March 16, 2017


President Trump's first budget request seeks historically deep budget cuts for non-defense spending in order to increase defense spending. All departments would experience reduced budgets except for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.

Although the top-line spending level of $1.065 trillion complies with the Budget Control Act, the proposed budget assumes that budget caps for defense and non-defense spending would be repealed. This would require action by Congress to amend or repeal the 2011 law.

Defense spending would increase by 10 percent to $639 billion, relative to the fiscal year 2016 enacted.

The biggest losers in the spending plan are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; -30 percent), Department of Agriculture (-29 percent), and the State Department (-29 percent).

The cuts to EPA are even deeper than the administration had sought just a few weeks ago, according to news reports. If enacted, EPA would have to eliminate 3,200 employees from its 15,000 member workforce. Funding for the EPA Office of Research and Development would be cut in half to $250 million. STAR grants appear to be targeted for deep cuts or even elimination. President Trump is also seeking a termination of $100 million in programmatic spending on climate change initiatives at EPA, as well as reductions to programs that are restoring the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Other programs that are targeted for elimination are ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and international climate programs.

Here's how other science programs fared:

  • The Department of Energy Office of Science would lose $900 million (roughly -16 percent).
  • Funding for the National Institutes of Health would be reduced by $6 billion (-18 percent).
  • Competitively awarded agricultural research grants would be flat funded at "about $350 million."
  • Funding within the Agricultural Research Service would be " the highest priority agriculture and food issues," a euphemism that usually indicates budget cuts.
  • $250 million would be cut from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant programs that support coastal and marine research and education. The Sea Grant program, which provides research, education, and extension services, would be eliminated.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey's budget would be cut by nearly 15 percent.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's budget was largely spared, with only a 1 percent cut proposed, although the agency's focus would be shift away from "Earth-centric research" to "deep space exploration." The Earth Science program would lose $102 million, terminate four mission areas, and reduce funding for Earth science research grants.
  • No details were provided about the National Science Foundation.

The 2018 spending plan does not include details about how the cuts would be implemented. Further details are expected in May, when the rest of the president's budget will be released.

The budget request also includes a proposal to increase defense spending in fiscal year 2017 by $30 billion, which would be partially offset by a $18 billion cut to domestic programs.

According to officials within the Trump Administration, the budget was developed by reviewing the president's public statements. "This is the 'America First' budget. In fact we wrote it using the president's own words," said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. "We went through his speeches, we went through articles that have been written about his policies, we talked to him, and we wanted to know what his policies were, and we turned those policies into numbers."

Congress is not obligated to enact the President's budget request, but the plan does serve as the starting point for their deliberations.

Stay tuned for more coverage from AIBS about science funding.

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