Congressional and Research Community Leaders Praise Science Spending Surge

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Publication date: 
27 March 2018

Following the release and enactment of the final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2018, policymakers and leaders in the scientific community have praised the large spending increases for federally sponsored scientific research, infrastructure, and STEM education.

Following the release of the final fiscal year 2018 appropriations legislation on March 21, policymakers and scientific community leaders have for the most part commended the significant spending boosts included for federal science agencies. Below is a compilation of excerpted statements and quotes from selected members of Congress and the scientific community.

However, the bill was less well received by President Trump, who tweeted that he was considering vetoing it on the morning of March 23. While the president signed the $1.3 trillion budget into law that afternoon, he expressed his displeasure, saying:

As a matter of national security, I’ve signed this omnibus budget bill. There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have had in this bill but we were, in a sense — forced if we want to build our military — we were forced to have. There are some things we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again.

FYI’s bulletin summarizing the fiscal year 2018 appropriations outcomes for science is available here. Detailed tables with the budget outcomes for fiscal year 2018 by science agency and program are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. FYI will also publish a series of bulletins detailing the budgetary and policy outcomes for the science agencies in the upcoming days and weeks.

Reactions from members of Congress

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, released a statement on how the funding provided for the Department of Energy Office of Science benefits Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee:

The government funding bill includes record funding — in a regular appropriations bill — for the third consecutive year for the most important federal program that supports the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) … The funding in this legislation will help support Oak Ridge’s supercomputing facility — something Oak Ridge is a world leader in. The bill also included new funding for advanced manufacturing research, which is attracting companies to learn ways to create new jobs. … This bill also includes record funding levels for our nuclear weapons programs. President Trump has said we should modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, and I agree.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee:

The Energy and Water section of this bill reaffirms our nation’s commitment to nuclear energy and the Idaho National Laboratory. It makes critical investments in advanced reactor and nuclear fuel R&D programs at the nation’s lead nuclear lab and funds much needed infrastructure improvements that will allow the world class researchers at the lab to continue their ground breaking work. This bill also makes significant investments in nonproliferation and grid security programs, where INL plays a leading role keeping our nation safe.

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee: 

… This bill also includes a 52-year plan [on developing an interstellar mission] for NASA to restore the agency to the glory days of Apollo. I have provided NASA with the highest funding level in the agency’s history, and this legislation sets the foundation for NASA to follow a 52-year plan developed by science’s greatest minds. … The omnibus provides an additional $3 billion for NIH funding, the largest increase ever. … There is $50 million for evidence-based STEM education programs and [it] continues funding grants to help low income students with the money they need to attend college.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the National Institutes of Health:

The previous two funding increases for the National Institutes of Health have fundamentally changed the prospects of scientists looking to treat and cure the most costly and deadly diseases impacting millions of Americans. This year’s increase will further that progress and advance our goal of maintaining a pattern of sustained increases for medical research. … Increasing funding for medical research has been a bipartisan priority for our subcommittee, and will continue to be one of my top priorities as chairman.

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

I am thrilled with the spending boosts for many of our federal R&D agencies, even though I would still like to see more for some of our agencies such as NSF. In light of ongoing attacks from both Congress and the Administration, I’m even pleased to see flat funding for EPA, which will help the agency continue to fulfill its mission of protecting the environment and public health. Overall, this is a very good bill for our R&D enterprise. ... The role that our science agencies play in driving the economy, keeping our nation competitive, and protecting the environment and public health is far too important for political games.

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), a physicist and member of the House Science Committee:

[The bill] includes funding for critical areas, including infrastructure, election protection, scientific research, and treatment for opioid addiction. … The National Science Foundation would receive a nearly $300 million increase. The Department of Energy Office of Science would also receive an increase of $868 million increase, a 15% increase. These increases would go a long way to make sure our country remains a leader in scientific research and innovation.

While reading the draft bill on March 22, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said through a series of tweets:

1. On page 207. 2000+ pages to go! Reading about the ever wasteful $6 billion National Science Foundation. 2. Remember the $350,000 NSF spent asking if japanese quail are more sexually promiscuous on cocaine? 3. Reading this monstrous bill full of grant programs begun decades ago reminds me of Reagan’s critique: the nearest thing to immortality is a government program.


Page 447: a little over $30 billion for Dept of Energy. Wonder if anyone would notice if we had no Dept of Energy. Put oversight of nuclear waste in DOD and let supply & demand be our Energy policy.

Reactions from research community leaders

The American Physical Society, an AIP Member Society:

The American Physical Society is extremely grateful for the work of the many members and staff in Congress, and staff at the executive branch agencies, who developed a 2018 federal budget that provides significant support for science. While the process to develop the budget this year was unusually convoluted, in the end, it was gratifying to see significant congressional support for funding that will enable greater scientific understanding, technological innovation, STEM education, U.S. competitiveness and security, and ultimately, improvements in the human condition.

Megan Donahue, president-elect of the American Astronomical Society, an AIP Member Society:

The AAS community should be very happy with the FY18 omnibus numbers across our sub-disciplines … In particular, significant increases for NASA Planetary Science and the DOE Office of Science will enable major advances in robotic exploration of the Solar System and discovery research in fundamental astrophysics. The appropriations for NSF relieve some of the intense pressure [created] by increasing operations costs and decreasing grant success rates, which have suffered under years of flat NSF funding. We are also particularly grateful to Congressional appropriators for the report language reinforcing the importance of the decadal surveys, which have set priorities for the astronomical sciences for half a century. We hope that respect for community-derived priorities will remain as Congress shifts to considering the FY19 spending bills.

Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:

Policy makers understand that these investments in basic research pay significant dividends to taxpayers, helping U.S. science and technology maintain a crucial edge over our global competitors and supporting continued economic growth and national security. In the field of Earth system science, I am pleased that these funding levels will enable researchers to improve forecasts of weather events and related hazards, thereby better protecting lives and property while providing critical information to public officials and business leaders.

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

The scientific community is over the moon with the bipartisan omnibus bill in Congress that significantly increases funding for research and development. We applaud congressional leaders — on both sides of the aisle — for recognizing that funding science and technology continues to be a sound investment that benefits our nation and leads to economic growth.

Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities:

By providing increased science and student aid investments, the omnibus will strengthen America’s extraordinary government-university partnership, which has for decades led to improved public health, innovation, economic growth, and unmatched military superiority. The significant funding increases for NIH, NASA, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science are especially important to advancing American leadership in biomedical and physical sciences. We also thank Congress for rejecting proposals to eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Energy Department’s ARPA-E, choosing instead to sustain the vital work of each.

Mary Woolley, president of Research!America:

Research!America applauds the unprecedented boost in funding for the National Institutes of Health and significant increases for other federal health agencies in FY18 to accelerate medical progress, public health and scientific innovation. … The funding increase for the National Science Foundation also signals a willingness among policymakers to sustain our nation’s preeminence in science as China and other countries strive to surpass us in research and development. Many Americans believe that our position as a global powerhouse in science is somewhat tenuous. In a recent survey commissioned by Research!America, only one-third of respondents say the U.S. will be the world leader in science and technology in the year 2020. The omnibus bill is a positive step forward in strengthening our global competitiveness and our nation's commitment to research and public health.

James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition:

We are pleased to see education, especially science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, prioritized in this year’s Omnibus federal spending bill. Congress has taken the correct steps to protect funding for vital teacher training, afterschool programs, and career and technical education. The $700 million increase in Title IV(A) funding is especially promising. This boost in funding will give states and districts flexibility to pursue STEM programs to prepare our next generation of innovators.

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