The White House on issued a four-page memo telling federal agencies that their research dollars should be focused on delivering short-term dividends in strengthening national defense and border security, the economy, and “energy dominance,” as well as improving public health.
The memo says achieving those goals should not require additional spending, and that agencies should focus primarily on basic science, and then step aside as quickly as possible to let industry pursue any results that show commercial promise.
Those requests are due next month for the 2019 fiscal year that starts in October 2018. (Congress has yet to act on the budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; most observers expect lawmakers to extend current spending levels well into the new fiscal year.)
The memos typically don’t change much from year to year. But this is the first one from the new Trump administration.
And it comes even as the White House lacks a presidential science adviser and OSTP director. It’s co-signed by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and Michael Kratsios, a deputy assistant to the president, who since March has also been acting as OSTP's head.
The memo lists five priority areas (in this order): military superiority, security, prosperity, energy dominance, and health. Each is prefaced by the word “American” in keeping with the administration’s approach to branding issues.
The phrase “basic research” appears only in connection with prosperity, the third target area.
Agencies are told to “continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research” to promote “emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, biometrics, energy storage, gene editing, machine learning, and quantum computing.”
Even then, however, agencies are directed to “reduce funding overlaps with industry in later-stage research, development, and deployment of [these] technologies.”
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