Washington and Social Science: The President’s Decimation of Social Science


After a temporary government shutdown, Congress cleared another continuing resolution to keep the government funded at existing levels through March 23. The CR also included an overall “Bipartisan Budget Agreement” that lifts spending caps and sets overall funding levels for both defense and non-defense discretionary levels for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.  The House also approved several bills related to financial services, nutrition information, sex trafficking, and consumer access to credit. The Senate debated but failed to achieve cloture on several crime, gun control and immigration-related bills, and confirmed several Executive and Judicial Branch nominations. The president submitted to Congress his fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.

Social Science news bulletinAnother Brief Shutdown…Followed by Bipartisanship!

After a five-and-one-half hour government shutdown that began at midnight on February 9, Congress approved and the President signed yet another short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March 23.  This time, however, a bipartisan nugget was attached – the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (2018 BBA).  This agreement lifts the existing caps on discretionary spending and sets new funding levels for defense and non-defense spending for two fiscal years – 2018 and 2019.

Now come the details!  By March 23, Congress must enact an Omnibus Appropriations Act to provide funding to federal agencies and programs through the end of fiscal year 2018 (September 30, 2018).  The 2018 BBA provides an increase in non-defense domestic discretionary spending of $63 billion in FY 2018 and $68 billion in FY 2019. This should provide an incentive for appropriations negotiators to provide additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Medical research organizations have been advocating for an additional $2 billion in funding for the NIH, and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) is renewing its original request of $8 billion for NSF, an amount that is roughly $500 million above the current level and $700 million above the amount approved by the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Despite the enactment of the 2018 BBA, House and Senate Republican and Democratic negotiators have considerable differences on both funding and policy issues embedded within the appropriations bills.  At this juncture, it is uncertain if they will be able to enact an Omnibus bill in time to avert yet another government shutdown on March 23.

President proposes more research funding for NSF…but an 11 percent cut for SBE!

On February 12, President Trump submitted to Congress his broad budget proposal for fiscal year 2019.  This initial budget submission included few details, other than a restoration of the cuts that the Administration originally proposed for NSF. These proposed cuts were restored largely due to the enactment of the 2018 BBA, which increased overall spending levels for non-defense discretionary spending.

However, on February 28, the administration released more detailed budget documents proposing specific funding levels for specific accounts at NSF. While the administration is proposing a 2 percent increase in fiscal year 2019 for the NSF’s “research and related activities” account, it is also proposing a 9.1 percent cut for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate.  When factoring out the appropriation for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), which is flat-funded in the budget, the programs at SBE would actually experience an 11.2 percent cut!

Of course, Congress will have the final say on the fiscal year 2019 budget.  CNSF continues to vigorously advocate for higher levels of funding for NSF and equal treatment of its research directorates.

President’s Budget Seeks 5 Percent Cut in Education Spending

The president’s fiscal year 2019 request for the Department of Education includes a $3.6 billion cut to the department’s budget, which is roughly 5 percent below existing levels. The budget proposes $1 billion to create a new “opportunity grants” program that states could use to help create and expand private school voucher programs.

While these proposed cuts are significantly less than last year’s budget proposal (thanks to the 2018 BBA’s increase in discretionary spending), the budget proposes eliminating several core programs, including Title II, which provides training and professional development to both teachers and principals.  The budget also proposes eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides financial support to after-school programs.

As with other proposals in the president’s budget, Congress has the ultimate final say on these programs and is unlikely to improve them wholesale!

In the News…

“The Science of Fake News” | Science magazine, March 9

“And Then They Came For the Social Scientists” | Union of Concerned Scientists (blog), February 21

“Trump rescinds planned 30% budget cut at NSF” | By Jeff Mervis at Science magazine, February 12

“Why an Update of Higher Ed’s Sweeping Framework Could Be Years Away”Chronicle of Higher Education, February 6

Upcoming Hearings and Briefings

Full Committee Hearing – An Overview of the National Science Foundation Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2019

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

March 15, 10 a.m. EDT

2318 Rayburn (will also be live-streamed)

“In The Age Of Inequality, Does Public Schooling Make A Difference?”

Sponsored by the American Academy of Political and Social Science and The American Educational Research Association

Thursday, March 22, 2018 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT

385 Russell Senate Building

Late Night Quotable

Snapchat is laying off 100 employees. A spokesperson for the company said, “It’s weird, it’s like they were here a second ago and they just disappeared.”

Conan O’Brien, March 7

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has announced he will invest $125 million in a research lab to teach artificial intelligence machines common sense. And if it works, they’re going to try it with Congress and gun laws.

James Corden, March 5

On Friday night there was a cyber-attack in Pyeongchang. Someone attacked the official Olympic website and took out Wi-Fi in the stadium during the opening ceremonies, which was devastating. Thousands of people had to wait until they got back to their hotels to post to Instagram.

Jimmy Kimmel, February 12


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Mark Vieth

Mark Vieth is a senior vice president of the Washington government relations firm CRD Associates. Since he joined CRD in 2002, he has specialized in bringing diverse associations, foundations, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders together to advocate for common objectives. Before that, Vieth was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, including serving as chief of staff for then-Congressman Robert A. Borski of Pennsylvania.

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