By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC | June 9, 2017
On May 23, President Trump released his first complete budget request to Congress, which reinforced messaging from his earlier budget blueprint for FY 2018. Both proposals prioritize defense spending and strengthening national security while proposing significant cuts to climate science programs and an array of government-sponsored research across federal agencies. In both its conflicts with the recently enacted FY 2017 omnibus and targeting of many programs with bipartisan support, this budget proposal is considered "dead on arrival" and is already facing significant opposition from members of both parties in Congress.
Although it is highly unlikely that Trump's FY 2018 budget request will be enacted, it provides valuable insight into the Administration's priorities. In the Department of Transportation (DOT), funding for key surface transportation research programs within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would remain flat, as they receive mandatory funding through the Highway Trust Fund established in the FAST Act. As expected, no federal funds were requested for the unfunded Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers or the Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds awarded last year, though automation and infrastructure modernization remain a key part of the transportation dialogue.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requested $9 million for the previously unfunded Enterprise, Concept Development, Human Factors, and Demonstrations Portfolio, which would apply HF/E to assess the "interaction of proposed NextGen tools and procedures and evaluate human performance in the operational environment." Fifteen million dollars, a decrease of $5.035 million from the funding levels in the FY 2017 omnibus spending package, was requested for the NextGen Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program; and the NextGen Air/Ground Integration Human Factors program within the FAA Research, Engineering, and Development (RE/D) account was requested at a level of $6.757 million, a $1.818 million cut from the FY 2017 omnibus levels. It is also worth noting that the FY 2018 request would shift control of air traffic control (ATC) services to a private, nonprofit organization. This has been the topic of recurring debate in Congress, but members have yet to reach consensus on how to move forward.
As expected, the president's budget request would increase funding for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) programs across DOD, with the Air Force, Army, and Navy receiving proposed increases of 25.6%, 13.1%, and 2.7%, respectively. However, although the department would receive a $52 billion increase, most DOD science and technology accounts would see reductions in FY 2018, emphasizing DOD priorities to modernize and enhance readiness.
Within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT received a proposed cut of $22 million, a 36.6% decrease from the FY 2017 omnibus levels, which is consistent with the requested reductions across the rest of the agency.
President Trump's FY 2018 budget request has been a source of concern because so many federal agencies would receive widespread reductions or eliminations, but there is still much work to be done before any final funding decisions are made. Members of Congress, including Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), have noted the budget request is simply the first step in the FY 2018 appropriations process.
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Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a leading Washington, D.C.-based government relations and consulting firm, represents the public policy interests of scientific societies and institutions of higher education. Lewis-Burke's staff of about 20 government relations professionals works to promote the federal research and policy goals of HFES and the HF/E community.