The bottom line from yesterday's ninety-minute House appropriations
subcommittee hearing on the Department of Energy's Office of Science
budget request was expressed early in Chairman Hobson's opening remarks,
and it was not encouraging. After saying that the Office of Science
supported some of the most important work in the Department of Energy,
and that it would be one of his priorities if he had more money, the
chairman made a discouraging prediction. Explaining that the full House
was now working on a budget resolution that would freeze discretionary
spending in the next fiscal year, Hobson told the DOE witnesses that
finding money above the Administration's request would be very difficult,
and warned that the final appropriation might be even less than what
the Administration requested. That FY 2005 request for the Office of
Science is a cut of 2.0% or $68.5 million from the current year budget
of $3,500.2 million.
Chairman David Hobson (R-Ohio) is now in his second year as the head
of this all-important subcommittee. From his remarks at yesterday's
and last year's hearings, and most notably, the bill that his subcommittee
wrote last year (with a recommended increase of 6.7%), it is clear
that Hobson enthusiastically supports the Office of Science. But the
chairman, like almost all of the other appropriations subcommittee
chairmen, has little or no new money to work with. When the Administration
decided to send Congress a budget request allowing only a one-half
of one percent increase in discretionary spending, the result, if followed
on Capitol Hill, is that any significant increase in spending for a
program will be at the direct expense of another program. Finding such
offsetting programs cuts is very difficult.
The primary Administration witness at this hearing was Robert Card,
Under Secretary of Energy for Energy, Science and Environment. Accompanying
him at the witness table was Office of Science Director Raymond Orbach;
Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David
Garman; Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology Director William
Magwood; and Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution Director
Jimmy Glotfelty. Card briefly summarized his seventeen-page written
testimony, which described the programs that are under his direction.
None of the other witnesses were scheduled to deliver opening remarks.
The members of this subcommittee continue to give considerable attention
to nuclear energy, and like their Senate counterparts, are not very
pleased with the Administration's request for research in this area.
The members asked about nuclear power research, especially if it involved
facilities in their districts. Several members had questions for Orbach.
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) asked about the allocation of fusion energy
sciences funding to domestic fusion programs and ITER. Orbach replied
that care is being taken to ensure that funding is provided for research
on ITER-like machines in the United States. When pressed about the
current status of ITER negotiations, Orbach said that the United States'
10% share of the facilities cost is the same as that for five of the
other six international partners, and that the U.S. is "fully
equal with other partners." A decision is in the works about the
site for ITER.
Peter Visclosky (D-Indiana) asked Orbach a series of pointed questions
about how the determination is made when universities are allowed to
compete for research in programs such as the human genome project.
Visclosky, from economically-distressed northwest Indiana, said that
many of his colleagues representing similar districts are interested
in finding ways to increase economic opportunities. The congressman
would like to see a wider dispersal of scientific talent and facilities
across the United States.
Chairman Hobson asked about the Office of Science's Advanced Scientific
Computing Initiative. Hobson feels that this is a very important program,
but wanted assurances that it was not only the Office of Science that
was paying for the development of these new machines.
During his round of questioning, Zach Wamp (R-Tennessee) praised the
Spallation Neutron Source now being built at Oak Ridge, explaining
that it was on time and on budget. Wamp was worried about the implementation
of the Office of Science twenty-year facility plan, and said, "we're
not going to have enough money to fund what needs to be funded." In
his answer, Orbach said that the Administration's budget request would
provide enough money to start the top five facilities in the twenty-year
As the hearing moved toward its conclusion, Chairman Hobson made a
number of points. He said "I support science in general," and
later praised Orbach for the presentation of "a good marketing
plan" demonstrating "science was lacking." He was critical
of the Office of Management and Budget for how it put together the
DOE budget, saying that they were "playing God with this bill." Hobson
was very displeased with remarks to the media that Glotfelty made about
earmarking in the FY 2004 bill.
Then a bell rang in the committee room signaling that Members had
to report to the House floor to cast a vote. Good-naturedly, Hobson
told the witnesses that they "were saved the bell," and the
hearing would have to adjourn. With this and the Senate hearing (see http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2004/025.html )
on the Office of Science completed, action now moves behind closed
doors to craft the FY 2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations