4/03/2017 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed visited Brown University for a firsthand look at how some of Rhode Island’s  leading researchers are using federal funding to develop cutting-edge clean energy technologies.  He also warned that if the Trump Administration’s deep budget cuts to science, medical, energy, and technology research are implemented, they could result in the loss of thousands of jobs, stall innovation, and threaten important scientific breakthroughs.

According to President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, which was released last month, every single science-related agency except the National Nuclear Security Administration would have its budget slashed.  Steep cuts to several programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the U.S. Commerce Department and other federal agencies would be implemented to fund a $54 billion increase in the defense budget.  These cuts will hurt Rhode Island and our nation.

The proposed Trump budget cuts National Institutes of Health (NIH) research by 20 percent; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research by almost 40 percent, and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research into electricity generation by 50 percent.  It eliminates entire programs that have been proven successful in Rhode Island and elsewhere, such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and NOAA’s Sea Grant program.

Reed noted that the impact of the so-called ‘Trump skinny budget’ on Rhode Island universities and hospitals will be tens of millions of dollars in lost research funding.  Rhode Island universities received more than $150 million in nationally competitive funding from NIH last year, and more than $40 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

“Whether it’s at Brown, URI, or elsewhere, innovation fuels economic growth.  But President Trump’s proposal to gut scientific research projects and America’s R&D budget would impede innovation and technological progress.  It would cost thousands of jobs in the short-term and lead to even greater costs in the long-term,” said Senator Reed.  “We have made key investments at the federal level to ensure that Rhode Island is an attractive place to research, develop, commercialize, and make new products and cutting-edge technologies.  The Trump budget would not only jeopardize this progress, it could harm America’s economic competitiveness and drive more jobs overseas.”

During the tour, Senator Reed saw firsthand how Brown University is using $3.8 million in competitive federal grant funding from ARPA-E to design and build new energy systems that turn the energy of the tides into clean, renewable electricity.  ARPA-E is a federal program that specializes in funding high-risk, high-reward projects in renewable energy and efficiency.

Reed also viewed a project led by led by Dr. Nitin Padture, a professor of materials engineering and the director of Brown’s Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation, who has made major breakthroughs on advanced materials for solar energy- work that would make solar cells cheaper and more powerful.  This is another research investment that received federal support in the form of a $4 million competitive grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Research at Brown is helping to advance America’s progress in the field of renewable energy,” Brown President Christina Paxson said. “This is just one of a multitude of projects at Brown and other leading U. S. universities that reflect this country’s investment in research to address societal and global challenges.”

“From research into tidal energy and solar cells, to nano-manufacturing, to the genetics of cancer and ALS, the federally funded research at Brown helps improve the wellbeing of Americans, fuel economic development, and increase the country's international competitiveness,” Paxson continued.

Senator Reed, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, added: “The promising work being done here at Brown University shows the importance of innovation, collaboration, and investing in, and learning from, basic science research. I’ve seen the same kind of research and development at the University of Rhode Island, but you need federal funding so great minds can team up with the private sector on major scientific breakthroughs. Together, we are building an innovation pipeline that combines research, education, and job-creating enterprises to help solve clean energy challenges and strengthen our economy.”

Senator Reed says it is short-sighted and will cost America more in the long run if the Trump Administration shortchanges scientific and medical research today.  Reed notes that President Trump’s budget proposes cutting funding for:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget cut by 18 percent, or about $15 billion.  This includes a $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the federal agency that supports the vast majority of the biomedical science conducted in the United States, a 20 percent reduction.  More than 80 percent of NIH’s budget goes to grants for universities and research centers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cut by 31 percent, or $5.7 billion.  Over 50 programs would be eliminated altogether, including grants that help states and cities prevent pollution.  The EPA Office of Research and Development would be cut by $233 million, or almost 40 percent.

The U.S. Commerce Department cut by 16 percent, or about $1.4 billion, including eliminating the $73 million Sea Grant program, which operates at the University of Rhode Island, and would lead to a $2 million cut locally.  It would also cut $250 million from coastal research programs that help Rhode Island and other coastal states ready communities for rising seas and more extreme storms. 

In addition, President Trump’s budget would cut about half the current-year funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) before eliminating them in 2018.  EDA provides targeted grants, such as the $1.7 million EDA grant to help establish a technology business incubator in Newport that will foster start-ups and help create 108 jobs.  Rhode Island received $750,000 in federal MEP funds last year to continue supporting the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership.  Based in Providence, Polaris MEP is a statewide non-profit organization that provides manufacturing business improvement programs to help the state’s manufacturing industry become more competitive and innovative.  Polaris is a business unit of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation and has worked for nearly two decades to provide improvement solutions to over 750 Rhode Island manufacturers.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would take a hit under the Trump budget proposal.  Outside of maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile, all other DOE programs would see a 17.9 percent budget cut.  These include the elimination or ARPA-E, a $900 million reduction from the Office of Science, and a 50 percent cut spread out among the Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Last week, Senator Reed sent President Trump a letter urging him to reverse course on his plan to cut the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2018 budget: “The Department of Energy is a science and technology leader, with an unrivaled network of national laboratories, accelerating innovation in energy, manufacturing and nuclear security,” Reed, and 18 of his Senate colleagues wrote. “Your budget proposal would jeopardize the very science and technology programs that you value, undermining U.S. energy leadership and killing American jobs.”