FY 2018 Budget & Appropriations for Chemistry

Chemistry is supported by a number of agencies across the federal government.  With the fiscal year 2018 (October 2017-September 2018) budget, the administration has proposed a number of dramatic changes to programs that fund chemical research, standards, and safety measures. View agency-by-agency breakdowns of the changes and how they would impact the chemical enterprise.

Update (03/27): Last week, Congress passed a final omnibus bill to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2018. Across the board (with a few exceptions like EPA), science got a nice boost, ranging from +4% at NSF to +26% at NIST. While this closes the book on Congress' part in FY 2018, the agencies still have some work to do to figure out exactly how to spend their increases, based on the text of the law and some agency discretion.

Browse by Agency


Agency/Office Final FY 2017 FY 2018 Request Final FY 2018 $Change FY 17-18 %Change FY17-18
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) 306 eliminated 353 47 15%
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) 11 eliminated 11 0 0%
DOE Office of Science 5392 4473 6260 868 16%
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 8060 5700 8058 -2 0%
National Institutes of Health (NIH) 34084 26604 37084 3000 9%
National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) 954 725 1198 244 26%
National Science Foundation (NSF) 7472 6653 7767 295 4%

Note: All figures in millions of current dollars.


National Science Foundation (NSF)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $6.6 billion, an 11% cut versus FY 2017.

Final FY18 Budget: $7.8 billion, a 4% increase versus FY 2017.

The basics: NSF funds fundamental science and engineering research across all fields of study, so an 11% cut would harm a broad array of basic science projects.  In terms of grants, NSF projects a loss of 800 awards per year based on this budget. That’s a lot of groundbreaking research that is not going to get done.

The impact on chemistry:  More than half of all chemistry research at NSF is funded by the Math and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS) through the Chemistry (CHE) and Materials Research (DMR) programs. The President’s request would see MPS slashed by 10%, even though MPS expects an overall increase in applications for funding over the next year. NSF’s Centers for Chemical Innovation, which focus on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges, would also be sharply cut.

Status (03/27): While Congress initially offered flat-funding or cuts, the increased budget caps allowed legislators to give NSF a 4% overall increase. NSF's Research & Related Activities (R&RA) account—which funds the research Directorates—gets a 5% increase. The final package also retains the Senate’s push for NSF to develop a long-term vision for sustainable chemistry research and development at the agency.

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Department of Energy Office of Science (SC)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $4.5 billion, a 17% cut versus FY 2017.

Final FY18 Budget: $6.3 billion, a 16% increase versus FY 2017.

The basics: SC is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S. and the lead entity focused on fundamental research into future energy solutions. In addition to its six research programs, SC has primary oversight and stewardship for 10 of DOE’s 17 national laboratories.

The impact on chemistry:  The majority of chemistry research funded by SC comes from two research programs- Basic Energy Sciences (BES) and Biological and Environmental Research (BER). Neither of these programs fare well in the President’s budget. BES is slated for a 17% cut, including a $46 million cut to the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division (CSGB) as compared to FY 2016. Losses at CSGB would impact each area of research in this division: Fundamental interactions, Photochemistry/Biochemistry, and Chemical Transformations. Cuts would also require BES user facilities—synchrotrons, neutron sources, and nanoscience centers— to operate at suboptimal levels or cease operations altogether.

BER, which would be cut by 43%, would face severe challenges.  Under the President’s plan, BER’s Biological Systems Science division would lose $69 million versus FY 2016, reducing the resources available for genomics, structural biology, and other approaches used to understand how molecular properties and interactions underpin organism characteristics—and how these characteristics can be harnessed to produce biofuels or achieve other energy goals. BER’s Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences division (formerly known as the “Climate and Environmental Sciences” division), whose programs include research into the physical properties of contributors to Earth’s climate and terrestrial and subsurface systems, would lose $191 million, or 61% of its 2016 budget.

Status (03/27): Congress has decidedly rejected President Trump’s cuts to SC, turning a large cut on its head into a 16% gain, including increases of 12% and 10% for BES and BER, respectively. These appropriations levels mean that user facilities will operate at regular capacity, something the administration did not include in its request. DOE will need to figure out how to spend the money at the program levels, but overall this was a great appropriation for the Office of Science.

