Science Agency Funds Would Plunge with Trump Proposal


The Trump administration's 2019 budget proposal would hit the National Science Foundation—a backer of some of the biggest U.S. tech companies—with a nearly 30 percent funding cut, according to budget documents released Feb. 12.

The proposed cut to the NSF budget for fiscal 2019, which starts Oct. 1, 2018, puts the administration at odds with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who, in recent months, have spoken out in favor of increased funding for the agency.

The NSF is tasked with enhancing national security and economic growth by supporting scientific research. It funded tech giants like Qualcomm Inc., Symantec Corp., and Alphabet Inc.'s Google when those companies were first developing their core technologies. 

Under Trump’s 2019 budget plan, which is subject to congressional approval, the NSF’s funding would drop to $5.3 billion from 2017’s $7.5 billion enacted budget figure and 2018’s $7.4 billion estimated figure. The cut would impact the agency’s programs in computer science, engineering, and biological sciences, among other areas, according to additional budget documents. The budget proposes cutting the agency’s major research equipment and facilities construction to almost a quarter of 2017 levels.

NSF Director France Córdova told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at a Jan. 30 hearing that the U.S. needs to increase its investment in basic research and education to keep up with the massive amounts of funding governments like China are sinking into emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence.

This is not the first time Trump has targeted the NSF. Last year marked the first time in NSF history that a president proposed cutting funding for the agency. But Trump’s then-plan for an 11-percent cut hit a wall of resistance from congressional appropriators.

“This whole subcommittee is arm-in-arm when it comes to our support for fundamental research and the spectacular work done by the National Science Foundation and NASA,” Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Appropriations’ Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said last June in response to the proposed decrease.