Science agencies see boost in FY 2017 funding, despite proposed cuts

Despite White House FY 2018 proposals to cut funding for many science agencies, it appears that Congress has decided instead to protect funding in an FY 2017 spending bill signed by President Trump last week. In some cases, science agencies received a boost in federal dollars.

The National Science Foundation is funded at $7.51 billion, $46 million above the FY 2016 level. Meanwhile, the Research and Related Activities budget line at NSF holds steady from FY 2016 at $6 billion.

Also level-funded in FY 2017 is NSF’s Education and Human Resources directorate at $880 million, which includes $62.5 million for the Advanced Informal STEM Learning program, as well as $51.9 million for the STEM+C Computing Partnerships, a program that seeks to combine science, technology, engineering, mathematics education and computer science learning in PreK-12 education settings.

Overall, the Education and Human Resources directorate is about $18 million less than the president’s request, according to a House Appropriations Committee report.

The FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill provides $19.65 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is $21 million above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1 billion above the president’s discretionary request level. The White House calls for a 1 percent decrease from the current funding level in FY 2018.

Trump, in his FY 2018 proposal, has indicated plans to eliminate the Office of Education at NASA in favor of a more focused education effort through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“The Office of Education has experienced significant challenges in implementing a NASA-wide education strategy and is performing functions that are duplicative of other parts of the agency,” the president’s FY 2018 proposal said.

Despite plans to abolish the office, however, federal lawmakers approved a total of $100 million in FY 2017 for NASA’s Office of Education, coming in at $5 million less than FY 2016.

The bill also recommends $37 million for STEM education programs at NASA to be derived equally from divisions devoted to Planetary Science and Astrophysics. Such STEM programs, according to bill language, will continue to be administered by the Astrophysics Division.
Additionally, the legislation contains an overall $5.7 billion for NOAA to fund is core operations, a $90 million decrease below the FY 2016 enacted level. NOAA’s Office of Education is set at $26.9 million for FY 2017.

President Trump, however, seeks a 26 percent cut in NOAA funding in his proposed FY 2018 budget, according to an Office of Management and Budget memo obtained by the Washington Post.

Emily Ann Brown covers education technology and STEM education issues for LRP Publications.

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