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Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $20 million, with the agency targeted for elimination.

Final FY18 Budget: $353 million, a 15% increase.

The basics: ARPA-E, which is modeled after the famous DARPA at the Department of Defense, “advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.” Under the President’s budget plan, ARPA-E would receive money only to manage existing projects in FY2018 and close itself down.

The impact on chemistry: Since transformative energy projects will rely on advanced materials and energy storage capabilities, chemistry is at the heart of what ARPA-E does. If the agency is eliminated, ongoing work would wind down and future opportunities for this highly experimental work would be lost.

Status (03/27):  While the House initially sided with the President's plan to eliminate ARPA-E, legislators approved a large increase for the agency when final decisions were made. At +15% versus 2017, ARPA-E actually saw one of the biggest increases out of all the agencies, demonstrating just how important strong Senate support is for the agency.

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $26.9 billion, a 21% cut versus FY 2017.

Final FY18 Budget: $37.1 billion, a 9% increase versus FY 2017.

The basics: NIH is the largest funder of biomedical research in the world. Each of its institutes and centers (ICs) has its own research agenda, and many focus on specific diseases or body systems. The proposed 21% cut to NIH is spread across every IC, with the Fogarty International Center being targeted for complete elimination. At least some of these savings are proposed to come from a cap on indirect costs, the money NIH pays to universities and other institutions to build their capacity to carry out sponsored research projects.

The impact on chemistry: While chemistry can be found in many different ICs, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is the most prominent supporter of chemistry research because of its total focus on basic research.  The President proposes to fund NIGMS at $2.2 billion, an 18% cut versus FY 2017. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which also provide significant support for basic chemistry research and tools, would be cut by 27%, 21%, and 21%, respectively.

Status (03/27): NIH looked to be a winner all along in FY2018, and that reality came to pass. While the initial budget agreement to raise overall government spending levels included an understanding that NIH would get bumped up, it was still surprising to see the agency receive a $3 billion increase, good for a 9% boost. Every Institute and Center at NIH is due for increase, including 5% for NCI, NCATS, and NIGMS and 6% for NIBIB.

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $5.7 billion, a 29% cut versus FY 2017.

Final FY18 Budget: $8.0 billion, flat versus FY 2017.

The basics: EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. To develop the foundation for the regulatory component of its mission, EPA funds scientific research in the areas of risk assessment and the impact assessment of substances on human health and the environment. The President’s budget request  would see EPA’s funding for Science and Technology drop 37% versus 2017 enacted levels, reducing the agency’s ability to generate and evaluate scientific data.

The impact on chemistry: S&T research at EPA is housed within the Office of Research and Development (ORD), with most chemistry research falling under the Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) research program. CSS helps EPA evaluate and predict the impacts of manufactured chemicals throughout their lifecycle. For FY 2018, the President has asked for $61.7 million for CSS, a 33% cut versus FY2016. The President is also seeking to eliminate the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) extramural program, a small but important source of funds for environmental science researchers and trainees across the country.

On a more positive note for chemistry, the budget request includes $65 million for EPA’s Chemical Risk Review and Reduction (CRRR) program, a 16% increase versus FY 2016. While not a research program, CRRR is critical to the chemical enterprise: it’s the program that evaluates the safety of chemicals in commerce under the recently revised Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.

Status (03/27): Both the House and Senate initially planned to cut EPA, but the increased budget caps persuaded appropriators to leave the agency funded at 2017 levels. This includes flat funding for most agency programs, including S&T and toxics risk review— a positive outcome considering the potential program cuts under the President’s proposed plans. The STAR program specifically receives flat-funding, and EPA is mandated to brief Congress about the program’s status by mid-summer.

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Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $9.4 million, with the agency targeted for elimination.

Final FY18 Budget: $11 million, flat versus 2017

The basics: CSB was created by Congress in 1990 “to investigate accidents to determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented.”

The impact on chemistry: Though different from the other agencies covered here, CSB plays a key role in the chemical enterprise. By investigating and widely reporting safety flaws in the process of chemical production (or in the case of universities, laboratory safety), CSB protects the lives of workers and prevents property damage. No other entity does CSB’s job. If the agency is eliminated, a gap in the safety ecosystem will emerge.

Status (12/8): The House rejected President Trump’s request to eliminate the CSB and would instead fund it at $11 million, same as 2017.  The Senate concurred, and that thinking made it to the omnibus: $11 million (and continued existence) for CSB in 2018.

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National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

Proposed FY18 Budget: $725 million, 24% below FY 2017.

Final FY18 Budget: $1.2 billion, 26% above FY 2017.

The basics:  NIST, part of the Department of Commerce, develops and maintains the national measurement and standards system that makes cross-sector research, development, and commerce easier and more efficient.

The impact on chemistry:  As part of its Scientific and Technical Research Services (STRS), NIST runs about 200 chemistry programs and projects that focus on topics ranging from the detection of hazardous chemical vapors to chemical metrology for polymers manufacturing, biologic drug development, and other chemical products. Under the President’s budget request, STRS would lose 13% of its budget, putting these projects—which benefit chemical firms of all sizes—at risk. NIST’s budget also includes cuts to manufacturing programs that comprise the agency’s Industrial Technology Services (see Manufacturing in the Federal Budget).

Status (03/27): After spending most of the FY 2018 appropriations cycle looking at a near certain cut, NIST is receiving a major last minute increase in funds. For 2018, NIST is going to have a budget of $1.2 billion, a whopping 26% increase. Every STRS program will get at least its 2017 budget. In addition, the omnibus report approves Senate report language that provides up to $5 million for research grants to universities for research and training related to high-volume, metal-based additive manufacturing (3-D printing) and up to another $5 million for university-based research into improving recycled plastics.

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Manufacturing in the Federal Budget

The basics:  Federal programs established to enhance U.S. advanced manufacturing are positioned to receive significant cuts under the administration’s budget request. These programs include:

  • NIST – The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would receive $6 million in order to eliminate the program. Manufacturing USA (formerly National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI)) would receive $15 million for FY 2018, a 40% cut versus FY 2017.
  • DOE – The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would receive a $900 million cut throughout its programs, including renewable electricity for advanced manufacturing. The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVMLP) would be eliminated.

The impact on chemistry: The extensive elimination or cuts in the outlined manufacturing programs would affect research and development at a number of universities and businesses, hindering partnerships designed to build the future of the U.S. economy. Sectors impacted would include everything from agribusiness to chemical and advanced materials manufacturing.

Status (03/27: It looks like there will be some variability in outcomes for these programs:

  • NIST (See above) - If there is a soft spot in the final NIST budget this year, it is the Manufacturing USA program, which will be cut 40%, in line with the Senate's original plan. The Hollings MEP will be flat-funded in 2018.
  • DOE- Rather than cut EERE, which both chambers threatened to do in their original plans

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STEM Education

The basics: The federal government sponsors an array of programs designed to increase science literacy and train the next generation of science and engineering professionals. While many agencies have STEM education programs, the Department of Education (DoEd) and NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate are the top funders in this area, and the President’s budget looks to slash both:

  • NSF EHR would be funded at $761 million, a 14% cut versus FY 2017.
  • DoEd overall would receive a 13% cut, with several key STEM programs targeted for cuts or elimination, including:
    • Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants—designed to augment state programs for a number of academic areas, including the sciences—would be eliminated.
    • Federal TRIO programs, which offer opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, would be cut by $90 million.
    • Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which are sources of federal funding to states for postsecondary career and technical education, would be cut by 11%.

The impact on chemistry:  While none of the programs above is chemistry specific, their reduction or elimination would impact the future for the chemical sciences by reducing the pool of students at all levels with access to STEM training. This could translate into a less diverse chemical community and gaps in the technical workforce.

Status (03/27): Similar to R&D, legislators ultimately decided to appropriate more—in some cases significantly more— money for STEM Education programs in 2018. NSF EHR will receive a 3% increase, and DoEd will see a 4% increase overall. Title IV SSAE grants are getting a 175% boost, TRIO programs are increased 6%, and CTE programs are flat-funded.

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