Trump Science Budget: Reactions in Congress and the Scientific Community

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Publication date: 
20 March 2017

Following the release of President Trump’s budget blueprint, scientific and university community leaders have spoken out in a chorus of opposition and dismay. Congressional leaders are exhibiting a more varied range of reactions.

Following the release of President’s Trump fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint on March 16, national policymakers and scientific community leaders have begun to weigh in on the deep proposed funding cuts for federal scientific research. Below is a compilation of statements and quotes from selected leaders in Congress and the scientific community.

You can read FYI’s overview of the budget blueprint here and our more detailed agency-by-agency analysis here.

Congressional leaders

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development (Energy-Water) Appropriations Subcommittee, which writes that legislation that funds the Department of Energy, stated:

 The president has suggested a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee my priorities are national defense, national laboratories, the National Institutes of Health and national parks. We will not balance the budget by cutting discretionary spending, which is only 31 percent of spending and is already under control because of earlier budget acts.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee, stated:

Slashing in half funding for energy research is disastrously short-sighted and contradictory. … Cutting off support for clean energy researchers, innovators and manufacturers is the exact opposite of the ‘America First’ rhetoric constantly espoused by President Trump. These vital investments in world-leading scientific capabilities will be lost if the federal government backs away from its commitments. I won’t stand by and let the president destroy America’s scientific leadership by gutting the Department of Energy’s funding.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), chairman of the House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee, remarked to CQ Roll Call:

 I think ARPA-E does some good things. Is that something we can do without? Let’s have a debate.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health, said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

I don't favor cutting NIH or [the] Centers for Disease Control. You're much more likely to die in a pandemic than a terrorist attack, and so that’s part of the defense of the country as well. … These in my view are cuts that are very short sighted. These are investments the country ought to be making.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), said in an interview with Fox News:

We just passed the Cures Act, just this last December, to increase spending in the NIH, because we really think we're kind of getting close to some breakthrough discoveries on cancer and other diseases. So that's something that I think in Congress you'll see probably some changes.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Committee, stated:

Today President Trump took the first step in rebalancing and reprioritizing the federal budget. For far too long, vital programs have fallen by the wayside while climate funding continues to escalate. Hard decisions have to be made to better protect American taxpayers. This new budget continues to fund priority basic research that will enable policy makers to make informed decisions based on sound science.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the House Science Committee, stated:

I knew that this budget was going to be very bad for science, environmental protection, R&D, and clean energy. It is worse than I thought possible. … This is a budget that takes America in the wrong direction. It disinvests in the R&D that we will need to keep our nation competitive. I believe that Members on both sides of the aisle and the American people are going to be dismayed by this President’s lack of interest in protecting our air and water, funding the innovation that drives our economy, and understanding the planet we live on.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ), stated:

The fiscal year 2018 defense topline proposed today of $603 billion will not be sufficient to rebuild the military. … It is clear that this budget proposed today cannot pass the Senate.

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), physicist and member of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology, stated:

This budget eliminates critical funding for science, education, and programs that keep Americans safe and healthy. It is hard to overstate how much damage this budget will do to our ability to remain at the forefront of innovation and problem solving. … Simply put, this budget is a slap in the face to our federal workers, scientists, doctors, teachers, and everyone who calls this country home.

Scientific community leaders

Laura Greene, president of the American Physical Society, stated:

We are concerned about the budget impact on physics, but we are also part of the larger ecosystem of science. The proposed cuts would cripple fields of research that are essential to America’s scientific enterprise, economic growth and national security.

Elizabeth Rogan, chief executive officer of The Optical Society, stated:

Investments in science and technology fuel economic growth, and the optics and photonics industry, in particular, is a leading source of high-quality advanced manufacturing jobs. President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2018 proposed budget has the potential to impact current and future science advancements.

Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Consortium for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), stated:

It is vital that the government continue to invest in crucial scientific endeavors that save lives and property, ensure our continued economic competitiveness, and strengthen our national security. … Scientists are gaining revolutionary new insights into the entire Earth system in ways that will lead to predictions of weather patterns and other events weeks, months, or even more than a year in advance, providing needed intelligence to political, military, and business leaders. UCAR is concerned that the proposed funding cuts to Earth system science research would derail the nation’s progress toward improved prediction and weaken the position of the United States in the world. …. Any significant cuts to science funding in the U.S. budget would threaten our preeminence, undercutting efforts to keep the public safe and our economy and military strong.

Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, stated:

The Trump administration’s proposed budget would cripple the science and technology enterprise through short-sighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike. … Congress has a long bipartisan history of protecting research investments. We encourage Congress to act in the nation’s best interest and support sustainable funding for federal R&D – for both defense and non-defense programs – as it works to address the FY 2018 budget.

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, stated:

The Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint for research and higher education would have devastating short and long-term consequences for the United States and the American people. … Research and higher education serve as the underpinnings of our economy and society. There is simply no possible way to achieve the robust levels of economic growth the president seeks without investing in these two areas. For decades, the United States has maintained its position as global innovation leader, but this budget would force a retreat from that role and cede the development of new technological breakthroughs to other countries. This would, in turn, create an innovation deficit and enable those other countries to reap the economic benefits instead of us. There are certain investments the United States can’t afford to not make.

The STEM Education Coalition released the following statement:

The President has repeatedly talked about the need for a world-class American workforce. We do not think this Budget, which would eliminate federal support for teacher professional development, afterschool programs, and other mechanisms that empower state and district efforts to improve STEM education and bolster American competitiveness, lives up to that goal.”