President Trump Proposes Large Budget Cuts for Science

The White House released the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year (FY) 2020 on March 11, 2019, proposing deep cuts to science funding for the third consecutive year. The proposal calls for significant cuts to many federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The $4.7 trillion FY 2020 budget framework includes $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending and provides $543 billion (-5 percent) for nondefense discretionary spending, which is the source for most scientific research programs. Defense spending would receive a 5 percent boost to $750 billion. According to Science Insider, overall federal R&D funding would decrease by 11 percent.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russ Vought, the proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility, and takes aim at Washington’s waste, fraud, and abuse.” The Administration’s key funding priorities include “addressing wasteful Washington spending, strengthening our southern border, promoting a healthy American economy, and maintaining a strong national defense.”

Some key budget items related to science include:

  • NSF would receive $7.1 billion in FY 2020, a 12 percent cut from the FY 2019 level enacted by Congress. Details of NSF’s budget are still emerging.
  • Department of Energy’s Office of Science would see a 16 percent budget cut, down from $6.6 billion in FY 2019 to $5.5 billion in FY 2020. The Administration is once again proposing the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a proposal which has repeatedly been rejected by Congress.
  • NIH’s budget would be slashed by 13 percent to $34.4 billion.
  • NASA would lose 2.2 percent overall, with its Science account being cut by 8.7 percent, resulting in funding of $6.3 billion. NASA’s Earth Science program, which includes climate research, would be slashed by 7.8 percent.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive only $688 million, a 30 percent cut, in FY 2020.
  • A $12.6 billion (-14 percent) budget is proposed for the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service would receive $2.7 billion (-15 percent), with $321.6 million (-4 percent) targeted to natural and cultural resource stewardship. The Bureau of Land Management would be trimmed by 11 percent to $1.2 billion, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.3 billion (-16 percent). The Administration requested $983.5 million for USGS, more than 16 percent below FY 2019. Under the request, 7 of the agency’s mission areas will be realigned into 5 mission areas. Under the new structure, the new Ecosystems mission area would receive a nearly 35 percent budget cut. The proposal would also terminate the Biological Survey Unit and Cooperative Research Units and reduce funding for climate research.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would see its budget slashed by nearly 31 percent to $6.1 billion. Scientific research at EPA would be reduced by 35 percent.
  • Agricultural research is also slated for large cuts. Funding for the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be slashed by 26 percent. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would lose 5 percent. On the upside, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive an infusion of 20 percent to $500 million.
  • The budget requests for Smithsonian Institution and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are yet to be released. The Administration has proposed eliminating funding for “lower priority” NOAA grant and education programs, including the Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

The FY 2020 budget proposal has already largely been dismissed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is unlikely to pass as proposed. However, science policy experts warn that given the myriad proposed cuts and realignments, science advocates must offer a spirited and persistent campaign to secure funding.

Describing the President’s budget, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, “President Trump has somehow managed to produce a budget request even more untethered from reality than his past two.” She added, “With such misguided priorities, the Trump budget has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law. I am committed to working with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to write appropriations bills that responsibly fund the government.”

House Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), called the budget “dead on arrival.” Republican Appropriator Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “In all the years that I’ve been here, there’s never been a president’s budget that has passed as submitted, and I don’t think this will be any different.”

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USGS Slated for Restructuring, 16 percent Budget Cut

Under President Trump’s budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2020, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would be funded at $983.5 million, a 17 percent cut from the FY 2019 level.

The budget proposes to consolidate the agency’s seven mission areas into five new mission areas to reflect “stakeholder-focused realignment of program priorities.” The five new mission areas would be: Ecosystems, Energy and Mineral Resources, Natural Hazards, Water Resources, and Core Science Systems. Programs formerly under the Environmental Health area would be moved into the Ecosystems and Water Resources areas and programs formerly under Land Resources would be transferred to Ecosystems and Core Science Systems.

Under the new structure, the Ecosystems mission area would receive $141 million in FY 2020, 35 percent below FY 2019 enacted levels. The plan restructures the Ecosystems account to include programs formerly under Land Resources and Environmental Health mission areas, specifically the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, significant portions of Land Change Science, and Contaminant Biology.

