Parameters in Place: Senate Appropriators Approve FY 2016 DOE Office of Science Funding Bill

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Publication date: 
26 May 2015
Number: 
69

Funding parameters for the Department of Energy for FY 2016 are largely in place with the approval last Thursday of a $35.4 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  This action follows passage of the counterpart bill by the House of Representatives on May 1. 

Senate appropriators passed the bill by a vote of 26-4.  The $35.4 billion bill increases total funding by $1.2 billion over this year, matching the House-passed bill.  The Obama Administration request was $668 million higher.  Total available funding for FY 2016 for defense and nondefense programs across the federal government is essentially even with this year.

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee is chaired by Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the Ranking Member.  Commenting on this bill, Alexander stated: “Governing is about setting priorities, and this legislation does just that by complying with the spending caps in the Budget Control Act while supporting energy, waterways and national security. The Appropriations Committee’s vote puts us one step closer to doubling basic energy research, strengthening and rebuilding our waterways and ports, removing major obstacles to the use of nuclear power, maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up hazardous materials left over at Cold War facilities. This legislation is also proof that we are getting the Senate working again -- I thank Senator Feinstein for her cooperation on this legislation, and look forward to its consideration on the Senate floor.”

Senate Report 114-54 accompanying this bill provides the appropriators’ funding and policy recommendations for programs within the Office of Science starting on page 88 and a funding table on pages 113-114.  Of particular note is the committee’s decision to recommend no funding for ITER.  Funding levels and excerpts from this report follow:

Total Office of Science:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $5,067.7 million
The FY 2016 request is $5,339.8 million, an increase of $272.1 million or 5.4 percent
The House bill provides $5,100.0 million, an increase of $32.3 million or 0.6 percent
The Senate bill provides $5,143.9 million, an increase of $76.2 million or 1.5 percent

Introductory language discusses the BRAIN Initiative and the Distinguished Scientist Program.

Within the Office of Science are the following selected programs:

Advanced Scientific Computing Research:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $541.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $621.0 million, an increase of $80.0 million or 14.8 percent
The House bill provides $537.5 million, a decrease of $3.5 million or 0.7 percent
The Senate bill provides $621.0 million, an increase of $80.0 million or 14.8 percent

The report explains: “The Committee strongly supports the exascale initiative, which is critical to maintaining our Nation’s global competitiveness and supporting our national security. . . .   The Committee directs, within funds available, the Secretary to broaden the Research Evaluation Prototype program to support the design and development of node, system and application prototypes.  These efforts will support the development of four exascale nodes, three system architecture teams, and teams to develop initial plans for programming exascale applications. Multiple teams are necessary to adequately explore design options.”

Basic Energy Sciences:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $1,733.2 million
The FY 2016 request is $1,849.3 million, an increase of $116.1 million or 6.7 percent
The House bill provides $1,770.3 million, an increase of $37.1 million or 2.1 percent
The Senate bill provides $1,844.3 million, an increase of $111.1 million or 6.4 percent

Report language discusses high-flux neutron sources, light sources, Spallation Neutron Source, Advanced Photon Source Upgrade, exascale systems, nanostructured catalysts, Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, Fuels from Sunlight Hub, and EPSCoR. 

Biological and Environmental Research:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $592.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $612.4 million, an increase of $20.4 million or 3.5 percent
The House bill provides $538.0 million, a decrease of $54.0 million or 9.1 percent
The Senate bill provides $610.0 million, an increase of $18.0 million or 3.0 percent

The report states:  “Within available funds, the Committee recommends $75,000,000 for three Bioenegy Research Centers. The Committee recognizes the unique and beneficial role that the Department plays for the Nation in the advancement of biosciences to address core departmental missions in energy and the environment. Therefore, the Committee strongly supports the requested increases in funding for biosystems design to develop new and transformative metabolic engineering capabilities for bioenergy production and environmental solutions, and urges the Secretary to consider opportunities to further support use-inspired research in these areas with the increased funding.

“The Committee encourages the Secretary to increase funding for academia to perform climate model studies that include the collection and evaluation of atmospheric data sets from satellite observations obtained in cooperation with NASA. Satellite observations of the atmosphere, within the context of the Earth as a global system, provide information that is critical in the interpretation of Earth-based observations. In addition, the Committee encourages the Secretary to allocate 5 percent of the Department’s funds spent on climate change models, studies, or evaluations to create a Red Team, so as to ensure science-based findings.”

Fusion Energy Sciences:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $467.5 million
The FY 2016 request is $420.0 million, a decrease of $47.5 million or 10.2 percent
The House bill provides $467.6 million, an increase of $0.1 million or level funding
The Senate bill provides $270.2 million, a decrease of $197.3 million or 42.2 percent

The report states:

“U.S. Contribution to ITER.—The Committee recommends no funding for the U.S. contribution to ITER.

“The Committee has previously expressed and continues to remain concerned about the rising cost of the United States’ participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor [ITER] under construction in Cadarache, France, as well as management problems and continued delays. The United States is to pay 9.09 percent of the projects’ construction costs. In 2008, the total cost share for the United States was estimated to be between $1,450,000,000 and $2,200,000,000, and is now estimated to be somewhere between $4,000,000,000 and $6,500,000,000. With declining budgets, the Committee believes funding for the contribution to ITER is crowding out other Federal science investments, including domestic fusion research, as well as high performance computing and materials science, where the United States has maintained leadership. In addition, there is no approved cost or schedule baseline for the project, and the Committee recommends not supporting a project with no specified price tag or date of completion.

“For these reasons, the Committee directs the Secretary to work with the Department of State to withdraw from the ITER project.

“Within the funds for Fusion Energy Sciences, the Committee recommends $2,750,000 to continue heavy ion fusion science research at the Neutralized Drift Compression Experiment-II at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.”

High Energy Physics:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $766.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $788.0 million, an increase of $22.0 million or 2.9 percent
The House bill provides $776.0 million, an increase of $10.0 million or 1.3 percent
The Senate bill provides $788.1 million, an increase of $22.1 million or 2.9 percent

The report states:

“The Committee strongly supports the Secretary’s efforts to advance the recommendations of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel [P5] Report, which established clear priorities for the domestic particle physics program over the next 10 years under realistic budget scenarios.  . . . The Committee urges the Secretary to maintain a careful balance among the competing priorities and among small, medium, and large-scale projects.”

Nuclear Physics:

The FY 2015 appropriation was $595.5 million
The FY 2016 request is $624.6 million, an increase of $29.1 million or 4.9 percent
The House bill provides $616.2 million, an increase of $20.7 million or 3.5 percent
The Senate bill provides $591.5 million, a decrease of $4.0 million or 0.7 percent

The report states: “Within these funds, the Committee recommends $95,000,000 for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and operations and research for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider [RHIC] for $174,935,000.”