House Appropriations Committee Report: Views on DOE Science

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Publication date: 
15 December 2008

About six months after a decision was made to suspend the deliberations of the House Appropriations Committee, the report accompanying the FY 2009 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill was "Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed." With the official release and printing of this report, 110-921, stakeholders have an opportunity to read the views and recommendations of those representatives who will determine how much funding the Department of Energy receives in FY 2009 and, looking ahead more generally, in the coming years.

This is the first of a series of FYIs on several reports that were just released by the House Appropriations Committees. In June, FYI #76 summarized an unofficial copy of the House committee report pertaining to the Office of Science. The recommended levels of funding for the programs of the Office of Science are as previously reported. An official copy of the Senate Appropriations Committee report was summarized in FYI #78.

The full House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Rep. David Obey (D-WI); Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is the Ranking Member. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) is the chairman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee and David Hobson (R-OH) (who is retiring) is the Ranking Member.

In addition to the language that was reported on in FYI #76, there is introductory language in the newly released committee report that provides insight into the thinking of House appropriators regarding science and the Office of Science.

Of note, in Title III of the bill entitled "Department of Energy" "Committee Recommendation" the appropriators make an important point not only about the FY 2009 budget for the Office of Science, but also looked ahead to budgets through FY 2016:

"The Committee recommendation provides additional funds over the request for the Office of Science and supports the projected doubling of this area of research and development funding over the decade from 2006 to 2016."

Later, under a section entitled "Research Priorities and Coordination" the appropriators wrote:

"Starting from the time of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Energy and its predecessors have a long history of excellence in supporting innovative basic and applied research. One of the important legacies of this storied history is the Department's strength in the physical sciences, where it remains the largest source of research funding in the federal government. The major increase in funding for the Office of Science authorized by the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110-69) is intended to begin to remedy years of neglect in support for these research areas and to address the recommendations in the report by the National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The Committee substantially supports this increase, which will directly fund an additional 2,600 individuals engaged in research sponsored by DOE's Science account.

"In general, the Department performs its basic science research and applied energy research missions quite well for the level of support provided. The Committee notes that the Department sponsors energy research and development through the Office of Science as well as the four applied energy programs – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. One of the issues that this Committee raised repeatedly in recent years is the lack of coordination among these programs to ensure that mission-critical science needs and opportunities that span multiple programs are being appropriately addressed. The Committee is pleased to note that the Department has taken some encouraging steps in this direction, including the completion of twenty planning workshops arranged by the Office of Science in consultation with the applied technology programs in order to address the scientific barriers to progress in applied technology missions; integrated budget documentation for six key research and development areas of significant interest to the missions of multiple programs; and the proposal to fund over two dozen Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) to tackle many of the of these critical science needs. The Committee directs the Department to continue to support and expand these efforts and take the steps needed to ensure that R&D integration is implemented at all levels across the Department in planning, budgeting, and execution. The Department is directed to provide the Committee with a report detailing progress on these efforts no later than March 1, 2009.

"However, successful research integration requires strong programs across the Department spanning both the basic and applied sciences. Unfortunately, the [FY 2009] budget request [submitted last February] woefully underfunds many critical applied energy research and development activities in the applied energy technology programs, particularly Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This Committee strongly rejects this unbalanced approach by providing robust funding for applied research and development to complement increases in basic science. Even with this increased funding, the Committee still remains concerned by the lack of support in the Department for long-term applied research focused on advancing innovative ideas which fall between basic science research and the short-term technology development and demonstration efforts which are the focus of the applied technology programs. The Committee directs the Office of Science to work with the energy technology programs to identify priority, long-term applied science efforts that should be considered for enhanced investment by the applied technology programs, jointly with the Office of Science as appropriate. The Department is directed to provide the Committee with a report detailing progress on these efforts no later than March 1, 2009."

Many committee reports have a section with the "Additional Views" of committee members. The top-ranking Republican on the full House Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis included his Additional Views on the Energy and Water Development Bill, and said the following:

"The future economic competitiveness of this country will be built on our leadership in science and technology. I am pleased that this bill increases the funding for DOE's Office of Science by $160 million over the request, as well as providing an increase of roughly $1.5 billion for the various applied energy research accounts. This Committee has been strongly supportive of the Department of Energy's efforts to rebuild our leadership in the basic and applied sciences, and is especially proud of the results achieved in the field of high performance computing. Strong Departmental leadership coupled with bipartisan Congressional support have led to advanced computing achievements that were considered unattainable only a few short years ago. We hope the increased funding for science and technology provided in this bill will continue in future years, and will be the foundation for many future achievements by the Department."