support he would need to push for spending in research and development, among other areas, which could help government agencies and businesses associated with ocean industries.

Here is a look at portions of the FY 2015 presidential budget proposal with regard to the ocean economy.

The Department of the Navy's $148 billion FY 2015 budget invests in presence, capabilities and readiness. With a $15 billion reduction from the level forecast in last year's budget submission, the Navy decided to cut back by slowing the growth of compensation costs, reducing aviation procurement by 21 aircraft, and maintaining an option to inactivate an aircraft carrier and its air wing.

To sustain forward presence, the Navy has prioritized funding in operations and maintenance to maximize presence through forward basing, forward operating and forward stationing. The Navy will also enact the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which is expected to streamline maintenance and deployment cycles.

Of the base budget, $46.8 billion will go towards operations and maintenance, which will be subdivided into: $11.2 billion for ship ops and maintenance, $8.3 billion for aviation ops and maintenance, $6.8 billion for base ops and support, $5.9 billion for Marine Corps ops and maintenance, $4.8 billion for combat/weapons support, $4.7 billion for service-wide support, $1.7 billion for training and education, $1.3 billion for reserve ops and maintenance, $0.3 billion for environmental restoration, and $1.7 billion for mobilization.

The operations and maintenance account includes money for ship steaming, flight hours, maintenance and base operations. It supports the three BMD-capable destroyers joining the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) in Rota in FY 2015, and it funds amphibious-ready groups and carrier strike groups—like the Iwo Jima ARG and Carl Vinson CSG—to be deployed in FY 2015.

Procurement will take up $38.4 billion of the base budget. This portion will be divided into: $14.4 billion for ships, $13.1 billion for aircraft, $3.2 billion for weapons, $1.0 billion for Marine Corps, $0.8 billion for ammunition, and $6.0 billion for other Navy procurement. The Navy will buy seven new ships in FY 2015, including two destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines.

R&D will take up $16.3 billion, to be divided into: $0.6 billion for basic research, $0.8 billion for applied research, $0.6 billion for advance technology &D investments will go to priorities like the Ohio-class replacement submarine, the next-generation jammer, and Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike. The Navy will also prioritize electromagnetic spectrum and cyber capabilities.

The remainder of the Navy's budget will go to personnel ($45.0 billion) and infrastructure ($1.5 billion).

Obama's FY 2015 budget request for NOAA totals $5.5 billion, which is $174 million over the 2014 enacted budget, an increase of 3.2 percent. The 2015 request focuses on three areas: critical infrastructure, scientific innovation and community resilience.

NOAA is the only federal agency with the responsibility to provide timely and accurate weather, water, ocean, climate and ecosystem forecasts. Accordingly, the FY 2015 budget includes an additional $222.7 million to launch new polar and geostationary satellites and ensure essential information technology and physical infrastructure are in place to support NOAA's Weather Ready Nation initiative and atmospheric and coastal monitoring programs.

An increase of $40.6 million is proposed to advance electronic monitoring and next-generation fisheries stock assessments, continue improvements to weather products, and fund research and development related to drought, sea level rise, extreme heat and climate impacts on living marine resources.

NOAA's environmental intelligence is vital in preparing communities for the next disaster. Last year, seven weather and climate-related events caused more than $1 billion in damages. The FY 2015 budget includes an additional $47.2 million to promote public safety and marine ecosystem health, enable sustainable economic activity, and strengthen coastal communities. Improvements include the expansion of coastal inundation tools that will enable better flood warnings and improved ecological forecasting for better detection of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.

Budget requests for NOAA's five offices include: $496.2 million for the National Ocean Service, an increase of $20.6 million over the 2014 enacted level; $887.2 million for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is $65.7 million below the 2014 enacted level due to a $75.0 million decrease for one-time fisheries disaster funding; $462.2 million for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, an increase of $35.4 million over the 2014 enacted level; $1.06 billion for the National Weather Service, a decrease of $3.9 million from the 2014 enacted level; and $2.2 billion for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, an increase of $164.8 million over the 2014 enacted level.

In addition to its discretionary budget submission, NOAA includes investments in the administration's Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative ($180 million), as well as in its Climate Resiliency Fund ($75 million). More specifically, NOAA seeks funds to sustain observations and data-gathering capabilities by constructing a NOAA ocean survey vessel; improve climate models and predictions so that scientists can better anticipate the impacts of future climate variability and change; and provide competitive grants to communities to improve coastal resilience to severe weather events, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions. To continue this article please click here.

Anders Jansson is co-founder and CEO of Minesto, an energy technology company in the field of marine energy, with a patented and proven technology (Deep Green) to harvest energy from low-velocity tidal and ocean currents. He has eight years of experience developing and commercializing marine energy technology, both as an entrepreneur and business leader, with a background from Chalmers University of Technology.

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