Source: AIP | August 7, 2018

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

OSTP is located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is adjacent to the White House. (Image credit – General Services Administration)

The White House’s latest annual R&D priorities memorandum again instructs federal agencies to prioritize “basic and early-stage applied research.”It also includes new sections on advanced computing, manufacturing, space exploration, agriculture, and technology commercialization.

On July 31, the White House issued its annual memorandum identifying the Trump administration’s latest R&D priorities. Written jointly by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the memo provides guidance to federal agencies as they prepare their submissions for President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, which is due for release in February.

The memo is organized around themes similar to those used in last year’s version, again putting national security priorities first and directing agencies to prioritize “basic and early-stage applied research.” It also identifies several new R&D priority areas, ranging from advanced manufacturing to precision agriculture.

In past administrations, the directors of OMB and OSTP have generally both signed off on the memos. As OSTP still lacks a director, the top political appointee in the office, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, has signed the Trump administration’s memos along with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. The day after the White House released this year’s version, Trump announced meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier as his pick for OSTP director.

Quantum science, artificial intelligence, and manufacturing among top priorities

The memo has eight sections that describe “R&D priority areas,” three more than last year.

The section devoted to national security again identifies microelectronics, hypersonic weapons, autonomous systems, and a modernized nuclear arsenal as key technologies for maintaining U.S. military superiority. Investment in surveillance technologies to secure U.S. borders likewise remains a priority. Mitigating the effects of natural hazards and human attacks is also mentioned again, but with a new reference to enhancing natural disaster preparedness through investments in “geospatial decision support tools and innovative approaches to improve weather prediction.”

The section on “Energy Dominance” is largely unchanged from last year. It directs agencies to focus their efforts on “early-stage” technologies and ensure that federal energy R&D investments “continue to reflect an increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization of energy technologies.” The section does include a new reference to investing in user facilities as a way of improving collaboration with industry and academia.

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