President Trump’s 2018-2019 Presidential Budget Request: Focus on Science Policy

So begins the kickoff of another round of budget requests through the federal government. President Trump has submitted his Presidential Budget Request (PBR) to Congress for analysis, and hearings, to set a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. A PBR is a useful tool that allows everyone to view legislative, and budgetary, insights into the administration’s agenda. For science policy, it gives us a good indicator of what to expect for the upcoming budget hearings, and potential a political battle, over the overall federal budget. While the programs highlighted are only a small snippet of the overall PBR, the sections highlighted are topics relevant to science policy and STEM initiatives.

Department of Agriculture

In the Department of Agriculture, the President is calling for a $3.7 billion cut to the Department; a 16 percent decrease from previous years. However, the White House is calling for $50 million to increase agriculture science literacy among farmers and to educate students on careers available in the sciences.

Department of Education

For the Department of Education, the White House is calling for a decrease of $7.1 billion, or 10.5 percent, to next year’s budget.

Higher Education Reform

Some notable changes for STEM students are happening at the collegiate level. One of the issues are that higher education institution, accepting federal funds, be mandated to accept a share of the financial risk associated with student accepting student loans. Another major reform would be to consolidate the numerous income-based repayment plans into one plan, with loan payments being capped at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. After 15 years of continual repayments, all other undergraduate federal student debt would be forgiven. For graduate student loans, after 30 years of continual payments, all other student debt would be forgiven. Finally, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program would be eliminated.

STEM Education

Next, The White House also calls for $200 million to be dedicated to STEM education; with a new $20 million grant program for STEM-focused career and technical education programs.

Department of Energy

For the Department of Energy (DoE), the White is calling for a 3 percent decrease from the DoE’s $29 billion budget. The Budget calls for $1.7 billion to be devoted to pushing early-stage R&D to market with assistance from the private sector. The Office of Nuclear Energy will receive $757 million to assist with enhancing reactor technologies and to promote manufacturing of equipment related to nuclear technology. In addition, $6.6 billion will be devoted to nuclear production clean-up and $150 million devoted to high risk nuclear facilities scheduled for decommissioning.

Nuclear Arsenal Modernization

The first major initiative of the White House is to modernize the nuclear arsenal in this country. Funding will be devoted to complete the W76-1 Life Extension Program, preparing the B61-12 LEP and the W88 Alteration 370 for production in 2020, and continuing development of the W80-4 LEP. In addition, the White House calls for investment in infrastructure investment.

Office of Science

The White House calls for $4.2 billion to focus on early-stage research, operate the national laboratories, and continue construction projects. An estimated $445 million would be dedicated to Exascale Computing; a research division dedicated to IT research. In addition, the administration would continue funding, $100 million, to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment; a particle research lab seeking to research questions centered around the evolution of the Universe. Finally, the funding, $75 million, to complete the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services would receive a 21 percent cut, roughly $18 billion, for the upcoming budget cycle. $5 billion dollars will be devoted to combating the opioid crisis over the next five years. The Budget also calls for reforms to drug pricing set by the pharmaceutical industry. This would include quicker timetables to bring generic alternatives to the market. Most notably, the President is calling for a complete repeal, and replace, of the Affordable Cart Act; with significant changes to Medicaid financing. The Budget calls for the passage of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johsnon Bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Environmental Protection Agency

For the upcoming fiscal year, the White House is announcing a decrease of $2.8 billion, 34 percent, from this year’s budget request. From the PBR, it is clear that the President is shifting the power of environmental regulatory oversight back to the State level. This includes $27 million dedicated to multi-purpose uses for a variety of environmental initiatives. In addition, investments to Water Infrastructure Repair, and Replacement, would be implemented with $80 billion in funds; with $1 billion in direct loans. The White House is also calling for $762 million for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account to clean up hazardous waste sites.  In addition, the Budget calls for the elimination of Climate Change Research, Indoor Air and Radon Programs, Marine Pollution, and Natural Estuary Programs.

National Aeronautical and Space Administration 

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) has received a 2.6 percent increase, to the tune of $500 million dollars, in increased spending for this upcoming year. The Trump Administration is determined to launch astronauts from the United States once more and to push our reach back to the moon.

Human Space Flight

The budget calls for a $10 billion appropriation towards human space exploration; with the focus geared towards the Moon. The budget fully funds the SLS Rocket, and the Orion Spacecraft, to keep NASA on track for a test flight, in 2020, and a Moon mission in 2023. The budget also talks about scaling back investments to the International Space Station, in 2025, and pass the costs on to private space companies.

Planetary Science

The Planetary Science Division would receive $2.2 billion to pursue projects like the 2020 Mars Rover. In addition, the budget calls for $50 million for geological sample retrieval from Mars. Finally, $150 million would be invested in planetary space defense.

Eliminations

The budget calls for the elimination of the WFIRST Space Telescope due to high costs and budget projections higher than what was set out for the project. Finally, the Office of Education would be removed and the $100 million associated with this program would be placed back in to NASA’s core missions.

National Science Foundation

While not mentioned directly in the overview, the National Science Foundation is expected to receive a $2.2 billion dollar cut to the agency, approximately 29.5 percent. The NSF is a major provider of federal grants to research groups across numerous disciplines within the sciences.

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