Science Funding in the US FY18 Budget

Earlier this year we surveyed more than 1,000 scientists on their lab budgets and sources of funding and budgets remain stable for this year, there’s great concern about 2018. Recently, Tanya Samazan, Managing Editor, Instrument Business Outlook interviewed Joanne Carney, Director of Government Relations, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Here’s her take on the outlook for science funding the US FY18 budget.


IBO: Although it is unlikely that Trump’s FY18 budget will be approved Congress, how likely is it that the FY18 budget, as finalized by Congress, will still result in an overall decrease in federal funding for science and research?

Carney: The final FY 2017 omnibus bill that passed the U.S. Congress in late April serves as a useful blueprint for their funding priorities. This can be seen as good news for federal R&D, as the Congress rejected many of the President’s proposals to cut a large number of key research agencies. Overall, federal R&D increased by five percent above FY 2016 levels. This serves as a reminder that federal R&D in large part enjoys bipartisan support in the current Congress and that there is a willingness to maintain their own position and views on budget and policy matters that may not reflect the current administration. For FY 2018, one cannot assume that we will see yet another five percent increase and while overall R&D may continue to grow, individual agencies and programs may receive decreases in their funding levels.


IBO: Are there any science and research programs that are especially vulnerable to FY18 budget cuts given Republican control of Congress and the current political climate?

Carney: There are some areas of research that have been more vulnerable; for example, applied research programs. Some policymakers in Congress view applied research programs funded by agencies such as the Department of Energy as an inappropriate role for government spending and believe that industry should fund this area of research. Specific disciplinary fields of science that have been vulnerable over the years include social and behavioral science, environmental science, and climate change research.


IBO: Are there any science and research programs that enjoy widespread Congressional support and thus are more likely to receive increased funding?

Carney: Biomedical research funded by the National Institutes of Health has been one of the few areas of research that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support over the years. Almost every Member of Congress and the public at large recognizes the value of investing in research to improve public health. In the current Congress and the new administration, there has been a resurgence of interest in NASA and the future of space exploration.


IBO: The current federal fiscal year ends on September 30. Is the accelerated time line for the budget process, compared to previous years, expected to benefit or hurt Congressional negotiations to increase science and research funding

Carney: It has been almost twenty years since the U.S. Congress passed separate appropriations bills under what is termed “regular order.” For decades the U.S. has operated under a series of continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to fund the federal government. A truncated schedule will inhibit the ability of Congress to get its work done in a timely manner, so one can expect a continuing resolution to fund the government at FY 2017 levels in our near future.


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