DC Digest – March 16, 2017

Duke University
In Today’s Issue:

The White House released its “skinny budget” today at 7 am.  A routine exercise with new, incoming Administrations, this document provides a snapshot into the White House thinking on federal budget priorities. Short on details, it offers a preview of the traditional budget request expected to be released in mid-May.  In terms of overall numbers, the FY 18 skinny budget requests that Congress boost defense spending by some $52 billion while cutting discretionary spending across the rest of the government.

Read Entire Budget Document Here.


A president’s budget is more of a wish list than anything else, and this blueprint will face tough scrutiny in the congressional appropriations process, which turns the budget request into law.

It is important to remember that the President’s budget is the initial step in the federal budget and appropriation process (For a refresher on that process, check out this post from last spring). Before any spending is finalized the House and Senate must pass spending bills for the President to sign. Many members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – have expressed skepticism about the budget, even before it was announced and today’s release will increase those doubts. There is bipartisan concern about the proposed budget and the office of Government Relations (OGR) will work closely with faculty and representatives in Congress to make sure our voices are heard and understood.

While there is a long road to a final spending bill, this proposal is an important bellwether for how Trump and his administration view the federal budget and government spending.

Budget Items of Note

  • NIH (National Institutes of Health) cut by $5.8 billion.
    • o  Reduces the NIH’s spending relative to the 2017 annualized CR level by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion. Though details are scarce, the budget includes a major reorganization of the NIH’s Institutes and Centers to help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities, and proposes other consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities. The budget also reduces administrative costs and rebalances Federal contributions to research funding.
  • Department of Education:
    • Pell Grants are level funded, and there are cuts to
    • Federal Work Study is cut and the SEOG program is eliminated.
    • International Education programs at ED on a list for “reduction or elimination.”
  • NOAA down $250M.
    • Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education, including Sea Grant.
  • Department of Energy:
    • ARPA – E at the Department of Energy is eliminated.
    • Office of Science – $900 million reduction.
  • EPA cut by 31% and research budget cut in half.
    • Targets EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) at a level of approximately $250 million, which would result in a savings of $233 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. ORD would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants.
  • NASA overall funding stable – but cuts of $102 million to Earth Science and eliminates the $115 million budget for Office of Education as space exploration is prioritized.
  • National Endowments for the Humanities, Arts and, and Corporation for Community and Public Service (AmeriCorps) are eliminated.

The budget proposed by the Administration lacks the funding and initiative to support continued investments in research and many of the programs central to Duke’s relationship with the federal government. This is a major concern and something the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and the many members of the university community will address as a priority in the coming year.

Over the last six weeks members of the Duke faculty and administration have met with members of congress and their staffs to discuss a number of funding and policy issues. In the coming weeks and months those meetings will continue and increase in numbers and intensity. The goal is to maintain and increase, where possible, funding for research and programs that support Duke’s faculty and students.

The OGR encourages Duke community engagement and involvement in these issues and welcomes the opportunity to meet with groups of faculty, staff, departments and individuals to discuss the current federal landscape and ideas for elevating Duke’s visibility and priorities in Washington.


It should also be noted that the White House also submitted its FY17 supplemental appropriations request today, asking for more money for the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, while also “recommending” Congress cuts $18 billion from non-defense discretionary programs to offset this bump. As a reminder, the FY 17 budget is still unresolved, operating under a Continuing Resolution until April 28, 2017.


This is the first step in the process.