A Closer Look: FY 2001 Dept. of Energy Appropriations Bill Within the next few weeks the parameters of the Department of Energy's Office of Science FY 2001 budget will be determined. The House Appropriations Committee bill, H.R. 4733, is poised for floor action. The Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will draft their bill during the second week of July. Once each chamber passes their version of the FY 2001 Energy and Water Development appropriation, the action will shift to a conference committee to write the final bill.
As reported in FYI #73 and #74, the House bill is mostly favorable to those Office of Science programs covered by FYI. H.R. 4733 provides the administration's request for High Energy Physics, which is a 1.5% increase over the current budget. The bill would change funding within this request, with some accounts increasing and others decreasing. The House bill would provide the administration's requested increase of 4.0% for Nuclear Physics, and does not make any changes. H.R. 4733 provides level funding for Fusion Energy Sciences, an amount higher than the administration's request.
The House bill is far less favorable to DOE's Basic Energy Sciences program. The administration had requested a 30.3%, or $236.3 million, increase in the BES budget for three major items: construction of the Spallation Neutron Source, nanoscale science, and for increased operating time, maintenance, and upgrades at facilities.
The committee cut the administration's request by $224.8 million. In two instances in the accompanying report, the committee points to budget constraints as the reason for the cuts, and not concern about the programs. In fact, the committee states that it had "to defer funding for many new initiatives which the Committee views very favorably."
If the cuts in the House bill stand, the administration warns that the Spallation Neutron Source will be cancelled. Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget released a "Statement of Administration Policy" on H.R. 4733 explaining: "The Administration strongly opposes the $161.9 million reduction in construction funding for the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), a 62 percent cut. When completed, the SNS will provide a world-class tool for materials sciences, a field that has many economically important applications. The Department has met each of the management reforms the House included in report language last year. Congress should now do its part and fully fund the SNS construction project. The Committee mark of $100.0 million would force the cancellation of the project and require its immediate closeout."
The OMB also describes the effect of the cut on the Nanoscale Initiative within BES. DOE requested an additional $36.1 million for this program in FY 2001. OMB states: "The Administration also believes that the Committee has been shortsighted in not providing requested funding for nanotechnology. The Department of Energy has been a leader in the development of nanostructured materials and is uniquely qualified to contribute advances in the design and synthesis of materials at the atomic level. Nanoscience has been designated as one of the nation's top science and technology priorities by external advisory committees."
The third area which OMB states would be reduced by the House bill is synchrotron light and neutron source operating time. OMB comments: "The Administration opposes the elimination of $30.0 million in Basic Energy Sciences and Biological and Environmental Research for increased operating time and instrumentation at the Department's synchrotron light and neutron sources. These facilities are operated by the Department of Energy for the use of the entire research community, including researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, universities, and private industry."
Also criticized by the administration is a 24.7%, or $44.9 million, cut in the budget request for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. The House bill provides $5.0 million over the current year; the administration requested a $54.1 million increase. OMB states: "The Administration strongly opposes the $45 million cut in the President's budget request for Mathematical, Information, and Computer Sciences and funding for high end applications for modeling and simulation. This cut will seriously hamper critical programs that are a core feature of the R&D agenda recommended by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee." House appropriators explained this cut by saying, "severe funding constraints make it impossible to fund a large new computing program in fiscal year 2001."
So where does this all lead? While House floor action could change the amounts in H.R. 4733, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development is the most probable venue for changes in the current bill. Senate subcommittee chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) is friendly toward the Department of Energy and is knowledgeable about its science programs. Domenici has a bit more money - about 3.3% - to use in writing his bill than did his House counterpart. There will be many claims on this additional $727 million, ranging from nuclear weapons activities to water projects. Budget numbers in the House bill can, and will, go both up and down in Domenici's bill.
Members of Congress are the most responsive to their constituents. Constituents can be the most effective in communicating with their representatives by describing specific examples of why federal funding should be maintained or increased, or the consequences of funding reductions. AIP's Science Policy website at http://www.aip.org/gov has additional information on Communicating with Congress.
Richard M. Jones