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ID: 60238

URL: https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/02/trumps-budget-wants-the-us-to-stop-watching-the-planet/

Date: 2018-02-13

Trump’s budget wants the US to stop watching the planet

NSF and NIH see huge cuts restored, but anything environmental is in trouble. Today, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that called for massive cuts to science research across the federal government. But Trumps's budget was accompanied by a second document that rescinded some of the cuts, even while complaining that doing so was a bad idea. Meanwhile, drastic cuts to environmental and renewable energy programs remain in both budget versions. The confusion was caused by last week's bipartisan budget deal, which raised caps on both military and domestic spending. The Trump administration had been planning on working within the caps and raising military spending while cutting back elsewhere, including on scientific research. The budget deal, however, raised military and domestic spending, which would suddenly infuse the latter with lots of extra cash. In response, the Trump administration released an addendum in which it reset a few of the priorities in light of the budget deal. So what we have is a view into the Trump administration's actual intentions for science, along with some indication of what it will do now that Congress has forced its hands. While the Trump administration has adjusted to the additional cash allocated by Congress, it's not happy about it. Or at least happy about all of it. "The administration strongly supports the overall defense spending levels included in the bipartisan cap deal," the budget addendum reads. " However, given the current fiscal situation, the administration is not proposing a Budget at the new non-defense caps. The administration does not believe these non-defense spending levels comport with its vision for the proper role and size of the Federal Government." That vision is detailed in the original budget that was also released today, which would have been catastrophic for scientific research. The National Science Foundation would have lost more than a quarter of its funding. So would the National Institutes of Health, which is responsible for most of the biomedical research funding in the United States. Various other agencies would see similarly large cuts. Given the money by Congress, however, the Trump administration has reversed many of its planned cuts. Rather than being reduced to shells, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health will both stay flat if Trump's budget is adopted. So, while the administration doesn't want the money, it's willing to spend the money on science if it has to. Or at least some science. A large array of programs that were targeted for cuts or complete elimination in the original budget aren't rescued in the addendum. While the cuts here are heavily biased toward climate and environmental programs, those aren't the only things targeted. Among the items targeted for elimination is the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST. The plan was to build this using the optical hardware of a spy satellite that was donated by the intelligence community. Once in orbit, it would scan the entire infrared sky using a wide-field lens, allowing large catalogs of different objects, including near-Earth asteroids, to be generated. The budget document more or less says that NASA's getting the James Webb Telescope, and shouldn't expect another so soon: "developing another large space telescope immediately after completing the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is not a priority for the Administration." Don't tell them about Spitzer and Chandra. If you think it's only a joke to suggest that the Trump administration would terminate an active observatory once we've gone through the expense of putting it in orbit, well, then you haven't read the rest of the budget proposal, which attempts to follow through on earlier threats to gut NASA's Earth-observing missions. Two are not yet launched. One is a satellite called CLARREO pathfinder, which is intended to develop instruments for a follow-on satellite to produce detailed climate records. Another, PACE, would track ocean-atmosphere interactions. Two other satellites would have specific instruments shut down— one of them an Earth-observing camera championed by Al Gore that's been targeted by every Republican administration since he left the Vice Presidency (the Bush administration shelved the working hardware rather than put it in orbit). But the most striking thing is the call to shut down the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which has only been in operation for less than four years. The ability to monitor Earths' carbon dioxide fluxes was considered so important for following climate change that NASA built a second after the first was lost in a launch accident. The Trump Administration would now shut it down. It's not only in space where environmental monitoring would be cut. For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there is a clear theme to the budget request: efforts to collect data or study our home planet get funding cuts, and climate-related efforts doubly so. Both agencies are cut by about 20 percent in total. The only increases in NOAA's budget are for facilities or operating costs, with the exception of work to incorporate data from new European weather satellites. About 250 positions would be cut from the National Weather Service, with another 25 cut from the Tsunami Warning Program as one of the two US Tsunamic Warning Centers would be shut down. A NOAA summary document notes that "Support for [tsunami] preparedness education, outreach, and innovation research will cease." Funding for development of weather forecast models, hydrological models, ocean observations and ocean acidification research, climate research, and university partnerships would all be cut. Although the budget seems to reverse last year's call to scrap several future weather satellites—endangering weather forecasting as older satellites die— it cuts $565 million from two satellite programs without really explaining how that would be done. A host of NOAA programs would be slated for complete termination, including major grant programs funding coastal research (like Sea Grant), the Office of Education, Arctic research, several fisheries research programs, and the Big Earth Data Initiative (which was created to make federal data more accessible). At the USGS, earthquake, volcano, water resources, and coastal work would all take a significant hit in the neighborhood of 10 to 20 percent. Ecosystems-focused programs come in for a whopping 40 percent cut, while the Energy and Mineral Resources program would be the sole recipient of a budgetary boost (about 15 percent). The EPA would also see cuts to its research, as a program that allowed the Agency to fund research at universities would be eliminated. But it would also see its ability to do anything with the research curtailed. The EPA had a funding program to help states comply with regulations that result from the Clean Air and Water Acts; the Trump administration wants to eliminate it, taking what had been a funded federal mandate and de-funding it. Energy Star's budget would be zeroed out, and appliance makers would be asked to pay fees to use its labels. Another section suggests that the EPA's mission doesn't involve helping companies address climate change. " The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for several voluntary partnership programs related to energy and climate change," another section reads. " These programs are not essential to EPA's core mission and can be implemented by the private sector." Cleanup of Superfund pollution sites was also slated to be cut, but will be restored given the Congressional budget. Reading the budget documents, it's hard to escape the impression that the administration would simply rather not know about the world around us, even when that knowledge could be essential to saving lives and property. But there are also hints that they do not want the public to know what it's missing, as the budget would cut off several sources of public-facing science. Funding for National Heritage Areas, in which the government helps preserve significant privately owned sites, will be eliminated. So will money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As will NASA's Office of Education. The good news is that Trump proposed a similarly draconian budget last year, and Congress ignored it. The seriousness of this year's proposal was already undercut by the fact that Congress pre-allocated more money than the administration wanted. Still, as a window into Trump's view of the role of science, the documents present a grim picture.



ID: 60244

URL: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/02/trumps-budget-proposal-is-out-and-he-really-wants-to-kill-arpa-e/

Date: 2018-02-13

Trump’s budget proposal is out and he really wants to kill ARPA-E

Nuclear is the big winner in FY 2019's proposed budget. On Monday afternoon, the Trump Administration released a budget proposal (PDF), including new figures for the Department of Energy (DOE). This budget proposal is just an opening salvo — Congress must approve the budget before it takes effect, and without a doubt there will be negotiations over the details. This year's suggested changes to the DOE budget track the ones found in the presidents first budget proposal in 2017. Notably, the proposed budget yet again eliminates the popular Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (or ARPA-E) program, which has funded early-stage energy research through a federal grant program for years. The main text of budget proposal says the DOE ought to receive $29 billion, down from about $30.1 billion, but an addendum text adds another $1.533 billion to the DOE budget, which would reflect a budget increase of about $500 million over what the DOE received in 2017. However, despite a relatively stagnant budget for the DOE, renewable energy programs will be cut dramatically beyond the elimination of ARPA-E. Under the plan, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sees its budget cut from around $2 billion to $696 million (PDF). ARPA-E was slated for elimination in Trumps budget proposal last year, but Congress ended up allotting the energy projects incubator $15 million more than it was initially supposed to receive. The program provides grants to early-stage energy-related startups in every state, so red states and blue states alike benefit. ARPA-E has successfully funded not just renewable energy programs, but it also funds energy efficiency research and vehicle fuel research. But this year the Trump Administration is trying to kill it again, eliminating the entirety of the programs $305 million from the DOEs budget. In a document detailing the elimination (PDF), the administration writes: there has been concern about the potential for ARPA-E's efforts to overlap with Research & Development (R&D) being carried out, or which should be carried out, by the private sector. (On the contrary, ARPA-E's directive is to fund technology that is uniquely too early in its development for private sector funding.) The document goes on to say that the Energy Department should redirect any unobligated balances in ARPA-Es coffers, and transfer any remaining contracts elsewhere in the DOE, to ensure full closure of ARPA-E by mid-2020.Other programs that the Trump Administration wants to kill include the Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, which provides loan guarantees for clean energy programs; the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, which admittedly has not provided a new loan since 2011; and the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program (PDF), which works on "tribal energy sufficiency." The administration says all those programs can be managed by the private sector. Even if the Administration is able to kill ARPA-E, there's still money set aside for federally-funded research. The $1.5 billion addendum allocates $1.2 billion to fundamental scientific research pertaining to Americas energy future, although details on that are slim. Other items in that addendum include an additional $200 million for Fossil Energy Research and Development to fund research and development (R&D) of clean coal technologies, on top of the $300 million R&D budget that the Office of Fossil Energy would already receive through the proposed budget. A mere $120 million of the addendum's dollars would be definitively dedicated to sustainable transportation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency technologies including energy storage, renewable generation, smart buildings, and electric vehicles. The Department of Energy is responsible for the nations nuclear stockpile, and a lot of the funding would go to maintaining and upgrading that. The Budget makes significant investments in design and construction of facilities, with an emphasis on infrastructure related to strategic materials (e.g., uranium, plutonium, tritium, lithium) that are critical to the nuclear weapons stockpile, the proposal notes. It also includes funding for efforts to remove nuclear materials from insecure areas around the world and helping countries develop strong programs to secure those that remain. Additionally, $445 million will be dedicated to exascale computing and $105 million will be dedicated to quantum computing advancements. $757 million will be dedicated to advancing nuclear energy, prioritizing support for early-stage R&D on advanced reactor technologies, including small modular reactors, and advanced instrumentation and manufacturing methods. The proposed budget also will include money to find an interim storage program for nuclear waste while the administration pushes forward with the licensing of Nevadas Yucca Mountain geologic repository, which has been proposed as a long-term storage site. New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) , which houses nuclear waste from weapons development, is also funded through the DOE. Finally, about $180 million of the DOE budget would be dedicated to grid modernization a joint effort funded by the Office of Electricity Delivery, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.



