Earlier this month the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a set of science and technology highlights from the Trump Administration's first year. It includes the following claims about last year's science budget:
President Trump demonstrated his commitment to the importance of Federal scientific exploration by requesting $151.2 billion for Federal R&D investment in the FY 2018 budget – a 2% increase over FY 2017. Furthermore, the President’s FY 2018 Budget Request would result in the highest percent of the budget for the conduct of R&D since the FY 2014 Budget Request.
These claims are an attempt to cast last year's science budget in a favorable light – and are mostly untrue. Here's a quick fact-check.
The FY 2018 Budget Would Not Actually Have Increased R&D Spending
The numbers OSTP are using can be found here, in the Analytical Perspectives section of last year's budget, released in May. The second table in that document provides the numbers OSTP is using: $151.2 billion for R&D under its broadest definition in FY 2018, and a two percent increase over FY 2017. Straightforward, right? Unfortunately, no.
However, as we now know, legislators did not simply adopt a full-year continuing resolution last year for FY 2017. In reality, they passed an actual spending omnibus that increased science and technology spending, including a $2 billion increase for NIH and more modest increases for R&D programs at NASA, NOAA, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies. All of these increases were missed by the White House's initial assumption, and in fact ran generally counter to the White House's preferences for domestic spending at the time.
In hindsight, the Administration's updated, broadest estimates of R&D for FY 2017 come out to $155 billion: a much higher number than either their original assumption for FY 2017, or what they proposed for FY 2018. The "two percent increase" is thus only true if one continues to pretend Congress didn't substantially increase the R&D budget in FY 2017, which it did.
Read more here.