The White House Office of Management and Budget on May 23 released the Trump Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget proposal. Titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget balances over ten years, reduces the debt as a percentage of GDP to the lowest level since 2010, and increases funding for defense by cutting almost all areas of non-defense spending.
The administration’s budget proposed significant reductions in federal funding for research and development. According to an analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), total federal funding for research across all federal agencies would be cut by nearly 17 percent (approximately $12.6 billion) in FY 2018. AAAS also notes that, “no administration appears to have proposed cuts to research this large in over 40 years.”
All of the federal science agencies of interest to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) would receive significant cuts under the administration’s proposal as follows:
|AGENCY||FY 2018 ADMINISTRATION REQUEST||CHANGE FROM FY 2017*|
|National Institutes of Health (NIH)||$26.92 billion||
|National Science Foundation (NSF)||$6.65 billion||
|Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE SC)||$4.47 billion||
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
|Veterans Administration Medical & Prosthetic Research (VA)||$640 million||
*Compared with the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill (Public Law 115-31). Documents from the White House use the FY 2017 “continuing resolution” that expired on April 28, 2017 as the comparable funding level.
FASEB issued a statement shortly after the budget was released expressing outrage at the proposed cuts and urging Congress to reject the administration’s proposal. The reaction from Congress largely mirrored comments that were made when the president’s budget outline was released in March. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) issued a statement noting that, “Congress, not the Executive Branch, has the power of the purse.” Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT)’s press release also acknowledged the role of the appropriators in setting the nation’s priorities. In an interview with Vox, House Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) said “I can say NIH will remain a priority in my budget, and we’re going to do everything we can to stay on the course we’re on – which is predictable and modest increases in funding.” Another member of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS), commented, “The standard we’ll use in Congress when identifying what programs to cut or eliminate is whether or not they are effectively serving the American people. Programs like research at the National Institutes of Health, the Violence Against Women Prevention program, the Head Start program, crop insurance for our farmers – these are all vitally important and must be preserved.”
More details about the individual agency budgets are included below. Additional information and tables are also available in the appendix documents on the White House website.
National Institutes of Health
The presidents’ request of $26.92 billion for NIH represents a $7.16 billion (21 percent) reduction from the FY 2017 level. As noted in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) summary, the more than $7 billion cut would result in a loss of 1,946 grants. The NIH budget also includes several other items of note including the proposed elimination of the Fogarty International Center and transfer of $25 million to the Office of the Director to support international research. In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would move from HHS to NIH and be renamed the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality with a budget of $272 million to support health services research. The proposal to institute a uniform 10 percent cap on indirect costs for all NIH grants can be found in an accompanying “Major Savings and Reform” document.
National Science Foundation
The FY 2018 request for NSF of $6.65 billion would reduce the agency’s budget by $821 million (11 percent) below current funding. A table in the summary document notes that NSF will fund 800 fewer Research Grant Awards in FY 2018 compared with FY 2016 (FY 2017 data is not available yet). Training activities within NSF would also be reduced. The Graduate Research Fellowship program would support only 1,000 positions in FY 2018, half of the 2,000 annual fellowships NSF supported annually from FY 2011 through FY 2017.
With regard to the Directorate for the Biological Sciences (BIO), the President’s budget allocates $672.1 million, constituting a $51.7 million (7.1%) decrease from FY 2016 levels. The summary document provided for BIO highlights several ongoing research programs, including the Understanding the Rules of Life framework and the Understanding the Brain neuroscience initiative. As expected, the FY 2018 budget shifts an additional $32 million into the Division of Biological Infrastructure, bringing its allocation up to $65 million, in order to fund the operation of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).
Other specific budget allocations across NSF are as follows (comparison is to FY 2016 levels):
- Research and Related Activities – $5.36 billion (10.6 percent cut)
- Education and Human Resources – $760.5 million (14 percent cut)
- Major Research Equipment and Facilities – $182.8 million (24.3 percent cut)
- Agency Operations and Award Management – $328.5 million (6.4 percent cut)
- National Science Board – $4.37 million (1.5 percent cut)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The FY 2018 budget request for USDA programs includes $1.017 billion ($153 million or 13 percent below current funding) for salaries and expenses at ARS and $349 million ($26 million or 6.9 percent below FY 2017) for AFRI. As noted in the USDA summary, “The Department continues to focus on the use of capacity funds and competitive grants to generate the solutions to the nation’s most critical food and agriculture problems.”
Department of Energy Office of Science
The president’s budget includes $4.47 billion for DOE SC, a cut of $919 million (17 percent) from the FY 2017 level. Within the DOE SC total, funding is included for specific research activities as follows (comparison is to FY 2016 levels):
- Advanced Scientific Computing – $722 million (16.3 percent increase)
- Basic Energy Sciences – $1.55 million (15.9 percent cut)
- Biological and Environmental Research – $349 million (42.7 percent cut)
- Science Laboratories Infrastructure – $76.2 million (33 percent cut)
As stated in the Basic Energy Sciences summary provided by DOE, reductions to the Office’s budget for research facilities would lead to a net decrease of over 4,000 scientific users across the National Laboratories. In parallel, the number of permanent PhD-level scientists would fall from 4,330 to 3,730, the number of post-doctoral associates based at the labs would decrease from 1,120 to 1,020, and the number of PhD students at the laboratories would decrease from 1,660 to 1,580.
VA Medical and Prosthetic Research Program
The VA research program would receive $640 million which is a reduction of $35 million (5.18 percent) from 2017 funding. Within the total, the VA budget narrative states that the research program will focus on expanding prevention and treatment for veterans at risk for suicide, advance precision medicine studies through the Million Veteran Program, improve women veterans health, and support studies to address opioid addiction and pain management.