U.S. President Donald Trump released the blueprint of his first federal budget for the next year on March 16. He proposed severe cuts to the science budget, sending shockwaves among the scientific community. While it was anticipated that climate studies and earth sciences would take a hit, he also proposed the downsizing of major science agencies that have received bipartisan support over the years.
The budget proposal titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” recommends reducing the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sizably by 18%, bringing its funding down to $25.9 billion. It also calls for reorganizing the research agency’s 27 institutes, which would result in the closure of the Fogarty International Center, the smallest of them. This has made biomedical research advocates uneasy, but since historically the Congress has supported the funding of biomedical research, many are hopeful that the severe changes proposed by this budget will not be approved.
The agency that will take the hardest hit is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is likely to face a cut of 31% to its current budget of $8.2-billion, including a layoff of about a fifth of its 1500 employees. Moreover, the agency’s Office of Research and Development is likely to have its budget reduced by half. This is part of the Trump government’s attempts at overhauling the environment policy. While the budget states that it will support the weather satellite programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), no further details have been divulged about how this agency will be funded. David Titley, NOAA's chief operating officer from 2012-2013 and the former oceanographer of the Navy, said, “While the details are hard to find in this budget, it appears that climate research and climate observing systems are being cut by at least 20% across the government.”
Another agency that was at the center of discussions related to the budget proposal was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s budget will be reduced only by 1%. In fact, the planetary division is set to have its budget raised from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion. Interestingly, however, the proposal calls for the agency to focus on “deep-space exploration rather than Earth-centric research.” An agency that is conspicuous by its absence in the proposal is the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports up to 24% of all federally supported basic research by the country’s universities and colleges. While NSF’s geoscience and social science divisions have been targeted by the Republican lawmakers, the agency’s non-inclusion has surprised many academics. The blueprint lacks several such details and the President is likely to release a more in-depth version of the proposal in the coming months.
The White House proposal is just a blueprint and will undergo the consideration of the Congress before being approved. Although Trump's supporters hold majority positions in the House of Representatives and the Senate, some of them have indicated that they would oppose certain aspects of the budget. While the budget seems to have ruffled quite some feathers, it remains to be seen which of its parts get the seal of approval and what gets dismissed.
How do you see the U.S. federal budget shaping up? Do you have any thoughts on the cuts to scientific funding? Please leave a comment below to tell us what you think!