by Kasey White, GSA Director for Geoscience Policy

The Administration’s budget request at the start of the FY 2018 spending cycle signaled that a difficult year was ahead for the scientific community.  Research across the federal government, from USGS to NSF to DOE, would have seen large cuts under the request.  Appropriators in the House and Senate went to work over the summer, mitigating some of these proposed cuts but for many agencies, flat funding was seen as a victory. It was not until February 2018 when Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act that raised the spending caps for the year that the stage was set for increases in funding.  On March 23, nearly halfway through the fiscal year, the final spending bill was signed into law.  The mammoth 2232 page omnibus bill to fund the government provided increases for science across the board.

Photo: Lindsay Davis

National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation will increase $295 million to $7.77 billion.   Research and Related Activities receives $6.33 billion and notably, the bill contains no restrictions on funding geoscience research.

NASA will see an increase of  $1.1 billion for a total spending level of $20.7 billion.  The bill provides $6.2 billion for Science, $457 million above the FY2017 enacted level. The bill reiterates the importance of Decadal Surveys, studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which reflect the knowledge and priorities of the scientific community. Within the Science directorate, Earth Sciences funding stays flat at $1.9 billion. Contrary to the Administration’s request, the bill includes funding for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and ocean Ecosystem; the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory Pathfinder; the Deep Space Climate Observatory; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3; NASA-Indian Space Research Organization Synthetic Aperture Radar Mission (NISAR); and Landsat 9.

The Planetary Science directorate receives $2.2 billion, a 21% increase, with funding provided for the Europa mission, including both the Clipper and LanderComponents; Near Earth Object Observations; Discovery; and New Frontiers.

Department of Energy
DOE’s Office of Science receives  $6.26 billion, a 16% boost.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, targeted by the Trump administration for elimination, receives $353 million, up 15%. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, also slated for large reduction under the Administration’s budget, increases 11% to $2.32 billion.

U.S. Geological Survey
USGS funding rises to $1.15 billion.  The Natural Hazards mission area sees a 23% increase, with large increases to earthquake and volcano programs. Funding for facilities rises 20% to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog.

Congress accepted the reorganization of the USGS Climate Change and Land Use Mission Area to Land Resources Mission Area. But lawmakers were less keen on the reorganization at the Department of the Interior. The bill does not include any of the requested funds for workforce reshaping and notes congressional approval is required for reprogramming.