WASHINGTON, DC - The Senate Appropriations Committee today unanimously approved the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) fiscal year 2015 funding legislation that totals $51.2 billion in proposed discretionary budget authority. U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a member of the Appropriations CJS Subcommittee, said the bill focuses targeted resources to help prevent crime, terrorism, and cyberattacks, while providing critical support for scientific research, development, and exploration.
“This bill is a smart investment in improving public safety and promoting innovation. It will help provide Rhode Island law enforcement with valuable tools to fight crime,” said Reed. “Congress needs to work in a bipartisan fashion to create jobs and help U.S. businesses compete. I am pleased we were able to get bipartisan support to advance this bill.”
The bill also includes language directing the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the allegations of falsified patient records at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and provides the necessary resources to ensure DOJ conducts a thorough criminal and civil investigation into scheduling misconduct at VA facilities across the country.
“We owe it to our veterans to ensure there is a comprehensive, thorough investigation into the alleged misconduct at VA facilities. This bill represents a down payment in terms of getting to the bottom of this matter so we can fix it and improve care for all our veterans,” said Reed.
Highlights of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Bill include:
$28 billion for the U.S. Department of Justice to help fight crime and terrorism, protect communities and families, and provide critical grant funding for state and local law enforcement initiatives. This includes funding for key operational grant programs that benefit Rhode Island, such as $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants; $430 million for Violence Against Women Act programs; $258 million for juvenile justice and mentoring grants; and $181 million for COPS hiring grants.
$8.6 billion for the Commerce Department to support a variety of programs aimed at strengthening our economy.
$7.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help spark innovation and provide 140 more competitive grants supporting 2,000 more technicians, teachers, scientists, and students in fiscal year 2015. It funds the EPSCoR program at the requested level of $159.7 million. It also includes funding for the continuing design of the NSF regional class research vessel, which will replace Intermediate class vessels in the academic fleet.
$5.4 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including $71 million for Coastal Zone Management Grants, which support Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council; $62.8 million for the National Sea Grant Program with an additional $5 million for the marine aquaculture program; $27.7 million for NOAA education programs; $26.2 for Ocean Exploration ($7 million more than the Administration’s request), which in part support the Okeanos Explorer homeported at Quonset. It also provides $10 million for coastal resilience grants to protect coastal habitats from extreme weather events, as well as $6 million for aquaculture research through the National Marine Fisheries Service.
$900 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help provide technical resources to promote the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups. NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), funded at $141 million, and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) will help manufacturers accelerate development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products.
$232 million for Economic Development Administration (EDA) programs, including $114 million for Public Works and $20 million for the Regional Innovation Program. This level of funding will allow EDA to award more than 400 grants to help communities plan regional strategies for long-term growth, leveraging $2 billion in private investment and generating thousands of jobs in small and American-owned businesses.
$722 million for cybersecurity programs to prevent attacks and respond to cybercrime, and catch and prosecute the criminals behind the keyboard.
$1.1 billion to help reduce gun violence and help keep our homes, schools, and neighborhoods safe. The bill provides $142 million to the FBI to run instant background checks. It will give ATF an additional $22 million for a total of $798 million for criminal enforcement, investigations, and inspections tools to enforce gun laws, trace firearms found at crime scenes, and keep illegal guns away from traffickers and criminals.
$3.2 billion to improve weather prediction and test next generation of weather radars.
$3.48 billion for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to protect inventors so they can reap the profits from their ideas. This level is $434 million above fiscal year 2014.
$480 million to help promote U.S. exports and international trade and protect American companies doing business abroad.
$1.9 billion for the U.S. Attorneys to prosecute cases in international and domestic terrorism, mortgage fraud and financial crime, human trafficking, child exploitation, and firearms and violent crime.
$1.2 billion for the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend dangerous fugitives, protect the federal judiciary, and transport prisoners for court proceedings.
The legislation also takes several steps to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse by ensuring all of the agencies funded under the bill are called on to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars. The bill:
- Provides robust funding for Inspectors General (IGs), the taxpayers’ watchdogs, and directs agencies to implement IG and GAO report recommendations. The bill also requires the IGs to do random audits of grant funding to find and stop waste and fraud;
- Establishes an early warning system on cost overruns, which requires agencies to notify the Committee when costs of projects grow by more than 10 percent;
- Prohibits grants and contracts from being awarded to tax cheats and felons; and
- Bans federal funding for official portraits.
Now that it has been approved by the Appropriations Committee, the bill must be passed by the full U.S. Senate and reconciled with the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the bill.