The underlying theme at the release of the Department of Energy's FY 2006 budget request was the need to rein in federal spending. The total DOE budget would drop 2.0 percent under President Bush's FY 2006 budget request, from $23.9 billion in FY 2005 to $23.4 billion. For DOE's civilian research, the Office of Science (SC) would see its budget reduced by 3.8 percent from FY 2005 funding of $3,599.6 million to $3,462.7 million. The FY 2006 requested amount is, in fact, also 2.0 percent lower than the office's FY 2004 funding. According to DOE documents, much of the reduction comes from the elimination of $79.6 million in congressionally directed earmarks to Biological and Environmental Research, and the reduction to the budget for core SC programs is only 1.6 percent.
In a briefing on the SC request, Office of Science Director Ray Orbach referred several times to the "difficult budget year" and "tight budget situation." He said that, when faced with the need to prioritize, he had made "a conscious decision" to "build new facilities to keep U.S. science at the very forefront" of world scientific leadership. To this end, SC has a number of new facilities beginning operations in FY 2006, and is reducing running times at some existing facilities. Both high energy and nuclear physics would see their budgets cut below both current-year and FY 2004 levels. Also in line for cuts below current-year funding would be Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR), Biological and Environmental Research (BER), Scientific Laboratory Infrastructure, and Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. Basic Energy Sciences (BES) and Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) would receive increases above current-year funding.
Below is a brief summary of the budget request for each of the Office of Science program areas. More information on each of these areas is given in the DOE FY 2006 Budget Highlights document, available at: www.mbe.doe.gov/budget/06budget/Content/Highlights/06_highlights.pdf under Section 3, Science (starting on page 72).
HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS: Down 3.1%, or $22.5 million, from $736.4 million to $713.9 million. Run times would be increased over FY 2005 levels at the Fermilab Tevatron (6% more operating hours) and SLAC (54% more hours). Construction funding is continued for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Europe, which Orbach expects to begin operations in 2008. The BTeV project at Fermilab would be cancelled. An amount of $30 million would be transferred to BES for operation of the SLAC linac.
NUCLEAR PHYSICS: Down 8.4%, or $34.0 million, from $404.8 million to $370.7 million. Run times would be drastically reduced from FY 2005 levels at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (29% fewer hours) and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (61% fewer hours). R&D funding would be reduced for the proposed Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA).
BASIC ENERGY SCIENCES: Up 3.7%, or $41.4 million, from $1,104.6 million to $1,146.0 million. Construction of the Spallation Neutron Source would be completed, and operations started, in FY 2006. Construction would also be completed and operations started on four of the five Nanoscale Science Research Centers, while construction would continue on the fifth. Funding would be increased for the President's Hydrogen Initiative, and there would also be an increase for engineering, design and construction of the next-generation Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC.
FUSION ENERGY SCIENCES: Up 6.1%, or $16.7 million, from $273.9 million to $290.6 million. Funding would increase for U.S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER); FY2006 would be the first year of equipment fabrication for the U.S.'s contribution. Two of the three primary U.S. facilities (DIII-D and Alcator C-Mod) would operate at below FY 2005 levels, while the third facility, the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment would not operate in FY 2006. Fabrication of the National Compact Stellarator Experiment would continue.
BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH: Down 21.7%, or $126.2 million, from $581.9 million to $455.7 million. Funding would increase for the Genomics: GTL program, while funding for the Human Genome and Climate Change programs would be maintained at near FY 2005 levels. Funding of $79.6 million for congressionally-directed projects would be eliminated.
ADVANCED SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING RESEARCH: Down 10.9%, or $25.4 million, from $232.5 million to $207.1 million. Funding would be reduced for the Next Generation Computer Architecture initiative, while new activities would allow evaluation of new computer architectures as tools for science, and two SciDAC institutes at universities.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS AND SCIENTISTS: Down 5.4%, or $0.4 million, from $7.6 million to $7.2 million. The number of teachers supported by the Laboratory Science Teacher Professional Development program would increase over FY 2005, while the number of faculty participating in the Faculty Sabbatical Fellowships and students participating in the Pre-Service Teacher program would be reduced. Support for Science Bowl Teams would also be reduced.
In discussing the budget request, new Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman called DOE's science programs "the part of this job I find in many ways the most exhilarating responsibility." He spoke specifically about the potential of ITER as a project "we're quite enthused about." He also commented that "the impact of science on our economic well-being" is not very well understood by American citizens. He promised to "be a strong proponent" of the science function at DOE, and try to effectively articulate its value to the staff at the White House Office of Management and Budget. He also cautioned that, in the current budget situation, it will be important to find ways of "getting more out of what we spend."