Gov Relations

Administration Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint

March 17, 2017 | The Trump administration released its budget blueprint yesterday and, as expected, proposed to increase defense spending in fiscal year 2018 by $54 billion or 10% above the estimate for the current fiscal year. In the blueprint's opening message, President Trump asks Congress "'to reprioritize federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people." Since the blueprint stays within the current spending caps as set in law, the $54 billion increase is paid for by an equivalent decrease in non-defense spending, including science programs.

Defense Increase

Details on the $54 billion increase for defense will be forthcoming later this spring. The blueprint “lays the groundwork for a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force, driven by a new National Defense Strategy that recognizes the need for American superiority not only on land, at sea, in the air, and in space, but also in cyberspace.” The budget does not detail any changes to DoD Science and Technology spending. We will continue to keep UCAR Members apprised when the defense details are provided in May. 

Proposed Decreases to Non-Defense Programs

The defense increase is paid for through cuts to non-defense programs, including science. The Budget Blueprint included no definitive information on the NSF budget for FY 2018. We expect to have those details in May.

The Department of Commerce is reduced by 16%. A total funding level for NOAA is not specified, but the Budget Blueprint indicates that $250 million is eliminated from coastal research programs. NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and new geostationary satellites are maintained “in order to provide forecasters with critical weather data to help protect life and property.” The budget blueprint says that "annual savings" will be achieved from the Polar Follow On (JPSS-3 and JPSS-4) “by better reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provid[ing] additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models.”

Funding data for the National Weather Service is unclear. But the blueprint notes the investment of $1 billion in forecasting capabilities “while continuing to promote efficient and effective operations.”

The Department of Energy proposal is a reduction of 6% with a $900 million reduction in the Office of Science. Within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, programs are refocused on limited, early-stage applied research where the federal role is stronger.  The budget proposal eliminates the ARPA-E program.

NASA is funded at $19.1 billion, a 1% decrease from the estimated fiscal year 2017 level. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said NASA was a priority for the Trump administration and thus spared the deeper cuts other agencies received. “Space exploration is part of his priorities,” he said of the President. The blueprint takes just over $100 million from NASA Earth Sciences and proposes the termination of four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder). It provides an unspecified reduction in Earth science grants. The budget eliminates NASA’s office of education.

The EPA is cut by 31%. The agency's research and development is reduced to $250 million, which is $233 million less than the estimated level for fiscal year 2017. EPA R&D would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants. The EPA budget eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations would reduce the 2017 annualized CR (Continuing Resolution) levels by $427 million. The budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities. 

Adjustments to Current Year Funding

The administration's fiscal year 2018 Budget Blueprint includes a proposed fiscal year 2017 Security Supplemental to add $25 billion to the existing defense cap, $5 billion in defense overseas contingency operations, and $3 billion for the "border wall and implementation of executive orders." The $30 billion increase for Defense operations is included to “accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIS" and support Afghan operations through personnel increases as well as additional spending for aircraft.

The fiscal year 2017 Supplemental for the Border includes $999 million for "planning, design, and construction of the first installment of the border wall, $179 million for access roads, gates, and other tactical infrastructure projects, and $200 million for border security technology deployments."

These supplemental fiscal year 2017 requests are partially offset with a proposed reduction of $18 billion in non-defense spending. There is no further detail on the non-defense accounts recommended for reduction.

Currently, the U.S. government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) for fiscal year 2017. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working to complete the fiscal year 2017 spending bills before the CR expires on April 28, seven months into fiscal year 2017. With just five months left in the fiscal year, if Congress accepts the Supplemental Request's $18 billion reduction, which amounts to a 3% reduction from current non-defense spending levels, this would impact most non-defense programs funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. 

Reactions to proposed fiscal year 2018 budget

The Washington Post provided comprehensive descriptions of the effect of the administration's fiscal year 2018 budget on federal agencies. 

The administration’s Budget Blueprint, and the detailed justifications expected in May, are “requests” for fiscal year 2018 funding. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will review the proposals and then produce recommendations in their 12 appropriations bills later this summer. 

The House and Senate Republican Chairmen offered modest comments. Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS): "President Trump's budget request underscores his commitment to make the nation more secure through increased defense and homeland security funding.” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): "Our Committee will take a close look at the budget and supplemental requests we received today. As directed under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. While the President may offer proposals, Congress must review both requests to assure the wise investment of taxpayer dollars.” 

Democratic leaders of the Appropriations Committees provided critical statements. Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT): “Like some of the President’s tweets, the Trump budget is a hasty list of appallingly unbalanced, shortsighted, politically driven priorities.” House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY): "The lack of detail in the President's 2018 budget request would be embarrassing for an Administration with basic competence. But even hiding the details cannot obscure the fact that this is just another attempt to shift more economic burdens onto the shoulders of working families, by gutting services and investments on which they rely. If enacted into law, these cuts would have a disastrous impact on job security; health; safe, clean, and secure communities; and American leadership around the world."

Rep. Lowey also notes that "Congress writes the Appropriations laws that fund the federal government, and Democratic votes will likely be needed to enact these laws, just like in the 114th Congress when Republican majorities were larger in both chambers." 

In order to pass the components of the administration’s Budget Blueprint, eight Democratic senators and all 52 Republican senators would have to vote for it. As we reported last week, it is unlikely that there will be broad support for severe cuts to non-defense discretionary programs. Here are some reactions to the budget as reported by USA Today. 

UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi issued a statement yesterday about budget and the need for continued robust funding of Earth system science.

Our Government Relations team will continue to meet with members and staff in the U.S. House and Senate advocating for ongoing investments in research and innovation. On April 4, Dr. Busalacchi has been invited to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee. On April 12, UCAR is hosting a Congressional Lunch Briefing entitled: “Understanding Wildland Fires: How new research can help firefighting efforts to protect lives and property.” Our briefing series provides Congressional and agency staff with opportunities to hear from scientists at UCAR member universities as well as NCAR scientists. 

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