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FY 2018 Federal budget update

The White House budget outline for FY 2018 (October 2017 through September 2018) proposes substantial cuts to federal agencies and offices that support university research. What follows is a concise summary of what can be discerned from the outline. We will welcome your questions and suggestions at

It is important to remember that the budget outline is only the first step in a long process. The White House has said that a fully detailed budget proposal will be available in May. Actual budget and spending bills are drafted by Congress. There is also signifant procedural complexity to this year's budget process. Currently, with Congress having passed no FY 2017 budget, the government is operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that runs only through April 28. Congress must therefore determine how to handle funding of the government beyond April prior to having a more detailed proposal from the White House.

As to effects between now and October, we may see these in two ways: First, the White House has asked that shifts in discretionary funding from non-defense to defense begin in the current year. This, like implementation of the proposed FY 2018 budget outline, would require modification of defense and non-defense budget caps originally put in place in 2011. Second, agencies and program managers who are uncertain of their future budgets need to manage their multi-year commitments. This early in the process, agency officials will naturally be thinking about this but will not yet have a basis for decision-making. At this point, we do not recommend contacting program offices with questions on this topic.

Department of Education
The outline for the Department of Education is calls for a budget of $59B, a $9B (13%) reduction. Accounting for a $1.4B increase in school choice programs, the total proposed reduction to other programs is $10.4B or 15%, including unspecified “significant” reductions in the $1.1B federal Work-Study funding. No research programs are mentioned in the budget outline, and there is no mention of the GAANN program.

Department of Health and Human Services
NIH is slated for a cut of $5.8B (18%). A “major reorganization of NIH’s institutes and centers,” through which most NIH research is funded, is proposed, along with absorption of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality into NIH. The statement, “[t]he Budget also reduces administrative costs and rebalance Federal contributions to research funding” has fueled speculation regarding to-be-proposed changes in NIH budgeting or reimbursement rules. 

National Science Foundation
The budget outline does not mention NSF. NSF is among the "other agencies" of the federal government that would, in aggregate see a decrease of 9.8%, but the White House provides no specific plans for the agency.

Department of Defense
The outline includes a $52B (10%) increase for DOD. There is no mention of DOD science and technology programs or of DARPA.

Department of Energy
The outline describes a $900M (18%) cut to the DOE Office of Science which supports university research as well as the national labs. The Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the Nuclear Energy and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy Research and Development program, would collectively see a $2B cut and be directed to focus “on limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activitiess where the Federal role is stronger.” The ARPA-E program, which funds work toward breakthrough renewable energy technologies, is slated for elimination.

National Endowment for the Humanities
The budget outline proposes elimination of NEH’s $148M budget.

National Endowment for the Arts
The budget outline proposes elimination of NEA’s $148M budget.

Environmental Protection Agency
As part of an overall cut of $2.6B (48%) from EPA's budget, the Office of Research and Development would be cut by $233M (48%) and directed to "prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants."

The outline describes a nearly flat NASA budget, with a substantial shift away from earth science in favor of interplanetary missions. The Aeronautics R&D Directorate would see a $16M (2.5%) cut. The Office of Education is slated for elimination as is funding for four earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder).

Department of Commerce
The outline for the Department of Commerce calls for elimination of the $221M Economic Development Administration, which in the past supported construction of the Ben Franklin TechVentures facility. It also calls for elimination of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership program that supports the Manufacturer’s Resource Center. No mention is made of other NIST programs.

Links to further information

AAAS provides an analysis science agency budgets as well as graphics depicting trends since 2010 including the effects of the Budget Control Act and ensuing budget agreements.


Office of Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies • Lehigh University • 7 Asa Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • (610) 758-2585