“If only we could get this it would be terrific” William Brinkman told a meeting of the DOE/NSF Nuclear Science Advisory Committee earlier this month. Brinkman, Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, was briefing the committee on the FY 2012 request. Under this request, the budget for the Office of Science would increase 9.1 percent as compared to the FY 2010 level.
This committee meets periodically, and is one of several advisory committees for various Office of Science programs. Brinkman appeared before this committee for about thirty minutes to provide a “DOE Office of Science Update.”
The outlook on Capitol Hill for a final resolution of the FY 2011 appropriations cycle was unsettled when the committee met, as it is now. The government is currently operating under a sixth short-term funding measure that expires on April 8. The impasse continues, with speculation about a government-wide shut-down again being discussed. “We’re going to have to tighten our belts,” Brinkman predicted. A FY 2011 funding bill passed by the House, which stalled in the Senate, proposed $893.2 million in cuts to the Office of Science budget as compared to the FY 2010 level.
Brinkman’s comments focused on the FY 2012 budget request. He reminded the committee of President Obama’s remarks about the United States facing a “Sputnik moment,” and predicted that future international competition is likely to be heavily oriented toward the development of clean energy. The Office of Science, through its support of research in areas such as the development of new materials, in biological sciences, and the modeling and simulation of CO2 mechanisms is in a position to make significant contributions to the development of clean energy. Concerns about climate change are an impetus for many of these programs, Brinkman stated.
Existing and proposed Energy Innovation Hubs are a way to focus cutting-edge research into areas such as photosynthesis and battery storage. Brinkman touted the strong leadership and real time decision making authority that enable the Hubs to be nimble in the conduct of research.
Brinkman touched on other issues. He expressed confidence in the ITER management team, described the importance of the energy upgrade of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF), described the He-3 shortage as a “major problem,” and spoke of the importance of finding an industrial supplier for Mo-99. Returning to a discussion about FY 2012, he warned “we are facing a tight budget for the next year.” Responding to concerns about the DOE decision to close the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility (HRIBF), Brinkman told the committee that discussions with the Office of Management and Budget were constrained to a two-week period, preventing the formation of a committee to review that decision.