Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has responded to the Governor’s concerns about possible funding cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s funding appropriations in the FY 2007 budget. Governor Togiola wrote to the Congressman on July 5, 2006. On June 21, 2006, the Congressman also received the same letter of inquiry from Mr. Faleseu Paopao, Director of the Department of Commerce. Since the letters were virtually identical, Faleomavaega responded to the Governor and copied Mr. Paopao.
In his letter to the Governor, Faleomavaega said, “Like you, I believe NOAA programs and services play an important role in support of our ocean management programs in American Samoa, as well as throughout the country. This is why for years I have been actively involved to increase funding for Sea Grant, in particular.”
Faleomavaega then went on to explain how the appropriations process works in Congress. “This year, the President’s budget request for NOAA for FY2007 was $3.68 billion, approximately $230 million dollars (6.8%) below the $3.95 billion appropriated for FY 2006. On June 26, 2006, the U.S. House passed H.R. 5762, appropriating nearly $3.38 billion for NOAA operations. This amount is about $300 million (8.2%) less than the President’s FY2007 Budget request and $570 million (14.4%) less than the FY 2006 appropriation.”
“For NOAA coastal programs of interest to the states and territories, the House Appropriations bill would cut $11 million from the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, over $3.2 million from the National Marine Sanctuaries, and $2.8 million from the Sea Grant program. However, on July 13, 2006, the Senate Appropriations Committee requested over $4.4 billion dollars in appropriations to support NOAA operations and programs. This recommendation is over $535 million above the FY 2006 enacted level and $753 million above the President’s budget request. The Senate recommendations include $90 million for CZM grants, $50 million for National Marine Sanctuaries and $83.5 million for Sea Grant.”
“This disparity in the appropriations bills of the U.S. House and Senate, wherein the House version undercuts the President’s request and the Senate version appropriates increased funding over the budget request, continues a historical trend in the NOAA funding process here in Congress,” Faleomavaega said. “In the end, as has been the case so far, funding evens out during conference and NOAA is appropriated at levels higher than what the House proposes even though the President and some Members of the House do not support increased funding for NOAA.
Faleomavaega concluded his letter by saying, “As I have always done, I will continue to monitor the progress of NOAA funding and ensure that American Samoa’s interests are protected and that your views are known.”