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Research Funding

U.S. Congress passes 2019 budgets for some science agencies

NIH, defense, energy receive funding increases, while NSF, NIST, EPA, and others await final approval in December

by Andrea Widener
October 5, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 40


A photo of the U.S. Capitol building.
Credit: Shutterstock

Several major U.S. science agencies, including NIH and the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE), will see increased funding in fiscal 2019. But not all agencies know their financial fate yet. Many funding bills are still outstanding, including for major research supporters and environment regulators like NSF, NIST, NASA, and EPA.

“The fact that we are not shut down or punting out to next year is an achievement,” says Anthony Pitagno, director of government affairs for the American Chemical Society. ACS publishes C&EN.

A graph showing research funding for various federal agencies.
Mixed budget bag
Congress passed and President Trump signed five of the 12 appropriations bills that compose the 2019 U.S. federal budget. But several science agencies will have to wait until December to know what their future holds. Those agencies include EPA, NASA, NIST, NSF, and USDA.
a Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
b Includes renewables, energy efficiency, nuclear energy, fossil fuels, grid research, and cybersecurity.

Source: AAAS R&D Budget & Policy Program

In the waning days of September, Congress passed and President Donald J. Trump signed five appropriations bills. “Most of the last several years there haven’t been any spending bills adopted on time,” explains Matt Hourihan, director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s R&D Budget & Policy Program.

That’s good news for those agencies who learned their funding amount before the fiscal year started Oct. 1, and it helps them ensure stable financial support to internal scientists and external grantees. The remaining agencies are operating on a continuing resolution until Dec. 7 or beyond. That will keep their funding at 2018 levels until after the midterm congressional elections.

The increased funding across the board is a big change from what the Trump administration wanted. “The administration proposed a budget that is draconian for science, and Congress ignored that,” Pitagno says.

NIH continued its strong support from Congress, receiving a $2 billion increase from 2018 to $39 billion. This is the fourth $2 billion increase in a row for NIH, Hourihan says. “More and more, it looks like several years of stagnating budgets at NIH seem to be an outlier.”

Science and technology at DOD got a 7.6% boost to $16 billion. The DOE Office of Science saw a 5.2% increase to $6.6 billion, and its energy office went up too. Trump had proposed killing the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, but it got a 3.6% increase to $366 million.

Many of the agencies whose funding bills haven’t passed yet have reason to be optimistic about their 2019 budgets, Hourihan says. For example, NSF’s and NASA’s numbers coming out of congressional committees showed an increase. Environmental agencies, including EPA, are most likely to get cuts, he says.

Pitagno points out that while the U.S. budgets are not as low as the Trump administration had proposed, they are not keeping up with the U.S.’s competitors. “Globally, we are still falling behind,” he says.


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