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White House R&D priorities updated for FY 2020 budget request

August 09, 2018

On July 31, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney distributed a memo outlining eight priority R&D subjects and five practices for leveraging R&D resources more effectively. The White House intends for the memo to serve as guidance in the development of budget submissions from the executive departments and agencies for FY 2020.  Basic and applied research are to be emphasized in the agency R&D plans, which would be a shift from data on recent trends released by the National Science Foundation the day before the Mulvaney memo. NSF found that the development side of R&D in the FY 2017 federal R&D obligations, passed in May of the first year of the Trump administration, increased by 7 percent from the year prior, while research expenditures actually declined by 3 percent.

The research priorities for FY 2020, according to the new OMB memo, should be:

  • “Security for the American people” — emphasizing military superiority, cyber security, border surveillance and weather prediction;
  • Artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences and strategic computing;
  • Communications connectivity and autonomy of driving and unmanned vehicles;
  • Next generation manufacturing, including digital manufacturing, robotics, industrial Internet of Things, machine learning and AI;
  • Space exploration, including research into long-duration spaceflight, in-space manufacturing, cryogenic fuel storage, space-related power and propulsion;
  • “American Energy Dominance” — no specific research priorities are discernible from the memo;
  • Medical innovation — personalized medicine, disease prevention, health promotion and translation, veteran health care and aging populations; and,
  • Agriculture, including precision agriculture, aquatic technologies and input minimization and yield maximization.

The memo’s identification of five R&D priority practices provides guidance for ensuring the necessary elements for federal R&D investments to be most effective. The agencies are to support educating and training workforce in STEM fields, managing and modernizing the R&D infrastructure, improve interagency coordination and cross-disciplinary collaboration, increase technology transfer, and facilitate industry-academia partnerships. 

The president’s FY 2020 budget, in which the memo’s guidance is to be evident, should be released next February.

federal agency r&d, white house, nsf