Final FY17 Appropriations: DOE Office of Science

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Publication date: 
3 May 2017
Number: 
54

The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 provides a 0.8 percent increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science. Five of the office’s six research programs are set to receive funding increases, while Fusion Energy Sciences will receive a 13 percent cut as further U.S. contributions to the ITER fusion facility are withheld.

Today, the House passed final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017 that will increase the budget authority of the Department of Energy Office of Science by 0.8 percent over last year’s levels, as well as fund the other federal science agencies, through the end of the fiscal year. The bill, which is expected to become law by the end of the week, is the product of over two years of budget formulation, consideration, and bipartisan negotiations between the White House, House, and Senate.

The Energy-Water section of the explanatory statement accompanying the legislation also provides policy direction and spending levels for specific programs and projects at the Office of Science and the rest of DOE. The bill incorporates direction from last year’s House and Senate appropriations committee reports as well.

Congress is providing for the following changes in funding at the Office of Science in fiscal year 2017:

In its fiscal year 2017 budget submission, the Obama administration requested a 4.1 percent increase (excluding an additional mandatory spending proposal) for the Office of Science, but Congress opted for a more modest 0.8 percent uptick. Of the office’s six major research programs, five will receive funding increases ranging from 0.5 to 4.2 percent, while the Fusion Energy Sciences program will experience a 13.2 percent cut.

Within Fusion Energy Sciences, the cut falls on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, which is being slashed to $50 million, or $65 million below the fiscal year 2016 level. As DOE has already allocated $50 million in support of ITER this fiscal year, the bill effectively halts further funding for the project. However, the bill does specify that DOE may submit a budget reprogramming request to congressional appropriators in order to spend up to an additional $50 million on ITER in fiscal year 2017.

Details on proposed and final funding levels for the six research programs are included in the following table:

FY17 DOE Office of Science Appropriations

Funding Line FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request*
House Senate Final Change
16-17
DOE Office of Science 5,350 5,572 5,400 5,400 5,392 0.8%
Advanced Scientific Computing Research 621 663 621 656 647 4.2%
High Energy Physics 795 818 823 833 825 3.8%
Basic Energy Sciences 1,849 1,937 1,860 1,913 1,872 1.2%
Nuclear Physics 617 636 620 636 622 0.8%
Biological & Environmental Research 609 662 595 637 612 0.5%
Fusion Energy Sciences 438 398 450 280 380 -13.2%

All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

* Excludes $100 million in proposed mandatory spending.

Further budget information, including detailed breakdowns of funding levels for specific facilities and projects within the Office of Science, is available in the Federal Science Budget Tracker on FYI’s website. Below are selected highlights from the bill and its accompanying reports.

Other highlights

Office-wide

  • CRENEL progress report: Requires DOE to submit a report on the department’s progress toward implementing the recommendations of the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories.
  • Public access to taxpayer-funded research: Directs DOE to adopt a federal research public access policy that advances the purposes of the department.
  • Workforce diversity: Directs DOE to provide a detailed plan for recruitment and retention of diverse talent, including outreach and recruitment at minority-serving institutions.
  • Lab-Directed R&D: Directs DOE to ensure that the contractors that manage the national laboratories “do not allocate costs of general and administrative overhead to laboratory-directed R&D.

Advanced Scientific Computing Research

  • Exascale Computing Project: Establishes a new budget line for the Exascale Computing Project and provides $10 million more than the requested funding amount.
  • Exascale coordination: Requires DOE to submit a report which describes the roles and responsibilities of the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Office of Science in exascale computing.
  • BRAIN Initiative: Rejects the $9 million request to support the BRAIN Initiative and suggests the initiative instead apply for support via DOE’s competitive process for research awards.

Basic Energy Sciences

  • Energy Frontier Research Centers: Negates the House’s proposal for a $12 million or 11 percent funding cut to the Energy Frontier Research Centers.
  • Advanced Photon Source Upgrade: Provides more than twice the amount requested for the upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • EPSCoR: Maintains funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research at $15 million, rejecting a proposed 40 percent cut.

Biological & Environmental Research

  • Bioenergy Research Centers: Maintains funding for the Bioenergy Research Centers at $75 million, declining the requested funding increase.

Fusion Energy Sciences

  • Domestic prioritization: Directs DOE to develop a long-range plan to prioritize domestic R&D in fusion energy sciences.
  • Workshops: Directs DOE to hold additional workshops and submit a report summarizing “the fusion energy science community’s continued efforts hosting workshops to advance and plan for the long term vision of the fusion energy sciences field.
  • University collaboration: Directs DOE to submit a report summarizing the Fusion Energy Sciences program’s “current collaboration with universities and an explanation for its relevant funding allocations.

High Energy Physics

  • Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility: Provides $5 million more than requested for construction of the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility at Fermilab.

About the author

mhenry [at] aip.org
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