ID: 60416

URL: https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/12/17004116/donald-trump-budget-proposal-opioid-epidemic-medicare-epa-cuts

Date: 2018-02-12

Trump’s proposed science budget tackles the opioid epidemic but shuns the environment

President Donald Trumps proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 is once again trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, while pouring billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic. The budget proposal would allocate $13 billion to combat an opioid crisis thats sweeping the US. (Its a serious crisis; opioids are killing so many people that life expectancy is going down in the US.) But overall, the Department of Health and Human Services is getting a 21 percent cut from 2017 levels. The budget also offers more funding for combating infectious diseases, though it cuts $236 billion in Medicare spending. In many ways, its a stronger science budget than last year, according to Matt Hourihan, who runs the Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Environmental research is being hit the hardest, but the big agencies like the National Institutes of Health and NASA are protected. Obviously a much stronger #science budget than last year's. Here is the FY19 request alongside last year's budget so you can see the differences and similarities. Todays request isnt set in stone. A lot of presidents budgets are ignored. But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored, Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, told The Associated Press. In fact, Congress passed a law last week that basically undid the budget before it was even submitted. That said, the budget serves as a look into the presidents priorities. Here are highlights for how Trumps proposed budget would affect health and the environment: The budget suggests allocating $13 billion in new spending to fight opioid abuse, meaning $3 billion in 2018 and $10 billion the next year. Its an acknowledgment of the opioid epidemic that Trump declared a public health emergency back in October. This money will go toward expanding coverage of medication-assisted treatment and helping states monitor and track clinics that prescribe a high number of opioids. The budget also proposes spending $40 million on a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative to eliminate infectious diseases. However, it proposes eliminating $451 million in health training programs that lack evidence that they improve the health workforce, as well as cuts of $236 billion in Medicare spending. The proposal suggests a budget of $29 billion for the Department of Energy, about 3 percent lower than 2017 levels. It also proposes reducing funding for a loan program that supports clean energy projects, and research programs that support creating high-tech vehicles and more efficient vehicles. The budget suggests entirely eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), a well-known agency that funds energy-related research projects that focus on, among other things, efficient heating and plant-based fuels. The Trump administration is requesting $5.4 billion for the EPA — a 34 percent cut from the 2017 enacted budget. That includes steep cuts to the grants the EPA provides to states to help implement environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The administration also wants to cut the funds used by the EPA to clean toxic Superfund sites by 30 percent, to encourage private investment in cleanup activities. The budget request also calls for the elimination of climate change and marine pollution programs, which the administration calls lower priority. The budget suggests eliminating lower priority NOAA programs such as the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund dedicated to saving salmon; the Coastal Zone Management Grants, which addresses issues like climate change and ocean planning; the Office of Education; and the Sea Grant, which supports research into lakes and oceans. Despite a record hurricane season in 2017, the budget proposes cutting funding for the National Flood Insurance Programs Flood Hazard Mapping Program. The program, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, maintains flood maps and communicates flood risks to local residents. Trumps budget plans to end direct funding for the International Space Station by 2025, while instructing NASA to focus on sending astronauts back to the Moon by the mid-2020s. Although NASAs budget would increase to $19.892 billion, from $19.519 billion in 2018, very little money is provided for all of the hardware needed for a lunar mission. The budget request also slashes Earth Science research, and eliminates NASAs Education program, which funds grants and scholarship programs for students. The budget would also eliminate the WFIRST mission, which includes the development of a new space-based telescope to study dark energy and planets that reside outside our Solar System.