President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2018 Released — With Deep Cuts To Ocean And Geoscience Programs

2017-05-24T13:05:37+00:00 May 24, 2017|

whitehouseAs the clock struck 11 on Capitol Hill yesterday morning, thousands of people hit “refresh” on their computers, eagerly waiting for the first glimpse of A New Foundation For American Greatness, the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Request. For those seeking federal investment in areas such as scientific research, education, environmental conservation, infrastructure, public health, law enforcement, and even aspects of national security, they were sorely disappointed.

The president’s budget request, which White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called a “taxpayer-first budget,” proposes slashing nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending (which is for programs outside of national defense that are funded annually through appropriations bills) by $1.6 trillion over the next decade. In FY 2018, as expected, the budget proposes to increase Defense spending by $54 billion and to make reductions across the government to offset that increase. Earlier this month, Congress ignored $18 billion in requested cuts to FY 2017 NDD funding. Upon release of the administration’s budget yesterday, the chairmen and ranking members of the appropriations committees issued statements that made clear that they will not rubber stamp this budget:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen

 “As outlined in the Constitution, the Congress, not the Executive Branch, has the ‘power of the purse.’ My Committee takes this responsibility very seriously. It is our job to analyze the request, go through each and every budget line, question every witness, and demand spending justifications on behalf of the taxpayers who are footing the bill…It is up to this Congress to provide needed proper funding to federal programs to maintain our national security and to uphold our common American values.”

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey
 “…Further, there is no chance funding bills could be enacted while adhering to such a budget, setting the stage for another high-stakes showdown with the fate of the U.S. economy in the balance….”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran
“President Trump’s budget lays out in detail his administration’s vision for how the federal government can best serve the American people.  It is an opportunity for Congress to reexamine programs across the government, and to address the significant fiscal challenges that face our country.  The Appropriations Committee will immediately begin to hold hearings and do the work necessary to prepare appropriations bills that responsibly provide for our national security and other priorities.  We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.” 

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy
“The President’s budget displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of government of, by and for the people in supporting the middle class, lifting up the most vulnerable among us and serving our values and interests as a nation.  We should be supporting opportunity and creating jobs, caring for veterans and promoting our health and the environment — not recklessly slashing vital lifelines to the American people…”

This FY 2018 president’s budget request is only one part of funding process, which has already included requests from Members of Congress and outside witness testimony to appropriations committees, and will include House and Senate hearings with department and agency heads as appropriators work to draft their spending bills. While Republicans and Democrats alike are already speaking in opposition to the president’s budget request, it should be remembered that it is just that — a request.  Even though the president’s request clearly lays out the White House’s priorities and policy initiatives, the business of drafting the appropriations bills remains with Congress. 

Details on budget lines can be found on COL’s website here and here.

Selected Agencies 

Comparative numbers for FY 2017 are the appropriated levels in the recently enacted FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill signed into law on May 5, 2017.  The administration’s budget request uses annualized estimates for FY 2017; therefore the FY 2017 numbers below may differ from what is presented in the administration’s budget documents. 

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF budget request is $6.7 billion (10 percent cut from the FY 2017 level of $7.5 billion).

  • NSF’s Research and Related Activities budget request is $5.4 billion (10 percent cut from the FY 2017 level of $6 billion), to support all scientific and engineering disciplines within NSF. 
    • NSF’s Geosciences Directorate (GEO) budget request is $783 million.  We do not yet know the FY 2017 spend plan amount, but the FY 2016 level was $1.318 billion.  The heft of this reduction in 2018 is deceiving, however, as the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) is pulled out of GEO.  In November 2016, the NSF and NSB decided to reverse the decision of the previous director to move polar into GEO for budgeting and management purposes. OPP had, up until NSF Director Subra Suresh, been budgeted and managed outside of GEO and reported to the Director’s office, so the FY2018 OPP budget structure reflects the re-organization or restoration decision made in November 2016. Taking this into consideration (and using the administration’s numbers) it appears that the cut to GEO is $93 million, an 11 percent reduction from FY 2016’s funding level of $876 million (accounting for Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Earth Sciences, Integrative and Collaborative Education & Research, and Ocean Sciences).
      • NSF GEO’s Division of Ocean Sciences request is $323 million (10 percent cut from FY 2016 level of $360 million).

