Administration Proposes Major Cuts to Forensic Science Research and Reform Programs

By Steve Pierson posted 07-06-2017 13:18

[3/21/18: The FY18 Omnibus bill contains this language, "the agreement adopts Senate report language regarding forensic sciences." The FY19 request however renews its calls to cut funding for forensic science research at NIST by $6.7 million.]

[7/28/17: The Senate CJS approps subcommittee included funding for forensic science at NIST, from the report language:

Forensic Sciences.-The Committee provides no Jess than the fiscal year 2017 amount for forensic science research. Additionally, the Committee provides $3,000,000 to support the Organization of Scientific Area Committees and $1,000,000 to support technical merit evaluations previously funded by transfer from DOJ.” 

We believe the Senate includes funding for CoE for forensic science based on the overall funding level.]

[7/7/12 update: The House CJS Appropriations subcommittee appears to have agreed to the administration's proposal to cut NIST support for forensic science research and reform. In the House CJS report language out today, The following languages is included under “Standards Coordination and Special Programs,” where forensic science is funded at NIST (where I italicize the key language): 
The recommendation includes $48,750,000 for standards coordination and special programs. The recommendation does not adopt the proposed reduction to Office of Special Programs Management and Program Coordination. Other requested reductions and terminations are adopted, including those requested for Urban Dome and Lab-to-Market.]

The Administration's FY18 Budget Request includes major cuts to ongoing forensic science research and reform programs. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology FY18 congressional budget justification (CBJ) document, the administration proposes to cut the Forensic Science Program Management and Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Support by $2.7 million, stating, 
NIST will no longer support a centrally managed forensic science research program...  NIST will also reduce support for the operation of the OSAC program which was funded by the Department of Justice to facilitate the development and promulgation of consensus-based forensic science standards and guidelines that are fit-for-purpose and based on sound scientific principles, promote their use by accreditation and certification bodies, and establish and maintain working relationships with similar organizations.

The same document acknowledges the impact of the cuts:
This will make coordination of work with the needs of the vast external forensic science community across multiple forensic science disciplines less efficient... The
OSAC program has more than 540 committee members from 49 states representing the forensic science, legal, law enforcement, and research communities. These
programmatic reductions will significantly slow progress toward addressing the significant, unaddressed issues identified by the 2009 National Academies Report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: a Path Forward.

The CBJ document also states the NIST Center of Excellence Program will be cut by $4 million, and specifies
NIST would end funding for the most recently awarded of the three, the Forensic Science Center of Excellence. The center is focused on advancing the development and adoption of probabilistic methods to enhance forensic analysis. 

The proposed cuts are part of a broad swath of cuts to NIST which would see its overall budget cut from $962 million in FY17 to $725 million in FY18. (The Scientific and
Technical Research and Services budget would be cut from $688 million in FY17 to $600 million in FY18.)

The House appropriations subcommittee has marked up its FY18 budget and, according to their press releasefunded NIST at $865 million. The report language is not yet available so we yet don't know the subcommittee's reaction to the proposed forensic science cuts. The press release does state, "important core research activities are funded at $660 million to help advance U.S. competitiveness and economic growth, while lower-priority activities are reduced."

The ASA strongly opposes cuts to these research programs that would have seriously detrimental impacts on our criminal justice system.

For more on the FY18 budget, see these links:
For more on ASA support of forensic science reform, see these blog entries:

See other ASA Science Policy blog entries. For ASA science policy updates, follow @ASA_SciPol on Twitter.