Obama's Budget Would Grow Federal R&D By 4 Percent


The president's 2017 fiscal year budget boosts total research and development funding to $152 billion.

President Barack Obama’s new budget request boosts total research and development funding by 4 percent, compared to current levels.

The new budget sets aside $152 billion for R&D, including $33.1 billion for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health. It also includes $7.7 billion in discretionary spending on clean energy R&D and $2 billion on “cutting-edge manufacturing R&D,” among many other projects. 

Increased funding could potentially allow NIH to fund almost 10,000 new scientific projects competing for grants, according to the budget document. It would also support the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative, meant to personalize patients’ medical treatment according to genetic and environmental factors, as well as a federally funded neurological research project called Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or “BRAIN.”

During a Tuesday budget briefing with senior technology officials, National Science Foundation Director France Cordova noted that additional funding would help the agency “increase the amount of great science we support, rather than leaving potential discoveries and innovation on the cutting room floor, due to lack of funding.”

The budget request provides $7.96 billion for NSF, including $143 million to help NSF’s brain-related research, and provides for NSF’s $74 million contribution to the BRAIN project. NSF receives about 50,000 funding proposals each year, declining about 38,000, Cordova said. Many of them are passed over because of insufficient funds, “rather than failing to meet our standards," she added. 

Other projects highlighted during the briefing, which was hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, included almost $2 billion for the establishment of a Coastal Climate Resilience fund under the Interior Department, devoted to providing resources for at-risk coastal states and governments; doubling funds to about $700 million for the Agriculture Department's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative; and a $98.6 million request for the U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterSMART program, which investigates technology for water conservation.

The budget also includes an additional $755 million aimed at “progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer,” the document said. During the OSTP briefing, Associate Director Jo Handelsman said NIH plans to initiate several genomic cancer trials this year, as well as a longitudinal, volunteer-based cohort study of 1 million healthy Americans.

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