Biden, a Democrat, has sought increases for many agencies in previous years but has run up against opposition among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Biden’s spending proposals for the 2024 fiscal year, which began in October, fared no better: in June 2023, after months of sparring, Democrats and Republicans agreed to spending limits for the 2024 fiscal year ― and for the 2025 fiscal year, likely quashing hopes that additional money will be poured into science.

Even after the June deal, the two sides continued to wrangle over the final numbers for the 2024 fiscal year. On 8 March, the Senate finally approved a spending package that cements the 2024 budget for most of the government’s largest science agencies. The House passed the bill on 6 March, and Biden is expected to sign it into law.

Against that backdrop, Biden’s newly published budget proposal “is nothing more than a showcase for the policies and the spending that the White House would like to pursue if it had the ability to do so, which it doesn’t,” says Michael Lubell, a physicist at the City College of New York in New York City, who tracks federal science-policy issues. “My guess is that none of this is going anywhere.”

Science advocates are already expressing dismay over some aspects of the new White House proposal. For example, the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which was signed into law in 2022 to boost investments in semiconductors and science, authorized up to $35 billion in funding for science and innovation at major science agencies in the 2025 fiscal year, but the White House has requested only $20 billion, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC. Nor has Congress followed through on those commitments.

The political backpedalling on the CHIPS and Science commitments is disappointing, says Joanne Carney, chief government relations officer for the AAAS. “It’s sending a signal to competing nations that we are not taking this seriously.”

Here are the White House’s proposed budget numbers for fiscal year 2025 for some key science-related agencies. Also noted is how each agency’s proposed funding compares to the amount appropriated for the 2024 fiscal year. The exception is for the National Institutes of Health, whose budget is compared to the amount appropriated for the 2023 fiscal year.

National Institutes of Health: $46.4 billion, 0.6% increase

The administration’s request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would keep the agency’s budget nearly flat for what will probably be the second year in a row. Lawmakers are still negotiating how much the NIH will receive in the 2024 fiscal year, but it is unlikely that the agency’s budget will be higher than in 2023. NIH director Monica Bertagnolli acknowledged in December that the 2024 appropriations process will be “painful”, particularly for early-career researchers. “A flat budget is a contracting budget,” she said.

In addition to the $46.4 billion the White House has requested for the agency in 2025, it has also asked for an additional $1.4 billion to support the Cancer Moonshot programme, which aims to at least halve the US cancer death rate in 25 years, and $1.5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which was created in 2022 to fund high-risk, high-reward biomedical research. The White House has also requested that the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the NIH, receive $20 billion for biodefence and pandemic preparedness, of which $2.7 billion would go to the NIH.

But it is unlikely that Congress will fund these additional programmes in full, says Ellie Dehoney, the senior vice president of policy and advocacy at Research!America, a non-profit organization in Arlington, Virginia, that advocates for health research. Overall, “these are disappointing numbers”, Dehoney says. This is not “what the United States needs to stay in the lead” of biomedical research, she says.