Trump's Budget Targets EPA, Earth Science

Mar 17, 2019

The White House Budget plan for fiscal year 2020 is out. It’s a record $4.7 trillion, but science agencies and activities take cuts almost across the board. The president envisions an EPA budget cut by almost a third and a decrease of about 12 percent at the National Institutes of Health. 

NASA’s total funding would hold steady, but with more money going toward establishing a presence on the moon, and less to understanding Earth.

Like previous Trump Administration budgets, the budget seeks to boost defense spending and cut back on other areas.

“Within science, it makes quite a few cuts,” said Matt Hourihan, the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “And in fact, this is an even tougher budget than we got last year.”

There were some positive elements to last year's budget from a science perspective, Hourihan said. For example, the administration sought to hold funding steady on basic science programs within the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

This year looks like a different approach.

“We're seeing some pretty steep cuts across the board, even in areas where there has historically been quite a bit of bipartisan agreement,” Hourihan said.

To that point, cancer research funding would drop by about $900 million below the current year. “That's a pretty sizable cut to get on the order of 10 or 12 percent,” Hourihan said.

An exception is pediatric cancer, which the president highlighted in his State of the Union address.

“There is a new initiative within NIH that would increase pediatric cancer research by about $50 million,” Hourihan said. “But again, that comes in the context of fairly massive cuts to other forms of cancer research.”

It’s important to remember that Congress largely ignored President Trump’s budget last year and will likely do the same this year. That means the budget says more about the president’s priorities than it does about the government’s expected spending in the coming year, Hourihan said.

“You'd expect with the Democrats now in control of the House, that even further reduces the odds that the Trump administration's going to succeed in achieving these funding cutbacks,” he said.

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