What Trump’s budget proposal means for science, health and tech
The White House’s full budget request for 2018, sent to Congress on Tuesday, seeks sharp cuts to cancer research, climate science and children’s health insurance. It would halve the EPA’s research funding and end NASA’s education office.
While President Trump’s budget proposal echoes many points made in the abbreviated — “skinny” — budget released in early March, this week’s full budget request covers a wider scope and more detail into the Trump administration’s fiscal views on the nation’s science and research infrastructure. The skinny budget, for example, omitted key departments and centers charged with science and health programs — such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Science Foundation. The full budget must be approved by Congress. But here’s a look at how the proposal would affect science, health and tech.
Environmental Protection Agency: 31 percent cut
2017: $8.2 billion
Skinny: $5.7 billion
Full: $5.7 billion
The full budget restates the earlier proposal to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, creating deep cuts across the board. The EPA’s enforcement budget would drop by 24 percent ($548 to $419 million), while cleaning up hazardous Superfund sites would dip by 30 percent ($1.1 billion to $762 million). The agency’s research budget would be halved ($483 million to $249 million), with most of the remaining funds going to projects conducted in-house.
Geographic programs, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Program, lose the entirety of their $427 million funding. The Energy Star program, which sets efficiency standards for consumer appliances and other products, is also eliminated. The budget argues these standards can be implemented by the private sector.
Categorical grants, which are issued to states and Native American tribes for the purposes of developing environmental protection programs, get slashed 45 percent — dropping from $1.07 billion to $597 million. Such grants support projects to clean water, air, waste, pesticide and toxic substances from the environment. The White House issued a separate document on major saving and reforms, which justified this move by stating “many states have been delegated authority to implement and enforce Federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The budget calls for the elimination of the Indian Community Development Block Grant Housing and Urban Development, which is provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and funds similar environmental programs for Native American tribes. Since many Native American communities do not collect taxes, these federal funds often represent the sole source of money for public projects.
National Science Foundation: 11 percent cut
2017: $6.9 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned
Full: $6.1 billion
The National Science Foundation — the funding organization credited for bar codes, the American Sign Language dictionary, gravitational waves and the early spine of the internet — would receive an 11 percent reduction in funding under Trump’s proposal. The NSF issues about 11,000 new grants per year for research and education projects, while backing a quarter of all non-medical — “basic” — research at America’s colleges and universities. The proposal calls for cuts to several programs expanded by the Obama administration, including “funding for Clean Energy R&D, the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Services to focus on NSF’s core research programs.”
Department of Health and Human Services: 16 percent cut
2017: $78 billion
Skinny: $69 billion
Full: $65.3 billion
In Trump’s final budget, the Department of Health and Human Services would shrink to $65.3 billion, down nearly 20 percent from the previous year. The budget calls for cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covered nearly 9 million children in FY 2016, that would amount to $616 billion in cuts over a decade, if enacted.
The budget also kills $714 million in the department’s community services block grants, which are designed and distributed to “alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities,” including people who are homeless, migrants or elderly. According to the budget, these grants “are not directly tied to performance, which limits incentives for innovation,” and support “services that are duplicative of services that are funded through other Federal programs.” And the budget eliminated the $3.4 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program “to reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government and better target resources.” The program covers heating and cooling bills for low-income homes and funds weatherization.
The Food and Drug Administration would be slashed by nearly a third, or $854 million, with the largest cuts in actual dollars to Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The budget also slashed training for health professions and nursing by 80 percent.
National Institutes of Health: 19 percent cut
2017: $31.7 billion
Skinny: $25.9 billion
Full: $26 billion
Trump’s budget reduces the National Institutes of Health by nearly one-fifth to $26 billion. The Trump administration wants to slash the National Cancer Institute’s budget by 19 percent, down to $4.47 billion, at a time when cancer is on the brink of becoming the most prevalent cause of U.S. deaths.
