In Perspective: Congressional Support for DOE Physics Research

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Publication date: 
1 November 1995
Number: 
155

Programs                                                         

The House and Senate have passed, and sent to the President, H.R.
1905, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for FY
1996.  The President is expected to sign this legislation, which is
described in FYI #154.  It seems appropriate to examine how the
budgets for fusion energy, high energy physics, and nuclear physics
research programs compare to the funding recommendations contained
in recent studies.  There is no recent comparable report for Basic
Energy Sciences.

Note that research programs are constantly evolving, resulting in
changing budget requirements.  The recommendations in the cited
reports have not been "updated" to reflect any program changes
since the reports were issued.

FUSION ENERGY RESEARCH:

Of the four major DOE physics research programs, fusion energy
research took by far the biggest hit.  The fusion energy budget for
FY 1996 will be $244.1 million.  The administration requested
$366.1 million.  The budget for FY 1995 was $372.6 million -- with
a decline between these years of $128.5 million, or -34.5%.

For perspective on this FY 1996 budget, consider the President's
Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Fusion
Review Panel report released last July (see FYI #98.)  This report
stated that a "strong case" could be made for the Administration's
$366.1 million request.  Realizing budget constraints, the panel
recommended a budget of $320 million per year between FY 1996 and
FY 2005.  This would ensure the preservation of "what we believe to
be the most indispensable elements of the U.S. fusion effort and
associated international collaboration."

In looking at a much leaner budget scenario, the review panel
stated: "...we also have attempted to envision a program that could
preserve key priorities at a still lower budget level of about $200
million per year.  We find that this cannot be done."

The Executive Summary of this PCAST report concludes, "We urge,
therefore, that the Administration and Congress commit themselves
firmly to a U.S. fusion R&D program that is stable at not less than
$320 million per year."

In a direct response to this recommendation, the Senate
Appropriations Committee report language stated:  "While the
Committee appreciates the efforts of the PCAST panel, the resources
to fund such a program are not available...."  (See FYI #110.)

As explained in FYI #154, the final conference report written last
week states: "With little prospect for increased funding for the
fusion base program over the next several years, it will be
necessary for the program to restructure its strategy, content and
near-to-medium-term objectives."  A strategic plan is requested by
December 31, 1995.  The conference report language notes that the
plan "should assume a constant level of effort in the base program
for the next several years." 

The bottom line: The FY 1996 fusion energy program budget of $244.1
million is 23.7% less than that recommended by the PCAST Fusion
Review Panel.

HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS RESEARCH:

The DOE High Energy Physics budget for FY 1996 will be $667.0
million.  The administration requested $685.6 million.  The budget
for FY 1995 was $642.1 million.

For perspective on this FY 1996 budget, in May 1994 the "High
Energy Physics Advisory Panel's Subpanel on Vision for the Future
of High-Energy Physics" called for a constant-level-of-effort
between FY 1995 and FY 2002.  This amount was equivalent to the
Administration's FY 1995 request of $621.9 million.  Added to this
base amount was $50 million for FY 1996, FY 1997, and FY 1998
(total: $150 million.)  Thus, the subpanel recommended a FY 1996
budget of $671.9 million (before inflation.)  Since the
recommendation was for a constant-level-of-effort, allowance must
be made for inflation.  Using a calculation based on numbers
supplied by the Office of Management and Budget, the FY 1996 high
energy physics budget should be approximately $692.1 million to
meet the advisory panel's target.

The bottom line: The FY 1996 high energy physics program budget of
$667.0 million is calculated to be 3.6% less than that recommended
by the advisory panel.

NUCLEAR PHYSICS RESEARCH:

The DOE Nuclear Physics budget for FY 1996 will be $304.5 million.
The administration requested $321.1 million.  The budget for FY
1995 was $331.5 million.

In June 1994, the DOE/NSF Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC)
released a report entitled, "Nuclear Science in DOE: Assessment and
Promise."  This report was straight-forward in its recommendation
for FY 1996 funding of $348 million. 

The bottom line: The FY 1996 nuclear physics program budget of
$304.5 million is 12.5% less than that recommended by NSAC.

BASIC ENERGY SCIENCES:

The DOE Basic Energy Sciences budget for FY 1996 will be $791.7
million.  The administration requested $811.4 million.  The budget
for FY 1995 was $747.3 million.

There is not a comparable panel recommendation similar to those
above.  The FY 1996 budget for Basic Energy Sciences will be 2.4%
less than that requested by DOE.

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