Trump’s Budget Would Gut Government Science — Except for the U.S. Nuclear Program

NIH scientists work in 2012. NIH scientists work in 2012. Bill Branson/National Institutes of Health file photo

The latest draft of the Trump administration’s federal budget released Monday night (May 22) calls for cuts to the major US departments and programs that have science at the core of their work.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, as expected based on prior budget proposal drafts, is set to lose 31.6% of its current budget, which amounts to a $2.7 billion cut. That will likely hinder the already beleaguered agency’s ability to enforce environmental laws decline, hinder its tap water safety programs, and eliminate its Climate Protection Program, among other changes.

For comparison, the total Department of Defense budget is set for a $25 billion increase under the proposal, a 4.6% raise.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which houses a number of agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is slated for a 16.2% budget cut to, or the equivalent of $12.7 billion. Of that, $5.8 billion is reported to come out of the budget of the National Institutes of Health, the health department program which funds much of the medical research in the US. Tom Price, the new health secretary, says at least part of the cuts will come out of reducing “indirect” expenses, like the overhead payments the government pays to universities.

NASA, however, comes out considerably better than earlier statements by Trump suggested, losing just 0.8% of its budget, amounting to $200 million. That cut would terminate two proposed earth-science missions—one to collect ocean-health data and the other to produce high-quality climate-change data—and eliminate of NASA’s education program.

The budget also would lead to an interesting combination of a major overall cut to the Department of Energy with a big financial boost to one of its programs: Nuclear weapons.

Trump’s budget proposes an 11.4% funding increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the energy department’s nuke program. In addition to maintaining the US’s nuclear weapons stockpile, that agency would be also be put in charge of the long-stalled and controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility project, which Trump has hinted he wants to revive.

All other energy department work, meanwhile, is slated for an 18% cut. That would mainly impact the department’s science arm, which funds energy research, and a program that provides assistance for low-incomes families to invest in energy efficiency.

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