FY 2019 Budget & Appropriations for Chemistry

The release of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request marks the beginning of the process to fund the government from October 2018 – September 2019.

Things are a bit complicated. The President's proposal came just days after Congress had agreed to raise the budget caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. That forced the administration to hastily release an addendum to the original budget request. This has caused some delays and uncertainty into where the administration would like to put resources.

Moreover, Congress later used that extra cap space to pass an omnibus that gave most science agencies robust increases.  Because of that, the President's budget request is much lower in some cases than current funding levels—meaning it will likely be largely ignored again.

Below are agency-by-agency breakdowns of what we know about FY 2019 so far, and what it might mean for chemistry.


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National Science Foundation (NSF)

Proposed FY 19 Budget:  $7.4 billion, a 4% cut versus FY 2018

The basics: NSF funds science and engineering in every discipline except the medical sciences. Money for research grants comes out of NSF’s Research and Related Activities Account (R&RA). In FY 2019, the President is requesting $6.1 billion for R&RA, a 3% cut versus FY 2018.

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) divisions.  Under the administration’s plan, MPS overall would decline 1.3% versus 2017*, with CHE and DMR each taking cuts of more than 6%. What accounts for the difference in scale for these cuts? That would be NSF’s rollout of the 10 Big Ideas, which will require multidisciplinary offices within the Directorates to bulk up. Case-in-point: MPS’ Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (OMA) will jump by a whopping 197%—from $35 to $103 million.

The effect of the Big Ideas on chemistry is mixed; some areas of chemistry are likely to suffer, while others might get a boost. Chemists working on quantum science should be able to apply for OMA money going toward The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution, one of the Big Ideas being funded by MPS in 2019. Other types of chemistry are out of luck: MPS OMA’s other Big Idea this year is Windows on the Universe: The Era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics, a topic that is not likely to be relevant to many chemists. More details on how the Big Ideas will affect MPS will come throughout the year. For right now, it looks like chemistry is going to take a cut at NSF, unless Congress boosts the agency’s budget overall.

* = Final program levels for FY2018 are not yet available


Department of Energy Office of Science (SC)

Proposed FY19 Budget: $5.4 billion, a 14% cut versus FY 2018

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 6 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 2 research programs- Basic Energy Sciences (BES) and Biological and Environmental Research (BER). For FY 2019, the President is proposing different fates for these critical programs.

BES would receive a cut of 11%. This would impact the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division (CSGB), which funds research into Fundamental Interactions, Photochemistry/Biochemistry, and Chemical Transformations. CSGB would lose funds overall and see some money moved from Photochemistry/Biochemistry to the other two focus areas. BES user facilities— X-ray light sources, neutron sources, and nanoscience centers— would be funded near 2017 levels.

BER, on the other hand, would face a 26% cut versus 2018. Biological System Sciences (BSS), which funds research into sustainable bioenergy production and systems biology for energy production and environmental improvement, would bare smaller losses; Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences would take the brunt of the cut. On a positive note, user facilities funded by BER, like the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, would receive funding to operate at full or near-full capacity as compared to FY 2017 levels.


Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)

Proposed FY19 Budget: $0 million, with the agency eliminated

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.” Like last year, President Trump is proposing the elimination of ARPA-E. Like last year, this proposal is unlikely to click with Congress.

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.


National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Proposed FY19 Budget: TBD, but projected to be less than FY 2018

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. NIH’s overall funding level got restored to FY2017 levels in OMB’s late-breaking addendum to the budget request. However, it is unclear how that money would be distributed among the different institutes and centers. Moreover, FY2017 levels for 2019 would be a cut, since the budget deal that raised the caps (and prompted the addendum) boosted NIH in FY2018.

The impact on chemistry: Check back for more details as the funding picture becomes clearer.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Proposed FY19 Budget: $5.7 billion, a 29% cut versus FY 2018

The basics: EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. To develop the foundation for the regulatory part 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 38% versus 2018 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 and Sustainability (CSS) research program. CSS helps EPA evaluate and predict the impacts of manufactured chemicals throughout their lifecycle. For FY 2019, the President has again asked for $61.7 million for CSS, a 31% cut versus FY 2018.  In addition, the President has once again asked for the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program to be defunded. STAR grants support extramural researchers in disciplines important to EPA’s mission—and act as a source of independent information and analysis.

Aside from research, EPA plays a critical role in the chemistry enterprise by regulating the use of chemicals in commerce. The Chemical Risk Review and Reduction program, which oversees this work, would receive $58.6 million in FY 2019, a cut of about 9%. This amount will be supplemented by user fees submitted by companies who manufacture the reviewed products.


Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)

Proposed FY19 Budget: $9 million, with the agency targeted for elimination

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.” CSB was slated for elimination under the President’s FY2018 plan, too, but Congress seems to have little interest in shutting the agency down.

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 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.


National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

Proposed FY19 Budget: $629 million, 47% below FY 2018

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. For the second year in a row, the President is proposing major cuts to NIST that would impact both scientific and industrial programs.

The impact on chemistry:  As part of its Scientific and Technical Research Services (STRS) program, NIST provides world-class measurement science, standards, and technology in a range of S&T areas. This includes chemistry: NIST researchers have projects studying reaction mechanisms and rate constants, complex chemical systems, advanced materials, and more.  NIST also operates a NanoFab laboratory and the Center for Neutron Research, two user facilities that attract researchers from across sectors. The FY2019 request would reduce STRS funding by 21%, necessitating cutbacks to scientific staff and projects.

NIST’s manufacturing programs would take an even bigger hit. The Industrial Technology Services (ITS) account would drop to just $15.1 million, a 90% decrease. This would include the elimination of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension program and flat funding for Manufacturing USA. These programs help small businesses develop and promote advanced manufacturing, respectively.


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.

  • NSF EHR would be funded at $873 million, a 3% cut versus FY 2018.
  • DoEd overall would receive an 11% cut versus 2018, with the following allocations for STEM-related programs:
    • 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 5%.
    • Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which are sources of federal funding to states for postsecondary career and technical education, would be cut 8%.

The impact on chemistry:  The future of chemistry depends on students receiving strong STEM education at all levels. While better than the FY2018 request, the FY2019 levels still leave some important programs with flat or diminished resources.