The budget also eliminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a standalone agency that conducts evidence-based research about health care safety, and merges it with NIH. According to the final budget proposal, NIH will “conduct a review of health services research across NIH, identify gaps, and propose a more coordinated strategy for ensuring that the highest priority health services research is conducted and then made available to improve the quality of health care services.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 9 percent cut
2017: $7.2 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned, except for $500 million for Zika outbreak response
Full: $6.3 billion
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lead the nation’s public health efforts. But under the Trump administration’s proposal, the agency’s budget sinks to $6 billion, down 17 percent from $7.2 billion the previous year. It would be the deepest cut in more than two decades. CDC Director Tom Frieden said the $1.2 billion in cuts are “unsafe at any level of enactment.” The president’s budget would “increase illness, death, risks to Americans, and health care costs,” he said on Twitter late Monday.
Admin proposal for CDC budget: risks Americans' health and safety: pic.twitter.com/jAVbeGyUOG
— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrFrieden) May 23, 2017
U.S Department of Agriculture: 21 percent cut
2017: $22.6 billion
Skinny: $17.9 billion
Full: $17.9 billion
The Trump administration aims to reduce the budget for the Department of Agriculture by $20 billion by 2022, though this plan would hinge on comprehensive changes to the U.S. Farm Bill. The White House plans to do this largely by reducing farm subsidies, namely for those farmers making more than $500,000 per year, as well as insurance payouts for lost crops in general. The Office of Management and Budget claims the result would be $267 million in savings for 2018 and $3.3 billion in savings by 2019.
As we reported in March, wastewater infrastructure grants and the $201 million McGovern-Dole International Food for Education fund are eliminated under the proposed budget. The latter feeds three million children and families overseas, but the OMB states “school feeding programs in developing countries are usually high-cost investments with little to no returns, and are usually ineffective in achieving their goal to improve nutrition and learning outcomes.”
OMB is right. While international school feeding programs boost nutritional status, food security, school enrollment, attendance and gender parity, there are fewer concrete examples of improvements in academic achievement.
Overall, the budget proposal would cut more than 5,000 jobs from the department.
Department of Energy: 6 percent cut
2017: $29.7 billion
Skinny: $28.0 billion
Full: $28.0 billion
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised Trump’s fiscal request for 2018, which removes just more than $1.5 billion from the department charged with funding energy projects and securing the nation’s nuclear stockpiles.
“This budget delivers on the promise to reprioritize spending in order to carry out DOE’s core functions efficiently and effectively while also being fiscally responsible and respectful to the American taxpayer,” Perry said in a statement.
The DOE’s budget cuts focus primarily on the department’s non-defense programs. A DOE arm responsible for pursuing high-impact breakthroughs in energy research — the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — is essentially kaput; its proposed budget shrinks from $290 million to $20 million in the next year. ThinkProgress reports already approved grants for ARPA-E have been denied or delayed since the skinny budget’s release in March. Grants for research and development in four areas– energy efficiency and renewable energy, fossil energy, nuclear energy and electricity delivery and energy reliability — lose 60 percent of their funding in the proposal. Under this plan, the Weatherization Assistance Program, which promotes energy efficiency developments for low-income families, is eliminated.
Trump’s budget also boosts the National Nuclear Security Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion. The department recovers some savings — $70 million — by terminating the construction of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget project in South Carolina slated to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of surplus U.S. weapon-grade plutonium, part of a disarmament deal made with Russia.
Within the next two years, the DOE would also look to sell assets in government-owned electric utilities, which include the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Bonneville Power Administration. These utilities provide low-cost energy from federal dams to western states. Meanwhile, DOE would also sell half of its strategic petroleum reserve, the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Less than 1 percent
2017: $1.5 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned
Full: $1.3 billion
While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife faces a slim trim, the cuts are almost entirely concentrated on conservation efforts.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest conservation network, would lose $90 million — meaning its funding would be off-track to keep up pace with inflation. Resources for the protection of endangered species drop from $20.5 million to $17.1 million — a 17 percent reduction under the Trump budget request. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which provides grants to states and landowners to implement conservation projects, would decline by 64 percent ($53.4 million to $19.3 million.) The $13 million National Wildlife Refuge Fund, which reimburses communities for tax losses created when the government acquires land for refuges, would be eliminated.
Funds for scientific research into conservation planning and cooperative landscape management remain flat. The ecological services program, which recommends animals and plants to the endangered species list, remains mostly intact.
The Department of the Interior also plans to open up lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a bid to raise $1.8 billion by 2027.
U.S. Geological Survey: 13 percent cut
2017: $1.1 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned
Full: $922 million
The Department of the Interior budget request reduces the U.S. Geological Survey’s resources for scientific research, environmental protection and natural hazards management, but increases funds for fossil fuel extraction programs.
The agency’s ecosystems programs — which “support fish and wildlife management, water filtration and pollution control, healthy soils, pollination, and reduction of the effects of wildfires and other natural disasters” — would lose $27.8 million. Science projects geared toward adaptation to critical issues such as drought, flooding, and wildfires would see a cut of $26.9 million.
While the DOI pledged to maintain the nation’s network of streamgages and earthquake sensors, the USGS would slash $20.6 million from its natural hazards programs, which “respond to hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides with a goal of reducing potential fatalities, injuries, property damage, and other social and economic effects,” according to budget documents. Science support grants and core science missions would lose $34.4 million combined.
The Energy and Mineral Resources programs would see a $1.5 million increase for the purpose of developing carbon capture technology for fossil fuel recovery. The coal-fired Petra Nova plant in Houston uses such technology to collect carbon dioxide and then inject it into the ground to free oil from depleted wells. Along these lines, the DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulate the safe exploration and development of America’s offshore energy, would receive $5 million (4 percent increase) and $36 million (44 percent increase), respectively. (Note: The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would cut its oil spill research program by $2.2 million.)
The Landsat satellite programs would also retain their fiscal support.
National Park Service: 10 percent cut
2017: $2.9 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned
Full: $2.6 million
Approximately 1,200 employees — 7 percent of the full-time workforce — would be cut from the National Park Service. Funding would be removed for historic preservation, land acquisition for public parks, park operations and local community efforts to preserve natural and cultural resources. Construction projects to update NPS facilities would earn $34 million.
NASA: 1 percent cut
2017: $19.2 billion
Skinny: $19.1 billion
Full: $19.1 billion
NASA would eliminate five Earth science missions: the Radiation Budget Instrument for tracking Earth’s thermal radiation, the PACE mission for monitoring aerosols and ocean color, the OCO-3 satellite that measure carbon dioxide levels, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments for space weather recordings and the International Space Station’s CLARREO Pathfinder for measuring Earth reflectance.
Meanwhile, voyages beyond our atmosphere would get a 4.5 percent boost, including $425 million for a flyby mission to Europa, a Jupiter moon that may be capable of sustaining life.
NASA’s education office would be terminated, a move the budget says will save $78 million in fiscal year 2018.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 1 percent cut
2017: $5.8 billion
Skinny: $5.6 billion
Full: $5.6 billion
Sticking to its word, the White House plans to cut $262 million worth of funding for NOAA grants and education programs, including the Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
Chemical Safety Board: 100 percent cut
2017: $12.4 million
Full: $9 million
As part of its overarching goal of removing regulations, the White House proposed in its skinny budget the elimination of the Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency responsible for investigating chemical spills and accidents at industrial facilities. The first step in this process would be a $2 million reduction in funding for the Chemical Safety Board for 2018.
Corps of Engineers: 16 percent
2017: $6.0 billion
Skinny: $5.0 billion
Full: $5.0 billion
The OMB justifies a $1 billion cut to the Army Corps of Engineers by calling on the group to prioritize the maintenance of existing infrastructure over the construction of new projects. Meanwhile, the nation’s capital loses a federal investment in the Washington Aqueduct; the Trump proposal argues that local government or private ownership of the water supply would be more appropriate and mitigate risk for taxpayers.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include budget proposals for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.