FY 2001 Dept. of Energy Bill Nearing Completion House and Senate conferees are due to meet tomorrow to wrap up the FY 2001 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for FY 2001. Although there are favorable rumors about more money being made available to the conferees to work with, there is nothing definite.
Bipartisan letters have been and are being sent to the House and Senate leadership in support of the Department of Energy's Office of Science. A letter signed by about one-third of all senators has been sent. A House letter signed by 92 representatives will be delivered tomorrow morning. (The telephone number for the U.S. House of Representatives is 202-225-3121; see FYI #105 for the text of this letter originated by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL).) Both letters, and a letter signed by university presidents, have been credited with setting the stage for a more favorable outcome at tomorrow's conference. Letters such as these receive notice on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Clinton Administration has just released a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) outlining the Administration's views on H.R. 4733. In the opening paragraphs of this letter, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew states that "senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill" because of "several highly objectionable riders that would inappropriately interfere with important Executive Branch efforts, and [because] both the House- and Senate-passed bills inadequately fund certain key domestic priorities." A veto is, however, unlikely to be sustained because the original bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers.
OMB's nine page letter first outlines the Administration's objection to a provision in the Army Corps of Engineers portion of the bill. It then describes objections to the funding for DOE's Office of Science. The text of this section of the letter follows:
"The Administration is concerned by the Senate's movement of significant resources out of key non-defense priorities of the Department of Energy (DOE) to Atomic Energy Defense Activities. The Senate bill provides $611 million less than the President's request for DOE's non-defense programs and the House bill provides $871 million less. The bill would substantially reduce vital programs in science, radioactive waste management, and energy research. Among the most drastic impacts of the House bill would be cancellation of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) project. Specific funding issues include:
"Science. DOE's Office of Science is the largest source of Federal funding for basic research in the physical sciences, supporting research in both universities and the national laboratories. It also operates an extensive system of R&D facilities used by more than 15,000 researchers per year, including those funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, universities, and private industry. Neither the House nor Senate bill adequately supports the DOE science community and its important support role in the Nation's scientific effort. The Administration strongly opposes the House's severe $320 million reduction to the President's request, in particular because of its devastating impact upon the SNS project. The Senate's $281 million reduction to the President's request would drastically impact Science's core research programs, cutting funding by 8.9 percent below the requested level and non-SNS related activities 1.5 percent below FY 2000 enacted levels.
"The Administration strongly opposes the House's $160 million (62 percent) cut to the request for construction funding for the SNS. When completed, the SNS will provide a world-class tool for materials sciences, a field with economically important applications. The House mark of $100 million would force the cancellation of the project and require its immediate close-out. The Senate's cut of $38 million (14 percent) to requested SNS construction funds would increase total costs by $50-80 million and delay the project by an additional six months. DOE has met each of the management reforms requested by the House in report language last year. Congress should now do its part and fully fund the SNS construction project.
"Neither the House nor Senate adequately supports Science's facilities or core research programs, nor do they support key information technology and nanotechnology initiatives. Virtually all of the scientific user facilities would have to reduce operations, and newly or recently commissioned facilities would be greatly underutilized, including two new synchrotron light sources as well as the Jefferson Lab, Brookhaven's RHIC, Fermilab's Tevatron, and Stanford's B-factory. Under the Senate bill, one ongoing light source upgrade (SPEAR3), funded in cooperation with NIH, would be terminated. Both bills have levels of funding that are inconsistent with the bipartisan expressions of support for increased science funding as a core investment in our future."
Richard M. Jones