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FYI Number 31: March 19, 2002

Important DOE Science Appropriations Hearings Completed

House and Senate appropriators have concluded their hearings on the FY 2003 request for the Department of Energy Office of Science. The hearings were friendly and low-key, with members expressing support for the work of the Office of Science.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development convened on March 13, receiving testimony from Robert G. Card, Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment. Subcommittee chairman Sonny Callahan (R-AL) began by commending DOE's remediation program at the Rocky Flats site, and ongoing reorganization of the department's headquarters operations. There were no other opening statements by Members.

Card testified about the Office of Science programs, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology. His oral remarks centered on management reforms leading to "real world results." Regarding the Office of Science, Card said that the pending arrival of Raymond L. Orbach as its new director afforded the opportunity for a fresh look and a new map for science programs.

Card's written testimony on the Office of Science was very supportive. He testified about "the Administration's keen interest in science and technology," adding that "our nation depends on new knowledge and new technologies to maintain our national security." His statement continued, "most Americans probably have no idea of the importance of this basic scientific research." After describing nuclear and high energy physics research objectives, Card stated, "While these projects don't sound very relevant to the daily existence of most Americans, the downstream impact of projects like these is pretty significant." DOE's two major FY 2003 priorities are to "continue and expand upon the long-term [research] investments" and to increase operating time and capabilities at major scientific user facilities.

Chairman Callahan's first question to Card was about where the Administration would find the additional hundreds of million dollars needed for future remediation efforts. Card replied that the department would work with the Office of Management and Budget and the appropriators to locate the money. Ranking Minority Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN) asked Card about the department's selection process for four nanoscale research centers and the proposed Rare Isotope Accelerator. A year ago, Visclosky asked similar questions about how DOE selects research sites, and later during this hearing advocated greater competition and a diffusion of DOE resources throughout all fifty states, saying "the rich get richer."

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) spoke of the large increase the Administration requested for NIH, and the comparatively flat funding for DOE's physical sciences programs. Card replied that the request is "better than it looks" after accounting for various changes, saying that the depth of departmental support for these programs is "to the bottom of our souls." Card expressed concern about the DOE budgets keeping pace, and said that the FY 2004 request will center on "not about just more money, but more output." Zach Wamp (R- TN) described "a lot of aging infrastructure" at DOE facilities.

Chairman Callahan wanted to know how the department's emphasis on national security would affect research in particle physics and genome research. Card said that the previous advances in both had been instrumental to improvements in national security and economic security, describing the department as committed to basic research.

Committee members asked a number of questions about other issues, such as hydrogen energy, biomass, nuclear energy development, and hydro power. Chairman Callahan said the subcommittee would draft their FY 2003 bill within the next sixty days. Later in the week, Senate appropriators met, with the results of this hearing to be reported on in a future FYI.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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