Letter to House Appropriators Urges Increased Funding for DOE Science Programs

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Publication date: 
8 November 2010

When  the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee approved its  FY 2011 funding bill this summer, they recommended essentially flat funding  (-0.1%) for the Office of Science.  A group of 108 corporations, universities,  and associations have just sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman  David Obey (D-WI) and Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA) urging them “to find a  way to provide the increased funding requested for DOE science programs.”

The  American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society were among  those signing this letter which was sent by the Energy Sciences Coalition. 

The  Obama Administration requested $5,121.4 million for the Office of Science for  FY 2011, which after adjusting for previous earmarks, is an increase over the  previous year of  6.1 percent.   A DOE  budget document explains “The FY 2011 request supports the President’s Plan for  Science and Innovation, which encompasses the entire SC [Office of Science]  budget, as part of a strategy to double overall basic research funding at  select agencies. As part of this plan, the budget request supports the training  of students and researchers in fields critical to our national competitiveness  and innovation economy, and supports investments in areas of research critical  to our clean energy future and to making the U.S. a leader on climate change.”

The  Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a 2.2 percent increase in the FY  2011 budget for the Office of Science.

The  FY 2011 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, as is true with all  the FY 2011 funding bills, faces an uncertain future.  Reports indicate that Senate appropriators  are developing an FY 2011 funding measure that would fold all twelve appropriations  bills into a single omnibus bill to fund government functions through the end  of next September.  Total discretionary  spending would be at a level of $1.108 trillion, a level advocated by some Senate  Republicans.  Senate staff reportedly  stated that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to complete the  FY 2011 appropriations cycle and is looking to the FY 2012 funding bills to  make significant reductions in federal spending.  The Office of Science is being funded through  a temporary measure (along with the rest of the federal government) that  expires December 3. 

The  top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis does not want  to wait until FY 2012 to make these reductions.   In a November 4 letter to Appropriations Chairman Obey, Lewis stated “As  we approach the closing days of the 111th Congress, I want to make clear my  strong, unequivocal opposition to any potential omnibus spending bill you and  the present Democrat leadership may be planning to bring to the House floor  before the end of the year.  My  understanding is that you and the Democrat leadership are now in the final  phases of fashioning legislation comprised of all 12 of the unfinished FY11  appropriations bills with a price tag exceeding $1.1 trillion." He continued, "Committee Republicans are  ready to begin cutting spending immediately.   Congress should not wait to do next year what we can begin in earnest  today.  There is no justifiable reason to  delay this process until the 112th Congress convenes in January."

  Some Republicans advocate reducing total  non-security discretionary spending to pre-stimulus FY 2008 levels.  Spending levels would likely vary between  individual programs under such an arrangement.   The FY 2008 appropriation for the Office of Science was $4,018.1 million.    The current budget for the Office of Science  is $4,903.7 million.

  Congress returns to Washington a week  from today.  The letter to Chairman Obey  and Ranking Member Lewis follows:

“Dear  Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis:

“As  you continue your work on the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills, the  undersigned organizations of the Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC) write to  express concerns about the funding level provided for the Department of Energy  (DOE) Office of Science in the bill approved by the Energy and Water  Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and urge the committee to provide  increased funding for the vital basic research it supports.

“Congress  committed in 2007 to increase funding for the DOE Office of Science when it  enacted the bipartisan America COMPETES Act.   In adopting this measure, which was consistent with the innovation  agendas of both political parties as well as the recommendations of the  National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Congress affirmed  the importance of basic research to economic growth and energy security.  However, the fiscal year 2011 bill approved  by the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee deviates  from the COMPETES commitment, providing $4.900 billion for the DOE Office of  Science, $4 million below the fiscal year 2010 funding level and $221 million  below the Administration request.   Without the requested funding, the DOE Office of Science will not be able  to support more graduate fellowships, additional Energy Frontier Research  Centers, or an Energy Innovation Hub focused on overcoming the challenges of  energy storage, and it will be unable to sustain its core research programs and  user facilities at fiscal year 2010 levels. 

“As  the U.S. economy continues to struggle and international competition for  quality jobs grows, Congress should not back away from the commitment it made  in America COMPETES.  Instead, we need to  invest in the kind of basic research so critical to improving our energy security  and national competitiveness, meeting our environmental challenges, and  producing new jobs and innovative technological breakthroughs that will fuel  our economy well into the future.  We  need to invest in basic research at universities and national laboratories, the  education and training of thousands of future scientists and engineers, and the  operation of one-of-a-kind scientific facilities utilized by over 25,000  scientists annually from industry, academia, and government.  In short, we need to invest in the DOE Office  of Science, the nation’s primary sponsor of research in the physical sciences,  and a unique and critical component of the federal research enterprise. 

“We recognize and appreciate the tremendous  fiscal constraints the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee  faced in crafting its bill in light of its 302(b) allocation.  As the process moves forward, however, we  would ask that you work with the subcommittee chair and ranking member and the  House leadership to find a way to provide the increased funding requested for  DOE science programs.”