March 11, 2019
Donald Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts Science Spending

President Donald Trump and his administration just revealed the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2020 to Congress, which makes cuts to various federal science agencies. Notably, the $4.7 trillion budget request — which is for the 2020 fiscal year that starts October 1 this year — cuts 13 percent from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 12 percent from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) believes that the budget succeeds in prioritizing the important programs, such as NASA's focus on going back to the moon and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In addition, the proposal will begin work on the mission to Mars and return Mars 2020 rover samples. However, the budget does not detail the exact amount of money that will be put to sample transportation.

The OSTP also cites wireless 5G communications, quantum information science, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced manufacturing as the administration's top priorities in science. In particular, it claims that the request will allocate $430 million for quantum science and $850 million for AI development. However, it is not yet clear whether this investment will be an increase or decrease from current spending.

A view of the Earth over the Lunar horizon as the Apollo 11 Command Module comes into view of the moon.
Getty Images | NASA

Despite the hefty cuts, Science Magazine reports that many of them are unlikely to become a reality, citing pushback from by both Democratic and Republication lawmakers in Congress.

And as per The New York Times, Congress often ignores Trump's proposed budgets and distributes increases. For example, Congress passed a spending bill for 2019 back in February, which Trump eventually signed. In this bill, the JWST, which was designed to provide the deepest look into space to date, was rescued from oblivion. As was the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst, which was designed to investigate the "dark energy" that scientists believe is increasing the speed of the universe's expansion.

"I look forward to Congress rejecting these budget cuts, just as they have rejected all the other cuts the president has proposed," said Benjamin Corb, director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, also spoke of the cuts in a recent meeting of the House Science Committee.

"Though this administration has regrettably chosen to ignore the findings of its own scientists in regards to climate change, we as lawmakers have a responsibility to protect the public's interest," she said.

Other examples of Congress's battle with Trump's budget can be found in the final 2019 budget. For example, Congress made an 11 percent increase to NASA's space science and $8.1 billion increase to the National Science Foundation (NSF), both of which ran contrary to the president's proposed decreases. If history is a guide, much of the new science budget will not be passed into law.