The Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal includes behemoth cuts and few details. It is necessarily vague—to President Trump, the nuances of budget cuts are inherently irrelevant so long as nuclear research and defense allocations skyrocket. This was his platform, and there are certain benefits to increasing funding in these areas.
Sadly, scientific research is taking the brunt of Mr. Trump’s ruthless cuts.
The proposed budget would deal a serious blow to many of the government’s science-driven agencies. It would slash the NIH’s funds by 18%, delivering a decisive blow to key biomedical research sectors. The EPA would be down by 31.4%. ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s advanced research division, would be eliminated entirely. NOAA’s Sea Grant program, designed to aid those living in areas affected by coastal climate change, would also see its last days under the Trump administration.
To their credit, many in Congress have coined the NIH budget cuts in particular “a non-starter.” Yet, the fact that NIH funding is even up for debate is a testament to the frenzy known as Washington D.C.
President Trump’s slashing of the budgets of ineffective bureaucratic agencies does have merit. After all, frivolous spending should have no place in government.
However, Trump’s isn’t the first president to propose cuts to scientific programs. This history reflects a much greater problem: our leaders view science as secondary. They perceive it as a luxury, a discipline to fund only in times of budget surpluses and stable economies.
This is a bad understanding of science’s importance to the United States. Further, this view of science is dangerous.
There are 535 total members in the United States Congress. These men and women, along with a select few from the executive branch, make crucial decisions that protect the nation and keep its citizens safe. Nuclear weapons, bioterrorism, infectious disease, chemical spills, power grid failures, and cybersecurity are all incredibly salient issues. However, only one person in Congress holds a Ph.D. in a scientific field (Dr. Bill Foster, a physicist).
The United States government faces a massive shortage of qualified individuals to tackle some of our nation’s most pressing challenges. At the very least, the government should make an effort to prioritize STEM funding. These issues are not going away, and if President Trump isn’t careful, there won’t be anybody left to solve them.