Other mission areas are also slated for budget cuts. Water Resources would be slashed by nearly 22 percent; Natural Hazards would be reduced by nearly 13 percent; Core Science Systems faces an 8.6 percent cut; and Energy and Mineral Resources would receive a 3.3 percent cut. The Science Support and Facilities accounts at USGS would remain essentially flat at $102.9 million and $121.3 million.

The plan proposes reductions for several research programs, including species-specific research, research on toxicological and pathogenic diseases, White-nose syndrome, the Whooping Crane restoration program, habitat research, biological carbon sequestration, and research on the Everglades, Chesapeake Bay, and Arctic ecosystems.

Drastic cuts have been proposed to climate research. The National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, responsible for developing the science and tools to address the effects of climate change on land, water, wildlife, fish, ecosystems, and communities, have been slated for a 46 percent budget cut.

The request once again proposed the elimination of the Cooperative Research Units (CRUs), which are located on 40 university campuses in 38 states. The CRUs allow USGS to leverage research and technical expertise affiliated with these universities to conduct research, provide technical assistance, and develop scientific workforces through graduate education and mentoring programs. Congress has rejected the Administrations repeated attempts the shutter this program in the past and provided CRUs with a $1 million increase in FY2019.

Funding for Museum collections, which supports the Biological Survey Unit (BSU), a group of USGS scientists stationed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, would also be zeroed out under the proposal. Established in 1885, the BSU maintains an extensive collection of bird, reptile, and mammal specimens.

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President Slashes NIH Funding by 13 percent

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $34.4 billion in FY 2020, roughly $4.7 billion or 13 percent below the levels enacted by Congress for FY 2019, according to the President’s Budget released on March 11.

The budget for NIH includes $492 million in funding made available through the 21st Century Cures Act and $150 million in mandatory funding. The leading biomedical research agency in the world would receive budget cuts across the board. All NIH centers are slated for budget reductions:

  • National Cancer Institute: -8.7 percent
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: -14 percent
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: -11 percent
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: -14 percent
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences: -14 percent
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: -14 percent
  • National Institute of Mental Health: -12.8 percent
  • National Human Genome Research Institute: -14 percent
  • National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering: -13.7 percent
  • National Library of Medicine: -14 percent

The proposal would also cut the Office of the Director’s budget by 7.3 percent. The buildings and facilities account for NIH would remain flat.

The plan would replace the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an independent agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, with the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ) under NIH. The AHRQ received $338 million from Congress in FY 2019, but the budget would provide only $256 million (-24 percent) for NIRSQ in FY 2020. In the past, Congress has rejected the Administration’s efforts to move AHRQ under NIH.

The proposal includes $50 million for a new pediatric cancer effort at the National Cancer Institute to “launch an initiative to accelerate and expand drug discovery and clinical trials, understand the biology of all pediatric cancers, and create a national data resource for pediatric cancer.” This would initiate a 10-yearlong $500 million initiative proposed by the President doing his State of Union address earlier in 2019.

The plan provides $6 million for NIH-sponsored Centers for AIDS Research. The budget provides $1.3 billion for opioids and pain research across NIH, including $500 million for the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative, which was launched in April 2018 to combat opioid addiction and perform research on pain and addiction.

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White House Proposes 31 Percent Cut to EPA

The White House has proposed a $6.1 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fiscal year (FY) 2020, a 31 percent cut from the agency’s FY 2019 budget of $8.8 billion. The Administration had proposed drastic cuts to EPA’s budget in FY 2018 and FY 2019 as well, which Congress rejected both times.

The plan summary states that the funding priorities will be “reviewing and revising regulations, improving the permitting process, and enhancing collaboration with state, tribal and federal partners.” The agency stated that the proposal “maintains EPA’s focus on its core mission - providing Americans with clean air, land and water, and ensuring chemical safety.”

Scientific research within EPA is slated for a 35 percent cut. EPA Science and Technology, which supports research used to identify and mitigate environmental problems, will receive $463 million in FY 2020.

