Science, medical research to suffer under Trump’s proposed budget cuts
(CNN) – Although the details are scarce, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” (PDF), paints a dramatic picture for the American science and medical communities that is facing huge potential budget cuts.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a civics class, the Constitution states that it’s Congress that gets to decide how to spend the government’s money and how to tax its citizens, so this proposal is not the final word on what goes and what stays. But a President essentially starts the conversation, and for many scientists, it’s not a happy topic.
The National Institutes of Health budget would be cut by $5.8 billion, meaning it would lose about 20%. The Environmental Protection Agency would face $2.6 billion in cuts, that’s 31% of the agency’s budget.
The Department of Energy would lose $900 million, or about 20% of its budget. Health and Human Services would see a $15.1 billion or 18% budget cut; as part of that, it shifts costs to industry from the Food and Drug Administration budget. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would face an 18% budget cut.
It’s unclear what would happen to the National Science Foundation. That agency gives out more than $7 billion annually in research grants, accounting for about 20% of federal support to academic institutions for basic research, but didn’t get a mention in the budget.
NASA would see a smaller cut by comparison — a 0.8% decrease from the 2017 budget — but its Earth Sciences projects would lose about $200 million, and its Office of Education would be dropped.
Gone could be the money for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which cuts carbon pollution from power plants, and more than 50 other programs at that agency alone. The proposal cuts the funds for Superfund cleanup and ditches funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is working to clean up the resource that 35 million Americans rely on for their drinking water.
It also would eliminate the fund that is helping clean up Chesapeake Bay. That program was the largest restoration effort for a body of water in American history and is only halfway through.
The budget suggests that states should shoulder those costs.
The proposal doesn’t give a specific funding figure for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it says it would reform the CDC to give states more control over public health by creating a $500 million block grant that would “increase state flexibility and focus on the leading public health challenges to each state.” Experts say that could suggest that states would get the funding, as opposed to the federal agency.
The Alliance for a Stronger FDA appreciated that the proposal “recognizes that FDA’s process for reviewing medical products needs resources at least as great as the current level of funding.” However, it suggested that the funding mechanism of cutting more than a third of the agency’s appropriation and offsetting it with medical product industry user fees “is neither wise nor realistic.”
The American Medical Association “has grave concerns with proposed deep cuts to the NIH and their impact on patient health. Patients across the country who benefit from NIH research and advancements can attest to its value,” said Dr. Andrew W. Gurman, president of the association, in a statement. “NIH conducts vital research into cancer, chronic diseases, and other illnesses, all of which are major drivers of health care costs.”
“The proposed reduction in NIH funding of $5.8 billion would represent a significant setback for millions of American cancer patients, survivors and their families. It would also dramatically constrain the prospect for breakthrough American medical innovation — an essential American economic driver,” said a statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
“We are at the cusp of tremendous breakthroughs in cancer research, making it exactly the wrong moment to turn back the clock on progress against a disease that continues to kill more than 1,650 people a day in this country.”
“Unfortunately, this budget proposal fails to make those investments (in biomedical and health services research) and would make America less great by undermining our commitment to science, medical and health services research, medical education, and research on climate change,” a statement from the American College of Physicians said.
America’s Essential Hospitals, one of the professional associations that represents health systems and hospitals, was also critical. “The cumulative effect of this budget and the (GOP health care bill) could be to undermine the ability of essential hospitals to meet their commitment to patients and communities and weaken efforts to respond to existing and emerging threats to the public health,” the statement said.