Defense S&T, Geosciences, and Environmental R&D Constrained in FY18 Budget

The Trump Administration's proposed budget cuts defense S&T and boosts DOD weapons systems development, while making large reductions to EPA and U.S. Geological Survey research.

See also:
USDA, NIST, and NOAA in the FY 2018 Budget
DOE, NSF, and NASA in the FY 2018 Budget

Department of Defense
Funding Tables: Total R&D | Military Branch | Basic Research | Science & Tech
See also: DOD in the AAAS Appropriations Dashboard

While the Administration is proposing a $54 billion increase in the base defense spending cap – and an additional $65 billion in overseas defense funding outside the cap – much of this increase would not filter down to DOD’s science and technology accounts, which cover basic and applied research and early-stage technology activities (S&T; the “6.1” through “6.3” accounts in the DOD nomenclature). Even with a base defense spending increase of 9.4 percent, S&T programs would decline by approximately 5.4 percent below funding levels enacted in the FY 2017 omnibus, though this is also a 3.5 percent increase above FY 2016 levels.

As seen in the tables above, reductions in applied research and advanced technology across most military departments are the biggest drivers of this overall decline, although basic science would also decline by 2.1 percent. This latter reduction is achieved largely through cuts to intramural and extramural basic science activities, including university and industry programs, under the Army and Air Force. The Army would also see a 27.1 percent reduction to applied research below omnibus levels. On the other end of the spectrum, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would receive an approximate 9.7 percent increase above FY 2017 enacted levels, with assorted boosts for electronics, space technology, and other programs.

Elsewhere, the Department’s Third Offset Strategy – a touted effort initiated under President Obama to maintain and accelerate superiority in advanced technology areas like hypersonics and human-machine collaboration – makes scant appearance in this year’s budget request, even though Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, a key architect of the strategy in the prior administration, has so far stayed on at the Pentagon. Still, certain elements of that strategy, which is more focused on later-stage technology than early-stage research, would receive some plus-ups – including DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office, which would receive a more than 30.0 percent increase. Other Obama-era initiatives fared differently in the request. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a new office established to build bridges with innovators in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, would receive $54 million, moderately above last year’s request. On the other hand, funding for DOD’s eight manufacturing innovation institutes would decline by approximately 18.0 percent below FY 2017 levels.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the FY 2018 request would leave DOD science and technology (excluding medical research) 0.4 percent below FY 2016 funding levels (see graph). Congress will likely add several hundred million dollars for peer-reviewed medical research to the Defense health budget, as they do every year.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (long funding table)
See also: 'Other Agencies' in the AAAS Appropriations Dashboard

EPA’s total discretionary budget would be subject to a substantial cut of $2.4 billion or 30 percent below last year’s enacted levels. Steep reductions would be levied across the agency’s S&T portfolio, with outright elimination of activities including EPA’s climate change research program.

EPA’s core Science and Technology (S&T) account would see an overall $317 million or 44.4 percent decline in its discretionary budget (see funding table above). All five major S&T programs would drop by at least 30 percent or more, as shown in the chart at right. The Trump Administration would eliminate funding for EPA climate change research within the Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) Program, which has been renamed to the Air and Energy Program in the FY 2018 budget. EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities Program would face cuts and streamlining of health-related activities, such as research into the environmental component of children’s asthma. Within the Chemical Safety and Sustainability Program, the budget proposes a $14 million cut to development of virtual tissue models that could reduce the use of animal testing in chemical toxicity screenings. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Program within S&T Homeland Security would be eliminated. EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, which funds competitive research grants and graduate fellowships, would be terminated across all four S&T research missions.

President Trump’s request would eliminate EPA contributions to the Global Change Research Program (GCRP), a multiagency effort to better understand climate change impacts and adaptation options, resilience, and mitigation solutions; EPA funding for GCRP was $19.4 million in FY 2016.

While EPA’s S&T budget has already been on a steady decline over the past decade, the President’s request would lead to a sharp plummet, as shown in the chart at right. The total estimated EPA S&T budget would fall by $484 million or 65.2 percent below FY 2005 levels, after adjusting for inflation.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) (long funding table)
See also: 'Other Agencies' in the AAAS Appropriations Dashboard

USGS, the scientific arm of the Department of the Interior, would see a total discretionary funding reduction of $163 million or 15 percent below FY 2017 enacted levels; estimated R&D would fall by 18.4 percent (see funding table linked above). The Trump Administration would sharply curtail funding for climate R&D and land use change activities, and would scale back investments in ecosystems research and natural hazards science, among other areas.

All core research budgets within USGS would fall below FY 2017 enacted levels, as shown in the chart at right. The Administration proposes to restructure the current Climate and Land Use Change program, eliminating $11.1 million in climate research and development activities and reducing Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) by $8.5 million, halving the number of regional CSCs from eight to four. President Trump’s FY 2018 budget would also reduce funding for geologic carbon sequestration activities and eliminate biological carbon sequestration projects that inventory and track carbon stored in ecosystems across the United States. The proposed budget includes an additional $22.4 million required for the continued development of Landsat 9, but shrinks USGS remote sensing research. It eliminates support for the National Civil Applications Center, which uses satellite imagery to investigate climate change and other Earth dynamics, and to improve land and resource management.

Within the Ecosystems mission area, the FY 2018 budget proposes a $10.7 million cut in wildlife research and related programs as well as a combined $8 million reduction to Greater Everglades and Chesapeake Bay research and monitoring.  The Trump Administration budget would eliminate funding for research on ecological effects of unconventional oil and gas development.  Contaminant biology research funded by the Environmental Health Program is slated for reductions, and the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program would see funding eliminated for radioactive waste disposal and municipal wastewater science. Broad cuts to the USGS National Research Program (NRP), part of the Water Mission Area, would reduce research at the 32 Water Science Centers across the United States. The FY 2018 budget would eliminate the $6.5 million Water Resources Research Act Program, ending USGS involvement and support for all grants to Water Resource Research Institutes (WRRI), located at land grant universities in each of the 50 states.

Lastly, the Trump Administration’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for implementation of both the Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast and the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS). The Geomagnetism Program would be terminated, which would reduce the accuracy of NOAA and U.S. Air Force forecasting of the magnitude and impact of geomagnetic storms, according to agency budget documents. The National Geospatial Program, funded through Core Science Systems, would see an elimination of funding for the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS) and its associated research grants.