The National Science Foundation will receive $7.8 billion, $295 million more than the previous year, which represents a 3.9 percent increase, and includes funding for the construction of three new oceanographic research vessels. Trump’s 2018 request didn’t specify cuts to the NSF, but his request for fiscal year 2019, released last month, called for the foundation’s budget to be cut by 30 percent. His administration later reversed course and said it would leave the NSF’s 2019 budget untouched.
The law keeps the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of the Trump administration, flat. The White House sought to gut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science will get $6.26 billion, $868 million more, representing a 16 percent increase. The Trump administration had asked for a 17 percent decrease.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will receive $5.9 billion, an increase of $234 million, or 4 percent. The U.S. Geological Survey will get $1.1 billion, an increase of $63 million, or 6 percent, and the number of its climate-science centers will be spared from reductions.
NASA will receive $20.7 billion, $1.1 billion more than the previous year. The space agency’s science programs will increase by about 8 percent to $6.2 billion and its planetary-science program, in particular, by 21 percent, to $2.2 billion. “At NASA, Congress soundly rejected every major cut proposed by the White House,” Dreier says. “Planetary science [will] see its best budget perhaps ever.” Congress maintained funding for NASA’s next space telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, which the Trump administration recommended canceling altogether in its 2019 request. The budgets for NASA’s earth-science programs remain untouched.
These increases would have come whether Trump was in office or not, Hourihan says, thanks to Congress’s decision to spend more across the board. “There’s actually a pretty long history of Congress funding science when they give themselves the financial room to do so, regardless of whoever’s in the White House and whatever they propose,” Hourihan says.
But Congress’s decision to fund science programs above what Trump wanted is meaningful in another way. Republicans could have fought to include the president’s priorities for science funding in last year’s spending bill, for fiscal year 2017, or this year’s, for the remainder of fiscal year 2018. They had months to negotiate and deliberate and reflect the White House’s ambitions in their own legislation. Ultimately, they decided to ignore Trump. Republican lawmakers, it appears, are willing to formally disregard the president’s desires when it comes to science funding. Congress holds the purse strings in Washington, not the White House, and Republican lawmakers have shown they won’t necessarily fight for the Trump administration’s priorities on this, as many in the community had feared. What may have looked like a plot twist last year—a Republican-controlled Congress making scientists happy—stands now to become a pattern instead.
“It’s easy for observers outside of Washington to see what the rhetoric is coming from the White House, or see what’s in the proposals from the White House, and believe that those big funding cuts are more likely than they actually are,” Hourihan says.