Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

By John Russell

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Among the big targets are National Institutes of Health ($6 billion cut from its $34 billion budget), the Department of Energy ($900 million cut from DOE Office of Science and elimination of the $300 million ARPA-E), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (five percent cut) and Environmental Protection Agency ($2.6 billion cut or 31.4 percent of its budget).

Perhaps surprisingly, the National Science Foundation – a key funding source for HPC research and infrastructure – was not mentioned in the budget. Science was hardly the only target. The Trump budget closely adhered to the administration’s “America First” tenets slashing $10 billion from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Health and Human Services and Education are also targeted for cuts of 28.7 and 16.2 percent respectively.

One of the more thorough examinations of Trump’s proposed budget impact on science is presented in Science Magazine (NIH, DOE Office of Science face deep cuts in Trump’s first budget). The Wall Street Journal also offers a broad review of the full budget (Trump Budget Seeks Big Cuts to Environment, Arts, Foreign Aid) and noted the proposed budget faces bipartisan opposition and procedural hurdles:

“…Already, Republicans have voiced alarm over proposed funding cuts to foreign aid. In addition, Senate rules require 60 votes to advance the annual appropriations bills that set each department’s spending levels. Republicans control 52 Senate seats, meaning the new president will need support from Democrats to advance his domestic spending agenda.

“You don’t have 50 votes in the Senate for most of this, let alone 60,” said Steve Bell, a former GOP budget aide who is now a senior analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “There’s as much chance that this budget will pass as there is that I’m going to have a date with Elle Macpherson.”

A broad chorus of concern is emerging. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) posted its first take on President Trump’s budget. It cuts critical investment and eliminates vital programs, argues ITIF. The preliminary evidence suggests that the administration is taking its cues from a deeply flawed framework put forward by the Heritage Foundation.

Overall, ITIF says “The reality is that if the United States is going to successfully manage its growing financial problems and improve living standards for all Americans, it needs to increase its investment in the primary drivers of innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. The Trump budget goes in the opposite direction. If these cuts were to be enacted, they would signal the end of the American century as a global innovation leader.”

Two years ago, the National Strategic Computing Initiative (July 2015) was established by then President Obama’s executive order. It represents a grandly ambitious effort to nourish all facets of the HPC ecosystem in the U.S. That said, after initial fanfare, NSCI has seemed to languish although a major element – DOE’s Exascale Computing Program – continues marching forward. It’s not clear how the Trump Administration perceives NSCI and to a large degree no additional funding has been funneled into the program since its announcement.

The issuing of the budget closely follows the recent release and media coverage of a December 2016 DOE-NSA Technical Meeting report that declares underinvestment by the U.S. government in HPC and supercomputing puts U.S. computer technology leadership and national competitiveness at risk in the face of China’s steady ascent in HPC. (See HPCwire coverage, US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question)

The Department of Defense is one of the few winners in the proposed budget with a $53.2 billion jump (10 percent) in keeping with Trump campaign promises. At a top level, NASA is relatively unscathed but Science reports “At NASA, a roughly $100 million to cut to the agency’s earth sciences program would be mostly achieved by canceling four climate-related missions, according to sources. They are the Orbiting Carbon ­Observatory-3; the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem program; the Deep Space Climate Observatory; and the CLARREO Pathfinder. Overall, NASA receives a 1% cut.”

Obviously, it remains early days for the budget battle. There have been suggestions that the proposed cuts, some especially deep, are part of a broad strategy by the Administration to settle for lesser cuts but stronger buy-in from Congress on other Trump policy initiatives.

Link to Science Magazine coverage: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/nih-doe-office-science-face-deep-cuts-trumps-first-budget

Link to WSJ article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-budget-seeks-big-cuts-to-environment-arts-foreign-aid-1489636861

Link to Nature coverage: http://www.nature.com/news/us-science-agencies-face-deep-cuts-in-trump-budget-1.21652

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the article incorrectly referenced the Advanced Research Projects Agency as being targeted for elimination, instead of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The article has been corrected and we regret the error.

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