The White House yesterday released its annual guidance to agencies on priorities for R&D budgets. The memo, signed by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Deputy U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, outlines a set of priorities for Federal science agencies to consider as they put together their FY19 budgets:
+ American Military Superiority
+ American Security
+ American Prosperity
+ American Energy Dominance
+ American Health
The budget also outlines some priority practices for the agencies in order to “maximize impact of taxpayer dollars.” In particular, in bold text the memo states: “When considering new research programs, agencies should ensure that the proposed programs are based on sound science, do not duplicate existing R&D efforts, and have the potential to contribute to the public good. Agencies should also identify existing R&D programs that could progress more efficiently through private sector R&D, and consider their modification or elimination where Federal involvement is no longer needed or appropriate. To the extent possible, quantitative metrics to evaluate R&D outcomes should be developed and utilized for all Federal R&D programs.”
The memo also notes that because early-stage research often involves greater uncertainty and may not provide the economic incentive needed to attract private sector investment, agencies should give more priority to funding basic and early-stage applied research that, “supplemented by private sector financing of later-stage R&D, can result in the development of transformative commercial products and services.” How the agencies are supposed to identify that high-payoff early-stage research isn’t specified.
The memo also describes the nation’s need for a future-focused workforce and calls on agencies to incorporate STEM education, “including computer science education” into their programs. Agencies should also give priority to policies and actions that place an emphasis on expanding the STEM workforce “to include all Americans, both urban and rural, and including women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”
So, it’s a pretty typical set of priorities for a Republican administration. The memo is most useful to the agencies for understanding the filter through which they need to pitch their programs in FY19 to OMB. Computing research is clearly relevant to all of the named priorities. But the memo also makes clear that the era of increased scrutiny of science expenditures “in the national interest” persists, and that the expectation will be for leaner, more-efficient investments rather than broader, more robust investments.
Read it all here.