It’s not really a surprise by now, but it’s still saddening to see: Trump’s new budget would axe 5 NASA science missions, significantly reduce all environmental funding, and even cut down on weather forecasting.

For some reason, this seems like a good metaphor for President Trump’s budget. Image via Pixabay.

Science? SAD!

The US President’s trademark Twitter ending, “Sad,” effectively characterizes the new budget proposal — at least when it comes to science. Trump doesn’t believe in science or in scientists, he’s made that abundantly clear when he said that:

Still, deep down inside, we were all hoping he wouldn’t act as crazy as he talks and he would continue to ensure the US leadership in science, but that’s not the case. According to his new budget proposition, biomedical, public-health and environmental research would all receive way less funding, while other fields of science are also moderately hit. Proposed cuts include 11% at the National Science Foundation, 18% at the National Institutes of Health and 30% at the Environmental Protection Agency — which let’s face it, the current administration wants to slam into the ground to push forth the fossil fuel agenda.

The losers

Space exploration – yep! Studying the Earth – big NO. Image via Pixabay.

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Here’s a financial breakdown of the most striking cuts (check out Nature for additional details):

  • National Institutes of Health: 18% cut, from US$31.8 billion in 2017 to $26 billion in 2018. This will mostly reflect on grant recipients.
  • Food and Drug Administration: massive 31% cut from the 2017 level, to $1.9 billion.
  • National Science Foundation:1 1% cut from the 2016 level, to $6.7 billion. The largest cuts would come from social sciences, computer science, and geosciences.
  • NASA: 2.8% decrease, but there’s more to be said here. Trump wants to put a lot of money into NASA’s planetary exploration pushing a fly-by Europa mission as well as a Mars mission — which is just great. However, he sliced and diced when it came to studying the Earth. Among the “victims,” we have the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 which was supposed to measure carbon dioxide from space, a mission to track space weather, a mission to study the Earth’s reflectance from the ISS, and an ocean-colour and aerosols mission called PACE.
  • Department of Energy: a 5.3% reduction from 2016. The department’s research programmes would take a much larger hit, however — especially anything focused on renewables and clean energy.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: over 30% cut, completely eliminating support for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration initiatives, and laying off many scientists.
  • US Geological Survey: a 13% cut from the 2017 level, to $922 million.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: a decrease of 17%, or $987 million, compared to 2017.
  • The Trump plan would also cut numerous grant and research programs across numerous universities in the US.

The impact of these budget cuts is simply impossible to gauge at the moment. Let’s take the NOAA budget cut for instance. Clifford Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington has called it a “national embarassement,” a sentiment echoed by many others working at the agency.

“This budget would ensure that NOAA-NWS becomes a second- or third-tier weather forecasting enterprise, frozen in the early 2000s,” said David Titley, who served as chief operating officer for NOAA from 2012 to 2013.

NOAA’s weather satellite programs will see reductions of hundreds of millions of dollars, ensuring that US weather forecasting, which was already starting to lag a bit behind its European counterpart, drops even more. The cuts will almost certainly have similar effects in the other areas, ensuring stagnation or regress.

The winners

So if all these are getting budget cuts… where’s all the money going? Well, the big winner is definitely the military. Trump proposed a 10% increase in military spending. To put this in context, Trump wants to give $639 billion in military spending which would ensure an already stereotypical view: the US does spend more money on the military than the next ten countries combined.

Just because Trump proposed this budget doesn’t mean it will come true. The opposing party, the Democrats, have been vehemently against most if not all these propositions, and even Trump’s own party, the Republicans, strongly oppose many of his initiatives. Scientists have also (of course) spoken against this budget, and some are confident it won’t pass.

“This budget is terrible, and we’re confident that Congress will ignore it,” says Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland.