The fiscal year (FY) 2021 president’s budget request (PBR), A Budget for America’s Future, proposes $4.4 trillion in projected spending cuts over the next 10 years. The request would allow defense spending to rise by $2.5 billion next year, to $740.5 billion, as called for in last summer’s bipartisan budget deal. However, the PBR proposes to cut nondefense discretionary spending instead of allowing for an increase of less than 1 percent. Trump’s request includes only $600 billion for nondefense spending, which amounts to a cut of roughly 5 percent from the FY 2020 level of base nondefense discretionary spending.
Much like previous PBRs, this budget proposes eliminating a number of priority higher education and research programs, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, GEAR UP, Title VI International Education, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Within accounts, the PBR prioritizes artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, and 5G. The budget proposes large increases for key industries, including doubling artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information sciences R&D by 2022 as part of an all-of-government approach.
The administration’s FY 2021 budget documents provide additional information. Below is information collected from the budget request about programs of interest, in alphabetical order by department/agency. This analysis uses FY 2020 as a comparison to the PBR FY 2021 numbers.
It is important to remember that the President’s budget request, while an important policy and political marker, is simply a blueprint, or suggestion—Congress has the constitutional authority to write the spending bills that fund the federal government. Both the House and Senate have begun hearings to consider different aspects of the President’s budget. Top administration officials are testifying before Congress and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will craft the FY 2021 spending bills this summer. Committee consideration of those bills will likely begin even sooner.
III. AGENCY HIGHLIGHTS AND SUMMARY
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)
The President’s Budget Request for FY 2021 prioritizes a modern data network system across USDA, competitive and biodefense research, 4-H and agricultural literacy, and innovations like AI development for agriculture. The budget request boosts the budget for USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) by 11 percent overall, or by $95 million, to $968 million.
Unfortunately, the budget would significantly cut the fundamental capacity programs that keep research stations functioning, provides cooperative funding for county Extension offices, allows for a core group of research and Extension faculty to be employed, furthers basic and applied research for our national forests and supports basic facilities running at the nation’s Land-Grant Universities including 1890 Institutions, and 1994 Tribal Colleges:
- Hatch Act (State Agricultural Experiment Stations): FY 2021 PBR is $243 million, a 6 percent cut (FY 2020 $259 million)
- Smith Lever (Extension Activities): FY 2021 PBR is $299 million, a 5 percent cut (FY 2020 $315 million)
- Evans-Allen (1890s Research and Education): FY 2021 PBR is $54 million, a 19.4 percent cut (FY 2020 $67 million)
- 1890 Institutions Extension Services: FY 2021 PBR is $49 million, a 14 percent cut (FY 2020 $57 million)
- McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry: FY 2021 PBR is $29 million, a 19 percent cut (FY 2020 $36 million)
- Research Grants for 1994 Institutions: FY 2021 PBR is $4 million, a 5 percent increase
It prioritizes competitive research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), supporting it at $600 million, a $175 million (41 percent increase) over FY 2020. This includes $100 million for AI programs to support emerging technologies such as machine learning as applied to agriculture and to enhance application of advanced technology in agricultural systems across all scales of production.
The USDA budget supports the Administration’s initiative to promote excellence and innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by including $10 million for scholarships for students studying agriculture at historically black land-grant institutions. The budget request doesn’t specify levels for competitive grants for facilities and the Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative.
The Budget proposes $1.3 billion for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which conducts in-house basic and applied research. This includes funding for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, currently near completion in Manhattan, Kansas. This state-of-the-art facility will provide the United States the ability to conduct comprehensive research, develop vaccines, and provide enhanced diagnostic capabilities to protect against emerging foreign animal and zoonotic diseases that threaten the nation’s food supply, agricultural economy, and public health. Also, at ARS is the $35 million for new initiatives on precision agriculture research, long-term agroecosystems research, artificial intelligence innovations for agriculture production, and research on managing excess water and controlling erosion.
USDA’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
The FY 2021 Budget requests $7.9 billion for Commerce, a $7.3 billion or 48 percent decrease from FY 2020, including changes in mandatory programs.
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The president requests $327 million for NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), a 40 percent cut from FY 2020 ($548 million). OAR programs provide climate, weather, air chemistry, ocean and coastal research and technology with applications across NOAA’s mission. To accomplish these goals, OAR supports a network of scientists in its federal research laboratories, universities, and cooperative institutes and partnership programs.
While only the appendices have been released, the Commerce summary notes the president’s budget proposes elimination of funding for several “lower priority” NOAA programs, including “Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, Education Grants, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund”. Per the request, “these grant programs generally support State, local, and/or industry interests, and often are not optimally targeted.” The budget does provide $188 million for mapping of the ocean’s vast resources to identify new sources of critical minerals, biopharmaceuticals, and energy, and areas of significant ecological and conservation value.
