Solar geoengineering (SG) may be a helpful tool to reduce harms from climate change, yet further research into its potential benefits and risks must occur prior to any implementation. So far, however, organized research on SG has been absent from the U.S. national policy agenda. We apply the Multiple Streams Approach analytical framework to explain why a U.S. federal SG research program has failed to materialize up to now, and to consider how one might emerge in the future. We argue that establishing a federal program will require the formation of an advocacy coalition within the political arena that is prepared to support such a policy objective. A coalition favoring federal research on SG does not presently exist, yet the potential nucleus of a future political grouping is evident in the handful of ‘pragmatist’ environmental organizations that have expressed conditional support for expanded research.