President Trump released a third budget request on 11th March 2019, once again looking to cut funding to quite a few scientific and medical research organizations. If Congress does sign off on this budget request, the National Science Foundation would receive a cut of 13%, the National Institutes of Health would be handed out a cut of 12% and an Energy Department program funding speculative technology and considered very risky for private parties to invest in would face termination. Besides, an HHS document has claimed that NIH could also see a budget cut of $4.5 billion. The National Cancer Institute would, in all probability, suffer the greatest loss with its budget dropping down to $5.2 billion from $6.1 billion. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would also see a drop to $4.75 billion from a $5.5 billion budget.
NASA too would receive a budget cut, although a fairly small one, at 2.3% less than its 2019 budget. In fact, the $21 billion budget for FY 2020 is in excess of what NASA received for the previous year from the Trump administration. Pointing out the same Jim Bridenstine, an administrator, described the budget for FY 2020 as being “one of the strongest” for the agency keeping it on track with its program of sending humans to the moon once more by 2028.
However, this proposed budget has failed to provide funding to NASA for a new space telescope (WFIRST). Besides, a couple of Earth science missions to study climate are likely to be eliminated along with an educational program known as the Office of STEM Engagement. Deferment has been sought by the Trump administration on upgrades to the underdevelopment new NASA Space Launch System and it has been suggested that some of its proposed payloads be moved to other vehicles.
The NSF, an organization that funds approximately 25% of all research in basic science and engineering that is federally supported, could see a fall to $7.1 billion in 2020 in its budget funding from the current $8.1 billion.
Elimination of 3 environmental programs conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the National Coastal Zone Management grants providing incentives to states for the restoration and sustainable development of coastal resources, Sea Grant supporting environmental research being conducted on the coasts and in the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund that was set up by Congress 19 years before to restore the falling salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest) has also been proposed by the Trump administration.
The Trump administration justifies these cuts by stating that it plans to use this money ($1.3 billion) to fund opioid and pain research ‘to combat the opioid epidemic’.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has criticized the proposed budget stating that if enacted the budgetary cuts would lead to a derailment of the country’s scientific enterprise.
Chair of the House Science Committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex) was also of the view that the proposed cuts to science were unfairly deep.
Ever since Trump has occupied the White House he has been steadily undermining the work being done by the research establishment by spouting theories discredited by science and casting aspersions on climate science and studies. Besides this, he has been steadily attempting to cut down the budgetary allocation for scientific and medical programs funded by the federal government leaving leaders of that community fuming. However, these proposed budget cuts were largely ignored by Congress in 2018.
Overall, NASA budgets have remained constant and unchanged over many years now forcing the agency to terminate major programs to fund new ones. In perspective, NASA accounts for roughly 0.5% of the federal budget. However, recently NASA has received a 3.5% increase for the fiscal year 2019 in the budget passed by Congress. That would be 8% more than what had been proposed by the Trump administration in its budget proposal for 2019.
The Environmental Protection Agency received some of the most severe cuts reducing its funding by 31% from its present levels. However, the Democrat-led House is certain to reject these attempts by the Trump administration to trim the Agency’s wings.
The Department of Energy too has been handed out a proposed cut of 11% by Trump. Trump has been looking to terminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which is where new technologies of the Energy Department are developed. However, this is a highly unlikely possibility, given the ARPA-E’s continued popularity with Congress.