The White House wants to cut billions of dollars from key science programs — including an EPA program to provide policymakers with scientific advice on climate change — under a 2020 budget proposal released Monday.
President Donald Trump’s budget would make deep cuts to science and environmental efforts, including programs overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Department (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Under the budget proposal, funding for the EPA would shrink 31.2 percent — the largest cut to any agency and even more than the 25 percent cut Trump had requested last year.
Science more broadly suffers deep cuts in the proposal. The NSF would see a 9 percent dip in funding, while DOE would see a 10.8 percent dip. The budget marks the third time that Trump has sought to end the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), DOE’s effort to incubate new technologies.
NASA, by contrast, would see a 1.4 percent uptick in funding. The agency, which “advances American leadership,” according to the document, is tasked with spearheading the president’s touted Space Force. That shift comes at the expense of “lower priority” science and education programs.
Climate advocates and scientists say that the budget proposal itself is alarming. The word “climate” appears only once in the entire document — in reference not to climate change, but to schools.
“It’s telling that this budget proposal doesn’t mention ‘climate change’ a single time, underscoring this administration’s continued assault on science,” Ted Bordelon, communications director for the political science group 314 Action, said in a statement.
The EPA is the most visible victim of budget cuts, with a wide array of programs on the chopping block in an effort to reduce the agency’s funding. Among them are a number of programs emphasizing science, including the Global Change Research program, which “develops scientific information” to help policymakers and the public respond to climate change.
Research grants from the Science to Achieve Results program, or STAR, are also being targeted for elimination. STAR offers fellowships and grants in environmental science and engineering. Meanwhile, the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) program for pesticide and toxics is also singled out, with the panel’s six to 10 annual independent, scientific reviews conducted by external scientific experts deemed redundant in the budget.
All of these programs, the Trump administration argues, can be absorbed or replaced by state programs. Many states, however, are struggling for environmental and science funding, and rely on the EPA for help.
NSF, the top government funder of nonmedical research, would moreover see its funding shrink by $1 billion under the proposed budget. That agency typically provides grants in a wide range of areas, including engineering and computer science. At NASA, the planetary science program would be slashed by 7 percent, with two unnamed Earth Science programs targeted for elimination.
In a statement, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s chief executive, Rush Holt, said that the cuts more broadly would “derail our nation’s science enterprise.”
Renewables and energy technology are also in the budget’s crosshairs. In addition to ending ARPA-E, DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office’s budget would be gutted by around 70 percent.
Experts more broadly, however, have noted that Trump is likely to meet resistance from Congress, making it unlikely that the final budget will closely resemble the proposal released March 11.
Mike Lavender, senior manager of government affairs for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Environment program, said in a statement to ThinkProgress that the budget is probably dead on arrival in Congress but that it remains disconcerting for scientists.
“[The budget] is still indicative of the uphill battle Congress has to defend the line for science-based federal agencies and the career scientists who work there,” said Lavender, arguing that the White House should be working to fully fund the EPA, DOE, and other key agencies.
The president has historically taken aim at funding for science and environmental efforts. Trump’s 2017 budget proposal laid out a 17 percent cut in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That document only referenced the word “climate” six times, with all six references correlating to budget cuts.
While the 2020 budget proposal is no exception, experts largely agree that the proposal’s attacks on science and the environment are likely to go the way of the last two put forward by Trump. Those proposed cuts were ultimately whittled down to be far less dramatic than the ones originally proposed.
“In recent years, Congress has paid little attention to the Trump administration’s budget requests,” Lavender said.