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The Trump budget assault on science, in one chart

“Make no mistake: These numbers would be crippling to much of the federal science apparatus.”

The Trump administration’s budget outline released today has some shocking numbers when it comes to scientific research. “Make no mistake: These numbers would be crippling to much of the federal science apparatus,” says Matt Hourihan, the director of budget and policy programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This morning, Hourihan pored through the blueprint, and compared Trump’s 2018 budget wishes with President Obama’s 2016 budget. If you think federally funded science research is important, the results aren’t pretty.

Chart of key science programs and agencies that would suffer major funding cuts

This “skinny” version of the budget contains at least $7 billion in cuts to science research programs, plus a 30 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency. Also painful: The budget seeks to cut 18 percent of the National Institutes of Health’s budget. The NIH provides the largest share of federally funded research dollars to universities across the country.

Other cuts include:

  • A $102 million cut to NASA’s earth science programs, eliminating four NASA Earth science missions completely.
  • A $900 million reduction in the Energy Department’s basic science research budget. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy — a $300 million program that provides grants for energy research — is wholly eliminated because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research.”
  • A $250 million cut in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency grants “and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant.”

Some programs come out unscathed, like research grants at the Department of Agriculture that fund research in plant, animal, and soil science. And NASA, while receiving some small cuts to its earth science budget, is relatively intact as well.

We’ll have a better picture of the future of science funding when the Trump administration releases a full budget request in May. In that document, we’ll be able to see what funds will be allocated for the National Science Foundation, for instance (this blueprint budget doesn’t mention it at all). And we’ll see where priorities are shifting in individual departments. How will changes at NIH affect research for individual diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or cancer? We don’t yet know.

And most importantly, remember: This all is going to have to pass through Congress. This is an extreme, aggressive swing at reducing the size of federal government. And there’s a good chance it won’t, since funding biomedical research typically isn’t a partisan issue. The 21st Century Cures Act, which increased the NIH’s budget by around $4 billion, passed with 94 percent of the Senate vote and got 344 votes in the House.

What this budget shows is the Trump’s administration’s priorities. And it’s not prioritizing science.