The Department of Commerce’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DoD)
The PBR would fund DoD Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) at $13.911 billion, a 13.46 percent decrease from FY 2020. The budget proposes $2.319 billion for DoD Basic Research, a 10.91 percent decrease from FY 2020. The DoD’s R-1 programs document includes funding levels for specific research development, test, and evaluation programs.
Under the PBR, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would receive $3.556 billion, a $108 million increase over FY 2020.
DoD’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (ED)
The budget request would provide $66.6 billion in funding for ED, $5.6 billion below the FY 2020 level, an 8 percent cut in education funding.
The budget would maintain the discretionary appropriation of the Pell Grant program at $22.475 billion and retain the maximum Pell award of $6,345. Fortunately, the PBR does not include any rescissions to the Pell Grant program reserve. The PBR proposes expanding Pell Grant eligibility to “high-quality” short-term programs that lead to a credential, certification, or license in a high-demand field and restoring Pell eligibility to some incarcerated individuals, specifically those within five years of likely release. The PBR also proposing moving Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants into the Pell Grant program.
For campus-based aid programs, the PBR would eliminate the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program and significantly cut Federal Work Study (FWS) from $1.1 billion to $500 million. The request would “focus scarce funds on the neediest students,” reforming the funding formula to take into greater consideration an institution’s enrollment of Pell students. The proposal would also target the program to support workforce and career-oriented opportunities and restrict program funds to undergraduate students.
The PBR proposes to drastically restructure most Title III and V programs, with an overall reduction in funding to MSIs totaling approximately $95.4 million. Under the proposal, programs for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs) would be maintained and funding would largely stay the same or see modest increases. Alternatively, programs for other Minority Serving Institutions, including all three programs supporting Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), would be eliminated. Instead, funds for those 11 eliminated programs would be merged into a single Consolidated Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) Grant that would make formula-based awards to institutions serving large numbers of minority students.
Under the PBR, all TRIO and GEAR UP programs would be consolidated into a single block grant program, the TRIO Student Supports Block Grant program, which would receive $950 million. Activities currently funded under the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which makes competitive grants to support migratory students in their first year of college, would also be consolidated into the new block grant program. Under this proposal, TRIO funding would see a reduction of $160 million from FY 2020, $365 million in GEAR UP funding would be eliminated, and funds supporting activities funding through CAMP would be eliminated. In total, the block grant proposed in the PBR would cut more than $545 million in funding dedicated to helping students prepare, enroll, and succeed in postsecondary education.
Further, the PBR eliminates funding for Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN), International Education and Foreign Language Studies programs (Title VI), Funds for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), and Teacher Quality Partnerships.
The PBR requests $565.4 million for the Institute of Education Sciences, $58.1 million less than the FY 2020 level. The request would specifically eliminate funding for Regional Education Laboratories at IES, which support the dissemination of IES-funded research, as well as technical assistance for states. The PBR would also eliminate competitive grant funding to states for developing Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems.
In addition to these funding priorities, the PBR advances a range of policy proposals impacting the Federal student aid programs. First, the PBR proposes an evaluation of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) as a separate organization with a reformed governance structure. The administration argues that an independent FSA could significantly increase FSA’s ability to serve students and taxpayers, and that this new governance model would improve its management, oversight, and administration of the Federal student aid programs.
For student borrowing, the proposal would set aggregate loan limits on both graduate student and parent borrowers. Parent PLUS loans would be capped at $26,500. For dependent students whose parents reach this cap, those students would be eligible to borrow an additional amount up to the independent undergraduate aggregate limit of $57,500. Annual and aggregate limits of $50,000 and $100,000 respectively would be set for graduate students, not counting any undergraduate student borrowing.
The PBR would also make significant changes to the student loan programs and student loan repayment. First, the administration proposes providing one loan option to each type of borrower—undergraduates, graduates, and parents. Through this change, all undergraduate students would be made under the unsubsidized Stafford Loan program, all graduate borrowing would occur under one program with the same terms as the current Graduate PLUS program, and parent borrowing would remain the same, subject to the aggregate cap described above. Subsidized loans for undergraduate students would be eliminated. The PBR also proposes eliminating Account Maintenance Fees (AMFs) made to guarantee agencies.
The PBR proposes simplifying income-driven repayment (IDR) by consolidating existing plans into a single option, setting monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income and eliminating the standard repayment cap for borrowers. Under this proposed IDR plan, undergraduate borrowers would be eligible for forgiveness after 15 years while graduate students would be eligible after 30 years. Severely delinquent borrowers would be auto enrolled into the IDR plan, which the administration says will eliminate default for low-income students. While teacher loan forgiveness programs would be retained, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would be eliminated.