Research

  • OCE’s budget for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research will decrease by $15.96 million, to a total of $132.25 million, which reflects a strategic re-apportioning to continue to support ocean science research and technology programs as per Sea Change (National Academy of Sciences, 2015) recommendations.
  • In FY 2018, OCE will specifically continue to invest resources into ocean technology via OCE’s own programs as well as in coordination with other federal agencies.
  • OCE will no longer participate in the Oceans and Human Health program, which was jointly supported with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Education

  • There is no change in OCE support ($5.30 million) for REU programs and other interdisciplinary education efforts.

Infrastructure

  • OCE is decreasing support of ship operations within the Academic Research Fleet by $4.99 million, to a level of $77.8 million, due to the decrease in overall number of vessels, efficiencies gained by technological investment, as well as a fundamental reassessment of the provision of seismic capabilities to the U.S. academic and federal communities. This decrease is consistent with the recommendations from Sea Change.
  • Funding is requested for continued support for operations of the drilling vessel, JOIDES Resolution, as part of the U.S. contribution to the IODP. The FY 2018 Request of $48.0 million maintains level funding with no decrease in maintenance and operations per Sea Change.
  • The total support for operations and maintenance of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) will be decreased by $9.98 million from OCE, in addition to an end to ICER support, resulting in a total OOI support for operations and management in FY 2018 of $31.0 million. These decreases are strategically oriented to be consistent with the recommendations from the NAS’s Decadal Survey, Sea Change.
  • Preconstruction for the Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV) concluded in FY 2016 with costs decreasing to zero in FY 2018. For more information on RCRV, see the MREFC chapter.
  • For Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, $ 183 million, and the comparative number for FY 2017 is $209 million, which was provided to facilitate planning and construction of 3 regional class research vessels.  NSF Education and Human Resources programs are at $761 million and the comparative level for FY 2017 is $880 million.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA budget request is $19.09 billion (3 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $19.65 billion).

  • NASA’s Science Mission Directorate budget request is $5.7 billion (1 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $5.8 billion). This funding encompasses missions from Earth to the moon, throughout the solar system, and the far reaches of the universe. 
    • NASA Science’s Earth Science program budget request is$1.8 million (9 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of 1.9 million).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s budget request is $4.8 billion (16 percent cut from the FY 2017 appropriated level of $5.68 billion for NOAA).  As the administration proposed in March, the detailed budget carries forward several proposed terminations noted below.

NOAA’s Operations, Research and Facilities (ORF) budget request is $2.97 billion (12 percent cut from FY 2017 appropriated level of $3.37 billion).

  • NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) ORF budget request is $324 million (32 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $478 million.  The Sea Grant College Program and Marine Aquaculture are both proposed to be terminated as reported in the March $ blueprint, and are currently funded in FY 2017 at $72.5 million for the Sea Grant program of which $9.5 million is for marine aquaculture. Within OAR, ocean acidification is requested at $10 million, a moderate reduction down from the FY 2017 level of $10.5 million; cooperative institutes for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes Research is requested at $28 million, a 12 percent cut from the FY 2017 level of $32 million.  Weather and Air chemistry cooperative institutes are requested at $65 million and are currently at $80 million in FY 2017. 

NOAA climate research ORF budget request is $128 million (19 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $158 million). Regional climate data and information is requested at $32 million down from the FY 2017 level of $38 million.  For climate-related cooperative institutes a slight decrease of 4 percent down to $58 million from the FY 2017 level of $60.0 million.  Competitive climate research is more deeply cut to a level of $38.4 million down from $60 million. 

