16 March 2017

White House Budget’s Proposed Cuts Jeopardize American Public Health, Safety, and Security

Posted by Chris McEntee

UPDATE: The numbers included below are in comparison to current funding levels, which are those that were passed in the most recent omnibus spending bill.

The White House recently released its budget proposing the following cuts:

  • 31% cut to EPA’s budget including a 20% reduction of EPA staff
  • Up to a 15% cut to USGS
  • 2% reduction to DOE’s budget including the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)
  • 0.8% cut to NASA overall; including a 6.3% cut to NASA Earth Science, but a 16.5% increase in funding for NASA Planetary Science (When this message was first posted, the decimal point on this percentage was inadvertently removed. The cut to NASA is 0.8%, not 8%.)
  • Up to a 9.8% cut to the NSF (although NSF is not specifically mentioned, a 9.8% cut to other agencies is noted in the budget)
  • Cuts to NOAA programs including coastal and marine management, Sea Grant, and the Polar Follow On program

The Administration’s proposed budget is not only detrimental to decades of scientific research and progress but will also negatively impact the safety, security, health, and economic well-being of citizens around the globe, including millions within the United States.  Even cutting funding to one office within one agency can damage and undermine work across the enterprise, and some of the proposed cuts would eliminate entire agency divisions. The Administration and Congress should not put our economy and lives at risk by undermining science through the budgeting process.

What Can You Do?

If you are based in the U.S. visit AGU’s Policy Action Center to write your members of Congress about the critical importance of science agencies to progress, innovation, and serving the basic needs of the American public. Consider setting up meetings with your members of Congress when they are on recess later this spring or writing to your local newspaper to help ensure that other local constituents are well-informed about the value of science, understand the risks your communities may face if science budgets are cut, and are in turn motivated to reach out to congressional representatives. Join AGU at the March for Science in Washington, DC on April 22, or one of the satellite marches to share the value of your science on our everyday lives with your community or share your story with us.

If you are based outside the U.S., please visit Sharing Science to share your story about the benefits of your research for society, and, if relevant, how U.S. budget cuts and other policies might impact your work.  Please also consider communicating with your own national policymakers about encouraging the Trump Administration to stay engaged in international scientific agreements and talks.

The Budget’s Potential Impacts

I shared in a past From the Prow post how the White House’s proposed cuts to NOAA and the EPA would threaten societal progress. We now know the stakes could be much higher, with deep proposed cuts to many more science agencies and science-related programs within other agencies. The trickle-down effects of these cuts will be far-reaching and long-lasting.

Cuts made to federal science agencies now will delay, and in some cases cripple, our ability to sustain innovation through a dynamic workforce, develop and maintain critical infrastructure, and ensure that our nation is prepared for current and future science-based challenges. In various letters from members of both parties, such as a letter led by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and another letter sent by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Vice Chair for the Committee on Appropriations, several of the potential consequences to important national industries are outlined. Other potential areas of interest related to Earth and space science programs include:

  • DOE: The Administration indicates that it would invest in “high” priority basic research and development, while also “saving” $900 million in the Office of Science. “High priority” basic research is not defined, and the process for saving $900 million (i.e., elimination of programs) is unclear.
  • NASA: The Administration indicates that NASA should eliminate the Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) Earth science mission, a mission recommended in the last Earth Science decadal survey by the National Research Council. Through its instrumentation suite, PACE will help monitor oil spills and the detection of harmful algal blooms. These blooms have a significant negative impact on ocean ecology, human health, and fisheries that support the economies of the Gulf and lower Atlantic states.
  • NSF: 93% of funding for NSF goes to directly funding investigator-led research, institutions, and STEM initiatives. An almost 10% cut to NSF will result in fewer research opportunities for our next generation of STEM professionals; the decline of scientific endeavors in the unique Antarctic environment; and less likelihood that the next transformational scientific discovery, such as the potential of shale oil and gas or GPS, will be an American discovery.
  • NOAA: The proposed budget would cut the Department of Commerce, which contains NOAA, by $1.5 billion. While there has not yet been an official topline budget number requested for the agency, the budget does call for concerning cuts to NOAA programs. Specifically, a $250 million cut to grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education, including Sea Grant. The Administration states that these programs are a “lower priority than core functions maintained in the budget such as surveys, charting, and fisheries management.” The budget also seeks to maintain development of the GOES-R and JPSS satellite programs, while potentially cutting funding for the Polar Follow On program with the intention of “reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage,” and expanding the utilization of commercially provided data. Finally, the budget includes an investment of “more than $1 billion” for the National Weather Service. Currently, the NWS has a budget of $1.12 billion, so this language could imply as much as a 10% cut, flat funding, or a budget increase.
  • USGS: The budget provides “more than $900 million” for USGS “to focus investments in essential science programs,” including the Landsat 9 ground system, and research and data collection that informs sustainable energy development, responsible resource management, and natural hazard risk reduction. This would be the lowest funding level for USGS since 2002.
  • NIH: The blueprint proposes to reduce the NIH budget by $5.8 billion or nearly 20% by restructuring the agency. One program on the chopping block is the Fogarty International Center, which supports and facilitates global health research.

Science is the foundation to innovation and future progress. AGU will work diligently to communicate to policymakers, the media, and the public not only the value of Earth and space science, but how important it is that science be allowed to function as a collaborative enterprise. Because you are the best messenger for the value of your own work, we need you–please consider adding your voice to ours.