A Periodic Federal Science Update

White House Supplemental Request for FY 2017 Seeks $18 billion Reduction in Nondefense Spending with Five Months Remaining in the Fiscal Year – As part of the Administration's FY 2018 Budget Blueprint is a supplemental spending request for FY 2017 seeking additional funding for defense ($25 billion) and $3 billion for the initiation of the border wall. These requests are partially offset with a decrease of $18 billion to the non-defense cap. This week the Administration provided a table to House and Senate Appropriations that contained options for how they might reduce nondefense spending for the balance of the fiscal year. Some of the options provided by OMB include: reduce NIH research grants by $1.2 billion; reduce NSF research by $350 million; reduce NASA science by $50 million; reduce Sea Grant by $30 million; $115 million in reductions to CZM grants ($70 million), resilience grants ($15 million) and climate grants ($30 million); weather satellites by $90 million; $150 million from ARPA-E; $516 million from EERE; $37 million from the DOE Office of Science; and $49 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. No reductions to the USGS or NOAA mapping and charting activities were contained in this list of options. A copy of the table OMB provided the Congress can be found here. April 28th is when the current stop-gap funding measure – the Continuing Resolution (CR) – expires. By then Congress will have to enact either a new CR or an omnibus appropriation act to cover nearly all federal agencies for the balance of the fiscal year otherwise we would face another government shut down. How much, if any, of the Administration’s request for $18 billion in budget reductions for the balance of FY 2017, will have to be worked out by that deadline.

Heritage Foundation Releases Latest Budget Reduction Recommendations for FY 2018 – This week the Heritage Foundation released the latest in its series of recommendations calling for the elimination of numerous federal programs related to the environment and energy in both the non-defense and defense sides of the budget ledger. The Heritage Foundation has released similar reports in the past, with perennial proposed budget reductions Congress has ignored. Many observers note, however, that much of what is known about the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Blueprint appears to track with many of the Heritage Foundation’s previous reports.

The new Heritage report, Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2018, calls on the Congress to use four criteria to assess every federal program including: the program’s elimination would increase opportunity or reduce favoritism; the program would better serve the American people if it were administered and financed by the private sector; the program would be getter administered by state or local governments; or the program is wasteful or duplicative. This report, similar to previous ones, is organized by appropriations subcommittee jurisdiction.  

In the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies chapter, none of the recommendations propose reductions to either the NSF, NASA, or NOAA budgets. There are numerous Justice Department programs identified including the elimination of violence against women act grants; grants from the Office of Justice programs; reduce funding for the DOJ civil rights division and environmental and natural resources division; eliminate the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, the International Trade Administration; the Economic Development Administration, and the Minority Business Development Agency.

For the Energy and Water Subcommittee, major reductions are recommended in the energy and environment portion of the Federal Budget including the elimination of ARPA-E, dramatically reduce or eliminate the DOE Biological and Environmental Research program; reduce funding for basic energy sciences, eliminate DOE Energy Innovation Hubs, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  

In the Interior – Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, the report calls for the elimination of numerous EPA climate programs including Regulation of GHG emissions from vehicles; Regulation of CO2 emissions from power plants, factory boilers, and other stationary sources; the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program; the Global Methane Initiative; the Climate Resilience Fund; the Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool; the Green Infrastructure Program; the Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative; and Climate research funding for the Office of Research and Development. The report also calls for the elimination of EPA’s air, climate, and energy research program, and the sustainable and health communities research program, and the national Estuary/Coastal Waterway program. No reductions are recommended for USGS programs.

In the Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee, no reductions are recommended for NIH but there are numerous reductions recommended for various Department of Education programs and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Federal

Agencies Receive OMB Directive to Limit Comments and Testimony on FY 2018 Budget Until Full Budget Is Released -- OMB has sent a notice (OMB Memo M-17-20) to agencies telling them to be restrictive in their public communications on budgetary matters. “In the coming weeks, you may be testifying before congressional committees in support of the administration’s fiscal year 2018 Budget Blueprint and participating in public events focused on budget initiatives. Until OMB releases the full FY 2018 budget, all public comments of any sort should be limited to the information contained in the Budget Blueprint chapter for your agency,” says the OMB memo. “This includes highlights of major administration initiatives and other proposals. Accordingly, it is critically important that you not make commitments about specific programs if they are not expressly mentioned in the Budget Blueprint. Similarly, you should not address account-level details. Comments on such specifics need to wait until the release of the full budget. agency officials appearing as witnesses in authorization, appropriations, or oversight hearings should defer any questions related to the full budget until after the budget is released,” it says. The latest directive adds “it is our strong preference that only heads of executive departments and agencies or the acting head of the department or agency should testify on the FY 2018 Budget Blueprint. However, if you feel it is more appropriate to send another agency official, please work with your OMB representative.”

United States Senate Passes H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 – On March 29 the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, the first weather research and forecasting improvement legislation in over a decade. H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, prioritizes improving weather forecasting in the near term as well as over subseasonal and seasonal time frames. This bill does so by focusing research and computing resources on improved weather forecasting, quantitative observing data planning, next generation modeling, and an emphasis on research-to-operations technology transfer. The legislation includes provisions to improve interagency coordination through the Office of Science and Technology Policy and collaboration with the private sector via the permanent establishment of the Environmental Information Services Working Group. The House is expected to take up this bill in the near future. Should the House pass this bill, it would then go to the White House for the President to consider signing into law.