Special Report FY17 Science Agency Budgets

On May 5, President Trump signed into law final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017. President Trump asked Congress to impose an $18 billion cut in non-defense spending in its appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017. Congress’ final agreement on a fiscal year 2017 appropriations boosts funding for a few science agencies while holding others steady.

U.S. Geological Survey 

The final appropriations law for fiscal year 2017 provides a 2.2 percent increase for the U.S. Geological Survey. Funding for Climate and Land Use Change is increasing 6.6 percent, but within that Climate Variability is decreasing by 6.5 percent. Natural Hazards is increasing 4.3 percent. The funding increase brings USGS’ budget to $1.085 billion, $23 million more than enacted in fiscal year 2016, but $84 million below the Obama administration’s request.

Department of Defense

The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 provides a 3.6 percent increase for the Defense Department’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation activities. Within that, funding for basic research is cut by 1.4 percent, applied research is increased by 6 percent, and advanced technology development is increased by 13.1 percent.

National Nuclear Security Administration 

NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy responsible for stewarding and modernizing the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile – receives a 3.3 percent funding increase. The funding increase brings NNSA’s budget up to $12.94 billion, $412 million more than the amount Congress enacted for fiscal year 2016. Much of the influx goes to the Weapons Activities account, which houses the Stockpile Stewardship Program. This program comprises the activities undertaken by the three nuclear weapon laboratories to maintain the nation’s nuclear warhead stockpile in the absence of explosive nuclear testing, which the U.S. voluntarily halted in 1992.

National Institutes of Health

The final appropriations law for fiscal year 2017 provides a 6.2 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health. The institutes most associated with the physical sciences all receive funding boosts. The law also builds on the continuing resolution, which provided NIH with $352 million in funding in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act. $300 million of these funds are for the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative, $40 million are for the Precision Medicine Initiative, and $10 million are for the BRAIN Initiative.

The law increases funding for all of NIH’s institutes and centers.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 decreases the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by 1.6 percent. Funding for the agency’s research line office, however, is increasing 6.7 percent, with weather research and research supercomputing receiving an especially large boost. The weather, climate, and water agency’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) bears the brunt of the cut with a 6.2 percent decrease. The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), on the other hand, receives a 6.7 percent increase, with new funding flowing mainly to weather research and research computing.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 cuts the budget of the National Institute of Standards and Technology by 1 percent, attributable to a $10 million rollback in the agency’s construction budget. The rest of the NIST budget remains essentially the same as before.


The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 provides a 3.1 percent increase for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Planetary Science will receive a 12 percent increase and is instructed to proceed with a Europa lander mission. Heliophysics will receive a smaller increase while Earth Science funding will remain unchanged. As work on the James Webb Space Telescope ramps down, total funds allocated to Astrophysics activities will decrease.

National Science Foundation 

The final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 provides flat funding for the National Science Foundation’s research and education programs. Unlike in previous fiscal years, the bill does not include constraints on how NSF is to distribute funds among its six research directorates.

Department of Energy 

The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 increases the National Nuclear Security Administration’s budget by 3.3 percent, slightly more than the requested amount. Much of the boost goes toward addressing the agency’s backlog of infrastructure repair and recapitalization, an issue Congress has highlighted in recent hearings.

STEM Education

The final appropriations law for fiscal year 2017 provides generally steady funding for most STEM education programs at the federal science agencies. However, a Department of Education grant program dedicated to STEM has been replaced with a broader state grant program that is receiving less than a quarter of the funding authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act. A new program of state block grants — called Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants —  can be spent on STEM education programs, among other priorities. The new state-centered framework for K–12 STEM education is reflected in DOEd’s fiscal year 2017 budget accounts. Most STEM programs managed by the science agencies, meanwhile, are receiving similar funding to fiscal year 2016 levels.

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