12 February 2018

President Trump’s Proposed 2019 Budget Would Damage the Scientific Enterprise and the Nation

Posted by Chris McEntee

Today, President Trump unveiled his proposed budget for 2019. Included within this proposal are steep increases in defense spending and infrastructure, much of which comes at the expense of funding for the federal scientific agencies that provide the technical expertise to realize the President’s policy priorities.

The NSF would be flat funded, receiving no increase in funding to support their pivotal, basic research

19.63% cuts to NOAA programs including coastal and marine management, Sea Grant, and the Polar Follow On program

Proposed combination of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Polar Follow On programs into a single program – the Polar Weather Satellites

1.22% increase to NASA overall; including a 7.12% cut to NASA Earth Science, but a 21.06% increase in funding for NASA Planetary Science

Termination of NASA office of Education

Termination of 4Earth Science Missions – PACE, OCO-3, CLARREO Pathfinder, and DSCOVR

Up to a 20.78% cut to USGS

0.82% reduction to DOE’s budget; proposes elimination of ARPA-E

24.01% cut to EPA’s budget; proposes the elimination of EPA’s Climate Change Research and Partnership Programs and Environmental Education Program

These cuts are shortsighted and are harmful to the American economy, innovation, safety and security. They undermine our ability to ensure a robust rebuilding of infrastructure and will further hasten the loss of the best and brightest in our scientific workforce.

In light of these drastic proposed cuts, I encourage you, your family and your colleagues to take action now: Become a Voice for Science outreach leader this year (applications 15 February); write a piece for your local newspaper about what science means for your community; or spend five minutes writing your members of Congress using our easy template to impress upon them how critical programs at NOAA, NSF, and other science agencies are to the safety, health, and economy of your community. Science has a profound impact on our nation and our local communities, and legislators need to hear from community members in their districts about these impacts.

As noted in my From the Prow post following the President’s State of the Union address in January, new infrastructure “requires investing in science to ensure that these massive public works programs are completed safely, within budget, and will last for generations to come.” NOAA provides weather and climate data that protects the more than half of all Americans who live along our coasts, the over 2.8 million jobs in ocean-reliant industries, and $10 trillion in U.S. coastal property. Pound wise and penny foolish, the unintended impacts of cuts to these programs will ultimately cost more than they will save in the short term.

The United States military relies directly on data from scientific agencies like NASA to develop the expertise that are integral to many defense related systems. A policy white paper based on the NASA- Navy Cooperation Working Group notes that “both organizations have benefited by leveraging shared technical capacity and by looking beyond specific organizational challenges to shared research goals.” It is discouraging to see a White House proposal with funding levels that would devastate our ability to safeguard national security and the livelihoods of communities across the country.

Sabotaging his promise to create 25 million jobs over the next decade, the President’s budget would also eliminate skilled federal workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) from the workforce and serve to discourage students from entering these fields. According to the National Survey of College Graduates, “the number of jobs in the United States requiring substantial science, technology, engineering, and mathematics expertise has grown nearly 34% over the past decade. At the same time, other countries are challenging U.S. leadership in science and technology…China’s investments in higher education and research and development (R&D) have fueled the rapid growth of its high-technology industries.”

Finally, immigration to our nation is a key to building a strong scientific enterprise “as it brings some of the best and brightest scientific minds to our shores to work on issues which are often exceedingly complex and require great cooperation and ingenuity. Any effort to further isolate the United States and close her doors to immigrants may also have the blowback effect of crippling participation in scientific meetings…by sowing fear and confusion amongst those who wish to travel from abroad to meetings in the U.S. or, conversely, for those who traveling back to the States from overseas meetings.”

Ultimately, the President’s proposed budget is just that – proposed.  It will be up to Congress to set the appropriations levels for each of our science agencies – and we expect Congress to be far more realistic and strategic in providing the funding that will allow the nation’s scientific enterprise to thrive.

AGU will not take this for granted, however – we will continue to work diligently over the coming weeks and months to communicate the value of Earth and space science to both Congress and the Administration. We will make the case about just how damaging these far-reaching cuts would be if they were to be implemented. But we can’t be the only voice in this effort. Members of the Earth and space science community, who are also members of their local communities, can let their elected officials know about the importance of adequately funding federal science agencies.

It’s only by raising our voices together that we will be able to preserve the federal science funding levels that are essential to securing the safety of the public, the health of the environment and economy, and the strength of the scientific enterprise.