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President's Budget Plan Would Cripple Science and Technology, AAAS Says

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Energy Department faces steep cuts in programs that fund research and development of advanced energy technologies. | SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

President Donald Trump’s discretionary budget proposal would “cripple” the leading role the United States plays in advancing science and technology and blunt the economic benefits the nation reaps from such innovations, said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The Trump administration’s proposed budget would cripple the science and technology enterprise through short-sighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike,” said Holt in a statement issued after the White House released its fiscal 2018 discretionary budget plan on March 16. “Investments in federal research and development (R&D) make significant contributions to economic growth and public well-being.”

Holt pointed to the far-reaching implications of the proposed reductions in non-defense discretionary spending for science and engineering programs spread across the federal government.

“The administration’s proposed cuts would threaten our nation’s ability to advance cures for disease, maintain our technological leadership, ensure a more prosperous energy future and train the next generation of scientists and innovators to address the complex challenges we face today and in the future,” Holt said.

It will be up to Congress to decide what aspects of the president’s discretionary budget plan to accept or reject as it works through spending bills for fiscal 2018, Holt noted.

“Congress has a long bipartisan history of protecting research investments,” said Holt. “We encourage Congress to act in the nation’s best interest and support sustainable funding for federal R&D – for both defense and non-defense programs – as it works to address the FY 2018 budget.”

The budget plan proposes steep cuts at the National Institutes of Health, which funds biomedical research conducted by the nation’s leading colleges and universities. The agency faces a $5.8 billion cut, a reduction that amounts to about a 20% of its current $30.3 billion discretionary budget. AAAS has completed a full analysis of the budget proposal. 

Department of Energy programs that employ one of the federal government’s largest group of scientists and engineers would face a 17.9% decrease in programs including those that seek to advance energy production and conservation.

The budget plan also proposes to eliminate a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program dedicated to coastal management and marine research and education, an Energy Department project known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, that backs research into biofuels and batteries and a satellite program that tracks the Earth’s climate and solar storms at NASA, which is otherwise largely spared the hefty cuts the plan proposes elsewhere.

The White House’s discretionary spending plan covers about a quarter of the federal government’s $4 trillion annual spending accounts. The administration has said it will send Congress a final budget proposal in May that is expected to include specifics on mandatory spending accounts such as Medicare and Social Security, tax proposals and deficit projections.

For additional information join AAAS for a live chat on what the president's budget request means for science on March 22 at 1 p.m. EDT on the AAAS Facebook and Twitter accounts.

[Associated image: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health (CC BY-NC 2.0)]


Anne Q. Hoy

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