White House Includes Space in Top 5 Research Priorities

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. ( Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration has included space research and development to support returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 under NASA’s Artemis program among its top R&D priorities for fiscal year 2021, according to a White House memo.

“Departments and agencies should prioritize in-situ resource utilization on the Moon and Mars, cryogenic fuel storage and management, in-space manufacturing and assembly, and advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities,” the memo said.

“Departments and agencies should also prioritize activities that ensure an industrial base for commercial activity in space and that will broadly speed private-sector progress in meeting stated Government goals and furthering the space economy,” the document added.

“Finally, departments and agencies should seek opportunities to work with advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and machine learning capabilities that have broad potential applications in space and on Earth,” the memo said.

The directive was sent out to federal departments and agencies by: Russell T. Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The administration’s four other top R&D priorities include: national security; energy and environmental leadership; health and bioeconomic innovation; and industries of the future (artificial intelligence, quantum information science, computing, advanced manufacturing and advanced communications networks).

Under national security, the Trump Administration included “offensive and defensive hypersonic weapons capabilities, resilient national security space systems” among its priorities.

“Departments and agencies should prioritize investments in space weather R&D according to the 2019 National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan and, where applicable, pay specific attention to improving research to operations and operations to research capabilities,” the memo added.

The administration also prioritized R&D into what it called Earth systems predictability.

Knowing the extent to which components of the Earth system are practicably predictable -from individual thunderstorms to long-term global change-is vitally important for physical understanding of the Earth system, assessing the value of prediction results, guiding Federal investments, developing effective policy, and improving predictive skill,” the memo stated.

“Departments and agencies should prioritize R&D that helps quantify Earth system predictability across multiple phenomena, time, and space scales,” the document added. “Additionally, agencies should emphasize how measures of and limits to predictability, both theoretical and actual, can inform a wide array of stakeholders.

“They also should explore the application of AI and adaptive observing systems to enhance predictive skill, along with strategies for obtaining substantial improvements in computational model performance and spatial resolution across all scales,” the memo said.

The administration’s top R&D priorities are below. Read the full memo here.

Fiscal Year 2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities

American Space Exploration and Commercialization

R&D investments should continue to leverage efforts underway at American universities and in the private sector and focus on ensuring American leadership in space by supporting the Trump Administration’s call for a return of Americans to the Moon’s surface by 2024 and utilizing the Moon as a proving-ground for a future human mission to Mars.

Departments and agencies should prioritize in-situ resource utilization on the Moon and Mars, cryogenic fuel storage and management, in-space manufacturing and assembly, and advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities. Departments and agencies should also prioritize activities that ensure an industrial base for commercial activity in space and that will broadly speed private-sector progress in meeting stated Government goals and furthering the space economy. Finally, departments and agencies should seek opportunities to work with advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and machine learning capabilities that have broad potential applications in space and on Earth.

American Security

The 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for leadership in research, technology, invention, and innovation to “ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.’ As adversaries leverage emerging and disruptive technologies to threaten the Nation, it is imperative that we invest in R&D to remain at the leading edge of S&T, maintain military superiority, remain agile in the face of existing and new threats, and keep the American people safe.

Advanced Military Capabilities: Relevant departments and agencies should invest in R&D to deliver the advanced military capabilities that will help meet emerging threats and protect American security into the future, including offensive and defensive hypersonic weapons capabilities, resilient national security space systems, and modernized and flexible strategic and nonstrategic nuclear deterrent capabilities.

Critical Infrastructure Resilience: Departments and agencies should invest in critical infrastructure R&D that improves resilience to natural disasters and physical threats, including extreme terrestrial events, cyber and electromagnetic pulse attacks, and exploitation of supply chain vulnerabilities. Departments and agencies should prioritize investments in space weather R&D according to the 2019 National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan and, where applicable, pay specific attention to improving research to operations and operations to research capabilities.

Semiconductors: Departments and agencies, working in collaboration with industry and academic partners where appropriate, should prioritize investments that will enable whole of government access to trusted and assured microelectronics for future computing and storage paradigms, consistent with the Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain.

Critical Minerals: The Executive Order on a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals identifies innovation and R&D as key to reducing vulnerabilities and building supply chain resilience for rare earths and critical minerals. Priorities include developing recycling and reprocessing technologies, identifying substitute materials, and developing new and improved processes for critical mineral extraction, separation, refining, and alloying.

American Leadership in Industries of the Future

The Trump Administration continues to prioritize the technologies that power Industries of the Future (IotF). These industries promise to fuel American prosperity, improve quality of life and national security, and create high-paying jobs for American workers. Sustained, strategic R&D investment in these emerging technologies and the materials, manufacturing, and computing that support them will advance American S&T leadership in the short term and catalyze discoveries and innovations that will shape the global S&T landscape for the decades ahead.

Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Information Science, and Computing: Departments and agencies should prioritize basic and applied research investments that are consistent with the 2019 Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence and the eight strategies detailed in the 2019 update of the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan. Consistent with the 2018 National Quantum Initiative AcP and the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, departments and agencies should prioritize R&D advancing fundamental QIS, building and strengthening the workforce, engaging industry, and providing infrastructure supporting QIS while coordinating relevant activities to ensure intelligence, defense, and civilian efforts grow synergistically. In terms of computing, departments and agencies should work together to explore new applications in and support R&D for high performance future computing paradigms, fabrication, devices, and architectures alongside sustainable and interoperable software; data maintenance and curation; and appropriate security.

Advanced Communications Networks and Autonomy: Departments and agencies should support the development and deployment of advanced communications networks by prioritizing R&D consistent with the National Spectrum R&D Strategy. They should prioritize R&D to lower barriers to the deployment of surface, air, and marine autonomous vehicles with a focus on developing operating standards, integration approaches, traffic management systems, and defense/security operations. Departments and agencies should prioritize R&D that enables electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing and civil supersonic aircraft, including for type certification, the creation of over-land supersonic flight noise standards, and low-sonic-boom aircraft research.

Advanced Manufacturing: Department and agency R&D investments should support the goals in the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report, Strategies for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing. Priorities include smart and digital manufacturing and advanced industrial robotics, especially systems enabled by the industrial internet of things, machine learning, and AI. Departments and agencies should focus on methods for low-cost distributed manufacturing and continuous manufacturing, including investments in bio-based manufacturing to ensure domestic access to needed medicines.

American Energy and Environmental Leadership

Advancing energy technologies, understanding our unexplored ocean and expanding use of ocean data, and improving our Earth system prediction capabilities are Administration priorities that will enhance the nation’s economic vitality, national security, and environmental quality.

Energy: Departments and agencies should invest in early-stage, innovative research and technologies that show promise for harnessing American energy resources safely and efficiently, inclusive of nuclear, renewable, and fossil energy. Federally funded energy R&D should continue to reflect an increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization of energy production and storage technologies, including supporting user facilities that can improve multisector collaboration. Relevant department and agencies should invest in nuclear energy R&D, including further development of advanced reactor technologies and reestablishing an American fast neutron irradiation capability through the versatile advanced test reactor.

Oceans: Departments and agencies should prioritize new and emerging technologies and collaborative approaches to efficiently map, explore, and characterize the resources of the U.S. exclusive economic zone. Departments and agencies should also focus on processing and making publically available data that characterize natural resources and human activities and on R&D that improves understanding of and supports effective responses to changes in the ocean system.

Earth System Predictability: Knowing the extent to which components of the Earth system are practicably predictable -from individual thunderstorms to long-term global change-is vitally important for physical understanding of the Earth system, assessing the value of prediction results, guiding Federal investments, developing effective policy, and improving predictive skill. Departments and agencies should prioritize R&D that helps quantify Earth system predictability across multiple phenomena, time, and space scales. Strategic coordination and leveraging of resources across agencies on research and modeling efforts is needed to accelerate progress in this area. Additionally, agencies should emphasize how measures of and limits to predictability, both theoretical and actual, can inform a wide array of stakeholders. They also should explore the application of AI and adaptive observing systems to enhance predictive skill, along with strategies for obtaining substantial improvements in computational model performance and spatial resolution across all scales.

American Health & Bioeconomic Innovation

American medical and biotechnology breakthroughs have enhanced the quality and longevity of life for countless people around the world. The Trump Administration continues to focus R&D on key research breakthroughs and solutions that improve the health of our veterans and individuals of all ages, while enabling new opportunities in the Bioeconomy.

Biomedicine: Departments and agencies should prioritize R&D investments aimed at combatting the opioid crisis, rapid detection and containment of infectious diseases, anti-microbial resistance, chronic disease prevention and treatment, gene therapy, neuroscience, medical countermeasures and public health preparedness, eradicating HIV/ AIDS once and for all, and enhancing the independence, safety, and wellness of aging Americans and individuals with disabilities. Departments and agencies should coordinate and collaborate with each other and with public and private stakeholders to ensure that existing and new sources of medical and health-related data are handled in the best interest of patients with regards to security, interoperability, privacy, accessibility, and portability.

Veteran Health and Wellness: The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) directs research on the social determinants of health and underlying risk factors to prevent veteran suicide. Departments and agencies should identify R&D investments, consistent with the Executive Order on a National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Suicide, that focus on cohesive, cross-agency efforts; leverage data sharing and integration to derive new insights into brain health and suicide from existing studies or data sets; and seek opportunities for immediate knowledge translation and real-world application.

Bioeconomy: The American Bioeconomy represents the infrastructure, innovation, products, technology, and data derived from biologically-related processes and science that drive economic growth, promote health, and increase public benefit. The increasing economic value and public benefits derived from the research, innovation, and applications in the biological and agricultural sciences need to be better measured, promoted, and safeguarded. Departments and agencies should prioritize evidence-based standards and research to rapidly establish microorganism, plant, and animal safety and efficacy for products developed using gene editing, to better accelerate biotechnology product adoption and socially responsible use. Additionally, departments and agencies should focus on R&D that enables biotechnology, omics, scientific collections, biosecurity, and data analytics to drive economic growth across multiple sectors including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and agriculture.