FYI Number 141: November 3, 2003

Senior DOE Science Official Looks Ahead

Patricia M. Dehmer, DOE Associate Director of Science for Basic Energy Sciences, offered a look ahead to the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee at its meeting on October 20. "Budget drives everything that we do," Dehmer told the committee, describing the status of FY 2005 appropriations, the forthcoming FY 2005 budget request, and some guiding principles for FY 2006 and beyond.

Little has changed in the FY 2005 budget outlook since Dehmer's remarks of two weeks ago. Missing the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, Congress has kept money flowing to the Department of Energy through a continuing resolution. The new fiscal year is more than a month old, and congressional leaders are now talking about Thanksgiving as a target date for the completion of the appropriations bills. Despite one party control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, only four of thirteen appropriations bills have been (or soon will be) completed, which is an indication of how difficult the budget cycle is. While Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills have been approved in the House and Senate, a conference committee working to resolve differences in the two bills is at an impasse. A new continuing resolution is expected to extend funding to late November. While Office of Science funding will continue at its current level, there will be no new starts, said Dehmer. She said there could be "fairly significant impacts" for eight new facilities under construction that were scheduled for ramp ups in this new fiscal year, with likely slippages.

Not surprisingly, Dehmer told the committee that all information on the forthcoming FY 2005 budget request was embargoed. She cited the traditional talk of "gloom and doom" budget predictions for coming years, although she allowed that "things look pretty grim" for discretionary spending. A first cut of the FY 2005 budget was sent to the Office of Management and Budget in early September, and meetings have been held with OMB staff. A "pass back" of this budget will be made by OMB to DOE at the end of this month, with negotiations to follow. There is "very little chance to impact it [BESAC budget request] from the scientific community at this time," Dehmer said. Five "investment drivers" guide DOE's budget decisions: "outstanding science," "scientific user facilities and advanced tools for the Nation," "science that addresses the DOE mission," "stewardship of DOE-owned research institutions," and "workforce development." Maintaining a funding balance between these drivers is both difficult and important, she said.

"If you don't know the budget cycle you can't impact it," Dehmer stated. Although the FY 2005 budget that President Bush will send to Congress next February is still being developed, work will begin soon on the FY 2006 request. Between now and February is the right time for this advisory committee (and by inference, other science program advisory committees) to make recommendations about the budget year that starts 23 months from now.

Factors strengthening the probability of future funding for research include it being "compelling, important, non redundant, well- justified, well-managed," with appropriate national and international coordination, and community, congressional, and administration support. Also required: "a lot of work, considerable luck, and everyone pulling in the same direction," Dehmer said. "Nothing should be taken for granted," she cautioned. ______________

Please note this clarification to FYI #140: Harriet Kung is the contact person for hydrogen research within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Steven Chalk is the Program Manager of the Department of Energy's Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Infrastructure Technology Program. This program is under the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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

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