Congressmen & Scientific Community Call for Sustained Growth in DOE Science Funding

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Publication date: 
14 March 2016

Members of Congress are circulating a series of “Dear Colleague” letters on Capitol Hill to round up support for the Department of Energy Office of Science and specific user facilities in fiscal year 2017. The scientific community is also requesting increased funding for the office.

Reps. Lujan, Hultgren, Newhouse, and FosterMembers of the House - led by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Ben Luján (D-NM), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Bill Foster (D-IL) – are leading a “Dear Colleague” letter urging their colleagues to join a call for “robust and sustained funding” for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science in fiscal year 2017. Other members of Congress are leading separate letters to support congressional priorities within the Office of Science, including funding for at least two user facilities: the Advanced Photon Source upgrade at Argonne National Laboratory and the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility at Fermilab, both of which reside in Foster’s district.

Circulation of these letters coincides with the scientific community issuing two advocacy statements that ask congressional appropriations leaders for specific increases in discretionary funding for the Office of Science this year. The first letter, led by the Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC) and representing the views of 68 scientific societies, universities, and private companies, “urges Congress to provide the DOE Office of Science at least $5.672 billion in FY17, an increase of $325 million.” The ESC’s request would represent a 6.1 percent increase above the Office of Science’s fiscal year 2016 funding level. The second letter is from the president of the American Physical Society (APS), an AIP member society, and calls on Congress to provide the Office of Science “$5.572 billion in discretionary funding for FY17 – a 4.2 percent increase from FY16 and in line with the authorization levels provided in the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012).

The increases requested in the ESC and APS letters are in line or above the President’s fiscal year 2017 request for the Office of Science. However, achieving them this year will require that Congress favors DOE among competing discretionary budget priorities in a year when overall spending is expected to be capped at effectively the same levels as last fiscal year. While a 6.1 percent funding increase may be ambitious in the context of a severely constrained federal fiscal environment, it appears modest up against the 19.5 percent annual increases China has invested in R&D since 2003.

The managing staff working on the general DOE Office of Science “Dear Colleague” letter are accepting additional signatures from members of Congress through the end of the day today, March 14.

The Office of Science “Dear Colleague” reads as follows:

We recognize that during these challenging economic times we must set priorities and make smart, strategic decisions about federal funding.  We believe that scientific research is the foundation for the innovative solutions that will enable us to overcome many of our greatest challenges, from economic stagnation and dependence on foreign energy to curing diseases and addressing threats to our national security.  That is why we believe funding for the DOE Office of Science must be a priority in fiscal year 2017.

As the nation’s primary sponsor of research in the physical sciences, the DOE Office of Science has built—and maintains—a unique collection of large-scale, cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind user facilities relied upon by over 33,000 researchers annually. Nearly half of these users are university faculty and students. Others come from U.S. industry and many are conducting research for other key federal science agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Without these critical facilities, thousands of users would be forced to move their job-creating research activities overseas, or terminate their research altogether.

The DOE Office of Science also supports a first-rate workforce of research scientists, engineers, and support personnel who work as teams on long-term solutions to some of the nation’s greatest challenges and who are ready to tackle pressing problems at a moment’s notice.  Moreover, it plays a unique and critical role in the education of the next generation of American scientific talent, including thousands of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at hundreds of U.S. institutions who depend upon DOE Office of Science support and facilities for their research and training.

This collection of research, facilities and scientific talent has enabled the DOE Office of Science to contribute greatly to our quality of life, our health, and our security.  The DOE Office of Science has been integral to the development of several innovative technologies, including MRI machines and PET scans, new composite materials for military hardware and motor vehicles, medical and industrial isotopes, drop-in biofuel technologies, DNA sequencing technologies, more aerodynamic and fuel efficient long-haul trucks, electric vehicle battery technology, an artificial retina, newer and safer nuclear reactor designs, 3-D models of pathogens for vaccine development, tools to manufacture nanomaterials, and better sensors and detectors for biological, chemical, and radioactive materials.

By prioritizing funding for DOE scientific research—thereby supporting both the human and physical capital—Congress will preserve our capacity to innovate, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, enhance our competitive edge in the global economy, improve our quality of life, ensure our national security, and create good American jobs well into the future.  For these reasons, we urge you to make strong and sustained funding for the DOE Office of Science one of your highest priorities in fiscal year 2017.

The congressional “Dear Colleague” letter supporting the Advanced Photon Source upgrade is also led by Foster and has a signature deadline of end of today, March 14. That letter reads as follows:

As you begin work on the fiscal year (FY) 2017 energy and water appropriations bill, we write to express our strong support for Argonne National Laboratory’s upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source (APS). While we understand the challenges in developing an appropriations bill in this constrained fiscal environment, we respectfully request that you provide $50 million for the APS upgrade within the Department of Energy (DOE) Basic Energy Sciences (BES) Major Items of Equipment (MIE) account, which will enable the project to continue on schedule. A funding delay will add millions of dollars to the total cost of the project.

The APS upgrade will use next-generation technology to make the APS hundreds of times brighter, opening up scientific frontiers at the nanoscale that are completely inaccessible today.  It will provide industrial and university researchers with the advanced tools they need to continue to drive innovation in areas ranging from identifying causes of diseases and brain imaging, to advanced materials and next-generation electronics.

We thank you for your past support of the APS upgrade. The upgrade leverages the existing infrastructure valued at $1.5 billion while applying a new technology to create a world leading facility at substantially less cost than a new facility.  The project has an experienced leadership team in place with a proven track record in major science construction projects.

With this upgrade, the APS will become the ultimate 3D microscope; without it, the United States will lose its global leadership in x-ray science to Europe, Japan, and China.  We ask you to fund the project within the MIE account at $50 million in the FY17 energy and water appropriations bill.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

A third Dear Colleague letter in support of the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility is still being drafted but is expected to be led by Foster and Hultgren.