Within the Office of Research and Development, funding for research on sustainable and healthy communities would decline to $65.5 million (-55 percent). Support would be targeted to research on cleanup of contaminated sites, oil spills, and hazardous substances. Funds would also support technical assistance for states, tribes, and local communities on ecological and human health risk assessment.

The Safe and Sustainable Water Resources account would receive $70 million (-34 percent) and prioritize research in areas of nutrients, harmful algal blooms, watersheds and water infrastructure. Research on chemical safety and sustainability would be cut by 30 percent, with funding directed towards developing tools that accelerate data-driven chemical evaluations. The air and energy research budget would be reduced by 67 percent.

Budget for the Atmospheric Protection Program would be slashed by 87 percent, retaining only the Greenhouse Gas Reporting program while eliminating the remaining climate-related programs.

Water Quality Research and Support Grants, a congressionally directed competitive grant program to support water quality research would be eliminated. Congress provided $20 million in funding for this program in FY 2019, an increase of $3.2 million from FY 2018.

Other eliminated programs include; the Global Change Research, which develops scientific information that allows policy makers, stakeholders, and society to respond to climate change; the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Research Grants, which funds research grants and graduate fellowships in environmental science and engineering; WaterSense, which aims to reduce water-use; and Marine Pollution and National Estuary programs which are critical for protecting marine and coastal ecosystems.

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AIBS House Testimony: Restore Funding for Interior and Environment Science

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has provided testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies regarding FY 2020 funding for biological research programs within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Smithsonian Institution.

An excerpt from the testimony: “We encourage Congress to provide the USGS with $1.2 billion in FY 2020 and at least $234 million for the Ecosystems mission area within USGS. We further request that Congress provide EPA Science and Technology with at least $760 million, which was equal to the FY 2014 enacted level. We also request the restoration of funding for Science Support in USFWS to the FY 2019 enacted level of $17.3 million. Lastly, we urge Congress to provide new funding to the Smithsonian Institution and at least $53 million to support scientific and curatorial work within the National Museum of Natural History in FY 2020.”

AIBS urged Congress to reject the deep cuts proposed in the President’s budget request and to continue the bipartisan tradition of investing in our nation’s scientific capacity.

Read the testimony at

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Short Takes

  • Democratic lawmakers in the Senate have introduced a bill to block the White House's plan to establish an "adversarial" panel to reassess the government's analysis of climate science and examine whether climate change impacts national security. The legislation would bar any funding for the proposed science review panel led by known climate skeptic William Happer. The bill is led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and co-sponsored by 13 other Senators. The bill follows a letter from 58 former intelligence, military, and national security leaders, including former secretaries of Defense and State, decrying the panel. The letter reads, "Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security."

  • E&E News reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shared reorganization plans with its staff across the country to merge the thirteen units within the Office of Research and Development (ORD) into eight. The Office of Science Policy, the Office of the Science Adviser, and the National Center for Environmental Research's (NCER) scientific and technical staff will merge to form the Office of Science Adviser, Policy and Engagement, which will report directly to the head of ORD. NCER's grants management staff will merge with two other administrative offices to become the Office of Resource Management. ORD has also proposed creating four additional research centers that would report directly to the head of ORD. According to an EPA spokesperson, "This reorganization will not result in a reduction in workforce. No one will lose their job, nor will they be forced to relocate." The restructuring is expected to be implemented by October 1, 2019.

  • Republican lawmakers have created a bicameral conservation caucus which aims to promote environmental stewardship in conjunction with innovative energy development. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) will chair the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus in the Senate, while Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) will head the group in the House.

  • The Federal Biomass Research and Development (BR&D) Board have released a multi-agency strategy, The Bioeconomy Initiative: Implementation Framework, to promote innovative technologies to produce affordable biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower from biomass. The framework was developed by an interagency group which is co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is intended to serve as a guiding document for agencies to increase government accountability and accelerate innovation in sustainable technologies. It lists goals and actions for addressing knowledge gaps in algae systems, feedstock genetic improvement, biomass conversion, carbon utilization, transportation and distribution logistics, and bioeconomy analysis.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center. The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers. The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Botanical Society of America. AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to to get started.

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