Cut the Science Budget? Not So Fast.

Cut the Science Budget? Not So Fast.


Consider the final 2019 budget: Mr. Trump proposed a five percent cut in NASA’s space science, but Congress made it an 11 percent increase, to $6.9 billion. The president wanted to cut the National Science Foundation budget by four percent, but Congress raised it by the same amount, to $8.1 billion.

The Geological Survey saw an even more sizable transformation. The administration proposed cutting its budget by $250 million, or about 21 percent. That would have slashed support for Climate Science Centers, which study the regional effects of climate change, and for research on carbon sequestration. Congress rejected those cuts, allotting the climate centers $25 million, only a shade less than in recent years. The Geological Survey as a whole received a one percent raise, to $1.2 billion.

Even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, with its politically sensitive mission to study climate and weather, received a three percent increase, worth $16 million, to its $566 million budget for science for 2019. The Trump administration had proposed a 41 percent cut — a potentially devastating blow to the agency. By comparison, the president’s border wall would cost about $5.7 billion.

“Though this administration has regrettably chosen to ignore the findings of its own scientists in regards to climate change, we as lawmakers have a responsibility to protect the public’s interest,” Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, said in a recent meeting of the House Science Committee, which she now heads.

Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies, expressed the same sentiment last spring in a statement to his committee.

“Over the last three years, Congress has developed quite a consensus on science and research,” he said, noting in particular its agreement on medical research and supercomputing. “I would tell President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget that science, research and innovation is what made America first, and I recommend that he add science research and innovation to his ‘America First’ agenda.”

Not all is rosy in the realms of science policy. Since 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been discouraged from studying guns and violence by the so-called Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the C.D.C. from promoting gun control. Last year Congress affirmed that the C.D.C. could study the causes of gun violence, but provided no money for such research. In an email, Julie Eschelbach, spokeswoman for the agency said,Although C.D.C. does not receive direct funding for firearm-related research, C.D.C. has and continues to support data collection activities and analyses to document the public health burden of firearm injuries in the U.S.”



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