Trump R&D Priorities Include Military Space Systems

Trump R&D Priorities Include Military Space Systems

Two White House offices issued guidance to federal agencies today in formulating their FY2019 budget requests on the Trump Administration’s research and development (R&D) priorities.  Civil space activities are not on the list, but military space systems are briefly mentioned.

The 4-page memorandum was signed by Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Michael Kratsios, identified on the memo as Deputy Assistant to the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).   Mulvaney, a former congressman, was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate. No one has been nominated yet to serve as head of OSTP and science adviser to the President.  Kratsios joined the Trump White House as Deputy Chief Technology Officer. Previously he was principal and chief of staff at Thiel Capital.

Five R&D priority areas are identified in the memo:

  • American Military Superiority
  • American Security
  • American Prosperity
  • American Energy Dominance
  • American Health

Included in the military superiority category is direction that agencies should invest in R&D that “can support the military of the future” including “hypersonic weapons and defenses, autonomous and space-based systems.”

Space otherwise is not mentioned.  The flavor of the memo is that the government should invest in basic research and early stage, innovative technologies, avoiding overlap with the private sector in later-stage R&D.  “By providing the fundamental building blocks of new technological advances, the Government can empower the private sector to accelerate discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Critics point out that there is no mention of climate research and some of what is promoted in the memo is at odds with the President’s FY2018 budget request currently being debated in Congress.

One example is STEM education.  In a paragraph devoted to “Developing a Future-Focused Workforce,” the memo calls on agencies to “incorporate STEM education” into their programs.

The pending FY2018 Trump budget request, however, would terminate the education offices at both NASA and NOAA.

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