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Trump’s Science Wish List Shuns Advanced Manufacturing, the Climate—and His Own Cuts

August 18, 2017

The White House has published a memo telling federal agencies how they should focus their scientific efforts. Here's a rundown of his five priorities and the kinds of associated research that agencies should be funding, in the same order as they're listed in the note:

  • American Military Superiority, particularly "missile defense capabilities, a modern strategic deterrent, hypersonic weapons and defenses, autonomous and space-based systems, trusted microelectronics."
  • American Security, with emphasis on protecting "the Nation’s critical infrastructure from both physical threats and cyber-attacks" and "surveillance and law enforcement capabilities that can detect and interdict illegal activity."
  • American Prosperity, which will be driven by "autonomous systems, biometrics, energy storage, gene editing, machine learning, and quantum computing."
  • American Energy Dominance, through "development of domestic energy sources ... for a clean energy portfolio composed of fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy."
  • American Health, with prioritization of "solutions for an aging population, as well as on combating drug addiction and other public health crises."

Yes, the "American" prefixes are all from the original. It's worth noting that climate science and advanced manufacturing, both priorities for the Obama administration, are conspicuously absent. The memo also urges a focus on basic science, to allow industry to pursue promising new technologies.

Commentators tell Science that the suggestions are at odds with Trump’s own proposed budget cuts. That's perhaps most evident in the case of energy, where agencies are told to "invest in early-stage, innovative technologies that show promise in harnessing American energy resources safely and efficiently." That, however, is exactly the kind of research that's funded by ARPA-E—the very agency that Trump planned to axe in his budget.

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