  • National Ocean Service ORF budget request is $385 million (26 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $517.4 million). Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Observations sees a moderate reduction with a request of $29.4 down from the FY 2017 level of $30.7.  But the NCCOS Competitive Research Program is proposed for elimination in this budget, and is at $10 million in FY 2017.  Additionally, Coastal Management Grants and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System are both proposed for termination. 
  • National Marine Fisheries Service ORF budget request is $821 million (4 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $851). The Interjurisdictional Grants program is proposed for termination.  Habitat, law enforcement, species conservation, and data programs bear the brunt of the reduction.
  • National Weather Service ORF budget request is $936 million (5 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $979.8 million).  Funding for NWS observations is increased to $236 million from the current FY 2017 level of $216 million.  Funding for NWS Science and Technology is $137.7, up from $136.5 million.

The administration requests a 4 percent increase for NOAA’s weather satellite research through NESDIS ORF.  But the weather satellites are down 20 percent from $2.159 billion in FY 2017 down to $1.580 billion. The justification states, “To ensure we can sustain core functions and enable critical enhancements to our priorities in FY 2018, NOAA made tough choices to reduce a number of programs, including external grant programs, refinements in tsunami warnings, arctic research, and the future Polar Follow-On satellite program, which will serve as the next generation of NOAA’s polar weather satellite constellation. The termination and re-scaling of programs, while challenging and impactful, is necessary as we move toward a more efficient government model that re-focuses on national security and core government functions.

  • NOAA Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction (PAC) budget request is $1.807 billion  is (19 percent cut from the FY 2017 appropriated level of $2.243 billion).  Within NOAA PAC, funding is requested to continue to allow NOAA to execute its fleet recapitalization plan, which is a strategic plan to replace the agency’s oldest research vessels. The justification states that, “NOAA’s FY 2018 budget also prioritizes at-sea monitoring infrastructure, investing $75,000,000 in fleet recapitalization, which began in FY 2016. The FY 2018 budget begins construction of a second NOAA (N/V) Class A Auxiliary General Purpose Oceanographic Research vessel (AGOR derivative) as part of NOAA’s overall fleet recapitalization efforts.”

Defense

Department of Defense (DOD) budget request is $639 billion ($46 billion increase from the FY2017 appropriated level of $593 billion).  The budget summary states that “This defense funding is vital to rebuilding, modernizing, and preparing our Armed Forces for the future so that our military remains the world’s preeminent fighting force and we can continue to ensure peace through strength. This budget also increases funding to take care of our great veterans, who have served their country with such honor and distinction.” 

  • DOD’s Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) budget request is $17.7 billion (3 percent increase from the FY2017 appropriated level of $17.2 billion).
  • DOD RDT&E, Navy Basic Research (6.1) budget request is $596 million (6 percent increase from the FY2017 appropriated level of $563 million).

University Research Initiatives is requested at $118 million and it is at $122 million in FY 2017. 

  • DOD RDT&E, Navy Applied Research (6.2) budget request is $886 million (10 from the FY2017 appropriated level of $980 million).

Power Projection Applied research is requested at $13.6 million in the president’s budget request and is currently at $61.4 million, a 78 percent decrease.

Ocean Warfighting Environment Applied Research is at $42.4 million down from $82 million.

  • DOD RDT&E, Navy Advanced Technology (6.3) budget request is $686 (3 percent from the FY2017 appropriated level of $824 million).

Energy

Department of Energy (DOE) budget request is $28 billion (9 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $30.7 billion).

  • DOE’s Office of Science budget request is $4.5 billion (17 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $5.4 billion).

Department of the Interior (DOI)

DOI’s budget request is $11.7 billion (5 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $12.3 billion).

  • DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management budget request is $114.2 million (53 percent increase from the FY2017 appropriated level of $74.6 million).
  • DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement budget request is $99.3 million (19 percent increase from the FY2017 appropriated level of $83.1 million).
  • DOI’s United States Geological Survey budget request is $922 million (15 percent cut from FY 2017 appropriated level of $1.1 billion).

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA’s budget request is $5.7 billion (30 percent cut from the FY2017 appropriated level of $8.1 billion), the same level Trump called for in the “skinny budget” released on March 16.