Trump's 2020 Budget Would Cut Non-Defense R&D by $10 Billion

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The request comes as the administration urges agencies to double down on research in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

The Trump administration’s 2020 budget request would cut research and development funding for every agency except NASA and the Defense Department.

The proposal comes as the White House presses federal agencies to prioritize investments in “industries of the future,” namely artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing and advanced manufacturing.

The White House on Monday published a full breakdown of the president’s 2020 budget request, building on the broad spending outline officials released last week. While the proposal highlights the importance of government research in bolstering the country’s national and economic security, it puts a significant portion of agencies’ R&D budgets on the chopping block.  

“While recognizing the continued importance of R&D spending to support innovation, fiscal prudence demands a more focused approach to the federal R&D budget in the context of America’s multi-sector R&D enterprise,” the administration wrote in the breakdown.

The 2020 request would cut overall research and development spending by roughly $6.5 billion—or 5 percent—but the blow would land entirely on civilian agencies.

Under the proposal, the Pentagon’s R&D budget would grow about 7 percent next year, from $55.8 billion to $59.5 billion. According to the administration, funds would be directed toward advancing microelectronics, hypersonic conventional weapons, missile detection and disruption tools, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

While NASA would also see its research and development budget increase about 5 percent under the proposal, every other civilian agency would see at least a portion of its funds dry up. All said, the request would cut research spending for non-defense agencies by more than $10 billion, or 12 percent, from current levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency would be hit with the biggest cut at 47 percent, followed by the Homeland Security Department (31 percent), Commerce (23 percent), Energy (17 percent), and Interior (15 percent).

The National Institutes of Health, which funds more research than any other civilian agency, would also lose about 13 percent of its research budget, and the National Science Foundation, which supports the majority of the government’s non-medical academic research, would have its funding cut about 9 percent.

Notably, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, housed within Homeland Security, would see its research budget roughly double amid significant cuts across the rest of the department.

Despite the sweeping cuts to federal innovation budgets, the proposal offered concrete numbers on agencies’ investments in the administration’s top tech priorities.

For 2020, the White House requested $430 million to support quantum computing research within the Pentagon, Energy, NSF and National Institute of Standards and Technology. The proposal also included some $850 million to help Energy, NIH, NSF and NIST advance artificial intelligence.

The proposal didn’t include specific funding numbers for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which today conducts the majority of the government’s AI research.