On the morning of March 16, much of Washington, D.C., waited anxiously for President Trump to release his first budget proposal. Traditionally, the president releases the budget proposal on the first Monday in February but new presidents often delay the release in their first year. President Trump’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” was released at 7 a.m.
The 53-page blueprint, also called the “skinny budget,” lays out the Trump administration’s priorities and gives the public a glimpse of President Trump’s vision for the operation of the federal government. President Trump’s budget blueprint emphasizes national security. It proposes a $54 billion increase for defense programs and commensurate cuts in nondefense discretionary programs. The blueprint includes specific funding levels for some federal agencies and programs, but details for many are not mentioned. The administration is expected to release its full FY18 budget in May.
What does the budget blueprint mean for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?
The blueprint proposes significant funding cuts or program eliminations for many research, student aid, higher education, humanities, and arts programs.
Of particular concern are the proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. The Trump administration’s budget proposes to cut both of these agencies’ budgets by 20 percent and eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the largest provider of federal research funds to Rensselaer. NSF is not specifically mentioned in the budget blueprint. However, it could be included under a line in the blueprint that calls for a 10 percent across the board cut to “other agencies.” Details on the NSF budget are expected in the full May budget proposal.
If adopted, President Trump’s budget would deal a critical blow to U.S. cutting-edge innovation and research that supports our national security and protects the public health and safety of our communities, including numerous instances of groundbreaking life-saving research. It carves away at critical programs including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, DOE’s Office of Science, and even the visionary energy advancements being achieved through ARPA-E.”
The budget blueprint also calls for the elimination of several other agencies that provide funding to higher education institutions, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Department of Education supports financial aid programs used by many of Rensselaer’s students. The Trump administration’s budget blueprint calls for level funding for the Pell grant program but calls for reductions to Federal Work-Study and elimination of Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
What is next?
This budget blueprint represents the Trump administration’s priorities, but it is Congress that ultimately has the final say in spending matters. A number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, have expressed concerns about aspects of the proposal.
Rensselaer’s local U.S. Representative, Paul Tonko, said, “If adopted, President Trump’s budget would deal a critical blow to U.S. cutting-edge innovation and research that supports our national security and protects the public health and safety of our communities, including numerous instances of groundbreaking life-saving research. It carves away at critical programs including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, DOE’s Office of Science, and even the visionary energy advancements being achieved through ARPA-E. At a time when we should be adding to our investments in our nation’s future, these cuts would put American research and innovation far behind that of other nations.”
“The Rensselaer government relations team is working with other universities, higher education associations, scientific societies, and research-intensive industry partners to ask our elected officials to reject the proposed budget cuts. We are working together to stress that robust support for scientific research and education programs are vital to maintaining the United States’ leadership in science and technology, building the economy of the future, and ensuring our national security,” said Richie Hunter, vice president for strategic communications and external relations.
The Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate will hold hearings throughout the next few months to examine the proposal and attempt to negotiate a final agreement before the end of the federal fiscal year, October 1, 2017.