Finally, the PBR would require institutions of higher education to take on some of the financial risk associated with federal student loans. This institutional risk sharing would be based on the loan repayment rates at each college and university.
ED’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (DOE)
The PBR would fund DOE’s Office of Science at $5.8 billion, a more than $1 billion cut from FY 2020. The budget directs the office to focus on early-stage research, operate the national laboratories, and continue high priority construction projects.
For the fourth year in a row, the administration’s FY 2020 budget proposes elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy (ARPA-E) program, citing the “opportunities to integrate the positive aspects of ARPA-E into DOE’s applied energy research programs including through changes to the implementation of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program.” ARPA-E was funded at $425 million in FY 2020.
DOE’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (HHS)
For the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the FY 2021 PBR proposes $38.7 billion, a 7.19 percent decrease from FY 2020. This figure includes $404 million made available through the 21st Century Cures Act. As outlined in the PBR, the request incorporates investments to address several national priorities, “including combatting the opioid epidemic, eradicating HIV, supporting neonatal research, developing novel approaches to treating sickle cell disease, supporting the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, increasing investments to develop a universal influenza vaccine, improving prevention and treatment of tick-borne diseases, continuing the precision medicine initiative, developing new approaches to address chronic disease with artificial intelligence, and establishing a consortium charged with innovating large-scale gene vector production.”
Similar to the FY 2018, 2019, and FY 2020 PBRs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) would be consolidated into NIH as a new institute, the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (DOI)
The PBR restructures USGS from seven to five mission areas. The restructuring of the mission areas zeroes out the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Research Institutes and the USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units.
The PBR includes funding for the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) at $3 million. It is unclear if any funds are available through USDA’s Forest Service program.
DOI’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA)
The PBR requests $25.5 billion for NASA, a 12 percent increase from FY 2020. NASA’s budget provides increases for the “Moon-to-Mars campaign” and allocates funding to support many systems and programs needed to fulfil the Artemis timeline to have an American “on the lunar surface in 2024.”
The NASA Science Mission Directorate would be funded at $6.306 billion, a $599 million decrease from FY 2020. The budget proposal would provide $819 million for the Aeronautics Research and Development Directorate, a $94 million increase from FY 2020. The PBR renames the Space Technology account as “Exploration Technology” to “better reflect the new focus of this account on supporting the Exploration Campaign.” The PBR would fund Exploration Technology at $1.578 billion, $651 million above FY 2020. No funding is requested for NASA STEM Engagement Program, where the Space Grant program is housed. This program received $48 million in FY 2020.
NASA’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES (NEH)
The PBR requests $33.4 million to close the agency, stating that “Activities funded by NEH are not considered core Federal responsibilities.” The agency received an appropriation of $162.3 million in FY 2020.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (NSF)
The PBR requests $7.7 billion for NSF, a 7 percent decrease from FY 2020. NSF’s FY 2021 request supports the administration’s “Industries of the Future” research and development priorities. The budget focuses additional NSF support on artificial intelligence, quantum information science, advanced manufacturing, advanced wireless research, and biotechnology research.
Specifically, the budget proposes $6.213 billion for NSF Research and Related Activities, $524 million below the FY 2020 level. NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would receive $229.75 million under the request, which is $13.48 million below current levels. The PBR proposes $930.93 million for Education and Human Resources, a $9.07 million decrease from FY 2020.
NSF’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE (STATE) AND U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (USAID)
The FY 2021 budget requests $40.8 billion for the Department of State and USAID, an $11.7 billion or 22 percent decrease from FY 2020.
Within the section outlining suggested language for the FY 2021 USAID appropriation, USAID Higher Education receives flat funding of $235 million. Higher Education Partnerships between U.S. higher education institutions and developing countries are provided not less than $35 million in support. Per the request, partnerships should focus on building the capacity of higher education institutions and systems in developing countries. The Feed the Future program is not mentioned in any of the materials related to the budget or the congressional justification.
The budget request for USAID emphasizes protecting the United States and the World from Infectious Disease Through the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and Global Health Programs. The 2021 Budget requests $2,160.1 million in the GHP-USAID account for a comprehensive and integrated approach to improve global health outcomes.
Also of note, the budget request proposes a 52 percent reduction in funding for the Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Exchange programs, despite repeated acknowledgement of the importance of these programs within the PBR given the administration’s concerns with global competition.
The budget requests $3.9 million for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship program, a $12 million decrease from FY 2020. The State Department’s justification documents note that the requested funding for Gilman will provide 700 Pell grantees with the opportunity to “acquire first-hand knowledge of key regions of the world and to master the skills to compete in the international marketplace.”
USAID’s FY 2021 budget document provides additional information.