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November 2012 Issue

Continuing Resolution Provides Fiscal Year 2012 Funding to US Government Agencies
President Barack Obama in October signed into law a six-month continuing resolution, which will fund the federal government at fiscal year 2012 levels through March 27, 2013. The legislation provides $1 trillion in funding, which represents a 0.6 percent increase above fiscal 2012 levels.

The resolution allows amounts made available for NO-AA’s procurement, acquisition and construction to be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the planned launch schedules for the Joint Polar Satellite System in the second quarter of 2017.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund will get $6.4 billion for providing aid after disasters, The Washington Post reported. The resolution includes $88.5 billion for overseas war-related funding and continues the freeze on federal employees and lawmakers.


NOAA Responds to Reports Critical of JPSS Program
Two recently released reports on NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) show missteps, mismanagement and prioritization, the Republican leadership of the House subcommittees on Energy and Environment, and Investigations and Oversight said in October.

The $13 billion JPSS program is the successor to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which provides data to weather forecasters.

In late September, the Department of Commerce inspector general released an audit report critical of NOAA’s ability to define basic cost and capability parameters. In July, an independent review team hired by NOAA released recommendations on how the agency can address these issues to minimize the risk of a satellite weather data gap while transitioning to the JPSS program.

In responding to the draft audit report, NOAA concurred with all recommendations, the Department of Commerce wrote, adding the agency had “asserted that the program’s prolonged formulation activities were attributable to ‘inadequate funding in FY [fiscal year] 2011 and FY 2012’ rather than the issues with governance structure and staffing.”

Committee members expressed frustrations with NOAA’s lack of a strategy to prevent a potential gap in polar-orbiting satellite coverage and its priority of funding climate sensors rather than ensuring the core weather mission is preserved.

In response, NOAA had planned to contract out by mid-October a study of contingency options that could be exercised if a gap in polar satellite observations were to occur. The agency also directed its National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service to examine cost- and time-saving options, such as identifying alternate visible infrared imaging radiometer suite capabilities, the Cloud and Earth Radiant Energy System, Total Solar Irradiance Sensor, Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System and Advance Data Collection System.


Senate Amends US Coast Guard Authorization Act
The U.S. House and Senate continue to consider the differences between their respective passed versions of the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2012. The U.S. Senate passed in September an amended version, H.R. 2838, that would fund the Coast Guard through fiscal year (FY) 2013 and FY 2014 with $7.1 billion for operation and maintenance per year, of which $24.5 million is authorized to be derived from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

The legislation now awaits action from the House of Representatives. The Senate bill represents increased funding from the U.S. House version (H.R. 5887) introduced in June, which calls for $6.9 billion in FY 2013, $7.02 billion in FY 2014 and $7.07 billion in FY 2015.

The U.S. Senate bill added an amendment establishing the Coast Guard as the sole supplier of icebreaking services to federal agencies. If the Coast Guard is unable to provide these services, federal agencies may acquire icebreaking services from another entity.

An amendment from Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington would postpone the decommissioning of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star until a replacement is built.

The bill would also authorize advance procurement authority for the purchase of new ship construction materials, parts and components that have a long lead time for their manufacture or production and enable the Coast Guard to enter into a multiyear contract for the procurement of additional National Security Cutters.

For the acquisition, construction, rebuilding, renovation and improvement to Coast Guard equipment, the Senate bill allocates $1.42 billion. Of this, $642 million will go to acquire, effect major repairs, renovate or improve vessels, and $213 million is authorized for shore facilities, aids to navigation facilities and military housing.

The condition and maintenance of the Coast Guard fleet has been repeatedly criticized by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chair of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. The Government Accountability Office testified at a September committee hearing that it found in a recent report that the operational capacity of the legacy vessel fleet declined from FY 2006 through 2011. Its analysis of Coast Guard data indicated this fleet has increasingly fallen below operational hour targets in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue.


Senators Ask Feds to Cancel Arctic Lease Sales
Six U.S. Democratic senators in September urged the Department of the Interior to revise its Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012 to 2017 and strike the Arctic lease sales from the plan.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had stated it did not prepare for leasing regions such as those off the Pacific or Atlantic coasts or North Aleutian Basin because of local input and a lack of infrastructure. The senators wrote in a letter, “These considerations are even more pertinent for the Arctic, making proposed Arctic leasing rather perplexing.”

The senators recommended future Arctic lease sales be made contingent on a scientific research and monitoring program, and oil spill response capability and preparedness. They also suggested an expansion of existing deferrals for areas known to be important for subsistence or ecological reasons, such as Hanna Shoal and Barrow Canyon.

The senators opposing Arctic leases are Jeff Merkley, Richard Durvin, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Frank Lautenberg and Sheldon Whitehouse.



2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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