As Scientists March, Administration Hacks Away at Funds for Environmental and Health Research
As scientists prepare to march for the importance of their field today, Team Trump has proposed massive budget cuts across that sector.
Scott Pruitt, the director of the EPA, is methodically chipping away at the Clean Air Act and talking about exiting the Paris Agreement. And that’s just the beginning of the damage that could ensue from an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change.
The budget also calls for a nearly 50% cut in the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. That department would be left with a husk of its former self, down to $250 million from $488 million. That’s a loss of more than 3,000 jobs for the EPA.
The proposed cuts to the NIH could have a devastating effect on our nation’s ability to remain at the forefront of global biomedical innovation, as well as the economy. Not only is Trump planning to reduce the research juggernaut by $6 billion, but he is also looking to revamp the organization’s 27 institutes, including eliminating the Fogarty International Center, which seeks to protect American lives by helping to build scientific expertise in developing countries, ensuring there is local capacity to detect and address pandemics where they begin.
The justification? Mission creep, according to Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney. He told reporters in March, “We think they [NIH] do things that are outside their core functions.”
The NIH’s core functions, to be clear, are supporting research and jobs across the nation. Its budget provides an economic boost and jobs through its disbursement of grant monies. More than 80% of the NIH’s budget supports national research, including funding 50,000 annual external grants.
If Trump does not want to stunt—or even just wants to sustain President Barack Obama’s long run of job growth, investing in these agencies is paramount.
The past administration and Congress knew that. So, they boosted the NIH budget with $10.4 billion in extra funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009. That critical funding helped the NIH create nearly 500,000 jobs, according to the agency. Most of those jobs were created out of the agency’s annual budget, but the ARRA-supported an additional 80,000 jobs. That allowed for 15 states to see job growth of 10,000 or more jobs in fiscal year 2010.
Taking a broader view, the investment in the science sector cycles throughout the rest of the national economy. In 2010, the NIH produced almost $70 billion in new economic activity. That’s money that went not just to scientists, but equipment manufacturers and other services, too.
Back to Trump’s proposed cuts for all things scientific. The new administration has also proposed cutting the Department of Energy (DOE) by more than 5% or 1.7 billion and eliminating its Advanced Research Projects Agency completely. The budget proposal also calls for cutting 20% from the DOE’s Office of Science by nearly $1 billion.
It’s unclear if Trump will hack away at the National Science Foundation’s budget, but all signs point to yes.