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FYI Number 81: June 21, 2004

FY 2005 House Appropriations Committee Report: DOE Science Policy

The House Committee Appropriations report accompanying the FY 2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill makes policy recommendations regarding the conduct of DOE science programs. The following selections from committee report 108-554 are in regard to five year budget plans, facilities and infrastructure, and hydrogen energy research. FYI #82 will review the committee's actions regarding the Bush Administration's nuclear weapons initiatives.

FIVE YEAR BUDGET PLANS:

"Certain offices within the Department have prepared strategic plans or facility plans that attempt to define program priorities for the coming years. The National Nuclear Security Administration has prepared the Future Years Nuclear Security Plan (FYNSP) and the Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Plan (FIRP). The Office of Science recently completed its Twenty-Year Science Facility Plan and a Twenty-Year Strategic Plan. The Office of Environmental Management has detailed project management plans for each of its cleanup sites and has issued various complex-wide cleanup plans in the past.

"The Committee believes strongly in the value of five-year plans to guide Administration budget requests and Congressional spending decisions, to force discipline in making budgetary decisions, and to encourage some stability from year to year. In its recent report on project management at the Department, the National Research Council observed that ‘[p]erhaps the most important single point that the committee has stressed, and continues to stress, is the absolute need for DOE management to develop the strategic plans that define the need for capital improvement projects.'

"Departmental program offices face four competing priorities for funding: maintaining and operating existing facilities and research instruments, investing in new facilities and research instruments, paying for research and production work done at the DOE laboratories and plants, and funding research work done outside of the DOE complex. Making the difficult trade-offs between these competing priorities is not easy, but without a methodological approach to such trade-offs, a strategic or facility plan is a mere wish list unconstrained by fiscal realities and other competing demands. The Department needs to prepare a comprehensive department-wide five-year budget plan that will make explicit the choices made between competing priorities such as science research versus nuclear nonproliferation versus environmental cleanup. Preparation of such a comprehensive five-year plan will no doubt be challenging for the Department, but the challenge is not fundamentally different from that facing the Department of Defense (DoD), which regularly produces and updates its Future Year Defense Plan (FYDP) to reflect future resource requirements among the various Services in DoD.

"Inherent in producing five-year budget plans for major programs and the entire Department is the need to define missions and activities, and therefore the future budget requirements, of the various laboratories. The large multi-program labs (i.e., Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest) have been very aggressive in pursuing a wide range of new missions and funding sources--first climate change, then genomics, then nanotechnology, now advanced computing and proteinomics. And these labs continue to jockey for position at the homeland security funding trough.

"The Committee recognizes the vast pool of talent present in the labs, and the fact that such talent can be brought to bear on a wide range of problems facing the Nation. However, the Committee also believes that such talent requires more active guidance and supervision from the Headquarters program offices to be sure the labs are using DOE resources to tackle the right problems. In times of limited funding, the question can no longer be ‘What can the labs do?' but must instead be ‘What should the labs do?' Answering this latter question should not be left up to the contractors running the labs; it must be answered by the Federal managers in the Department. The five-year plans prepared by the major program offices, and the comprehensive five-year plan for the Department, should include business plans for each of these laboratories. These business plans should include a clear statement of the primary mission of each laboratory as such mission relates to each lab's lead program office(s), a clear statement of secondary missions to support other DOE program offices and other Federal agencies, and a five-year plan identifying the research, facilities, and resource requirements necessary to fulfill these primary and secondary missions.

"Concurrent with the submission of the fiscal year 2006 budget request, the Department should submit to Congress budget quality five-year program plans for weapons activities program of the NNSA (i.e., the FYNSP), the Office of Science, and the Office of Environmental Management. Beginning with submission of the fiscal year 2007 budget request and every fiscal year thereafter, the Department should submit to Congress detailed five-year budget plans for all major program offices and a consolidated five-year budget plan for the entire Department. The Committee considers the preparation of these five-year program plans and the comprehensive five-year DOE plan to be a Federal function. The Department should consult with its contractors in developing its five-year plans, but the actual preparation of these plans is not to be contracted out; this work is to be done by Federal employees of the Department of Energy."

FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE:

"The Committee continues to be concerned about the deterioration of the Department's facilities and the Department's inability to evaluate and address the readiness and maintenance status of its facilities. The National Nuclear Security Administration is to be commended for establishing its Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program (FIRP) and maintaining management focus on this program. The Committee is concerned whether the Office of Science is paying sufficient attention to its facilities and infrastructure, given the precipitous decline in the budget request for Science Laboratories Infrastructure. The Committee is also concerned about the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, which, as the new landlord of the Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho cleanup site, will have to pay much more attention to this issue than it has in the past. The five-year plans for each program and for the entire Department must provide a clear strategy for protecting the Federal investment in existing facilities and infrastructure throughout the DOE complex."

HYDROGEN RESEARCH:

Renewable Energy Technologies: "The fiscal year 2005 budget request seeks $95,325,000 for hydrogen research, an increase of $17,785,000 or 23 percent over the fiscal year 2004 enacted level. In House Report 108-212 [House FY 2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill report] and again in the statement of managers accompanying the fiscal year 2004 [final Energy and Water Development] conference report (House Report 108-357), this Committee reminded the Department of the competition and cost-sharing requirements specified in the Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-271) and directed the Department to compete the hydrogen research program to the fullest extent possible. Unlike most DOE research programs, the hydrogen technology research has a specific statutory authorization with specific conditions attached.

"The Department blatantly ignored the Congressional direction contained in statute and report language regarding competition and cost sharing and announced in April 2004 the award of $150 million in new hydrogen storage research projects. Of this amount, approximately $120 million is dedicated to establishing three hydrogen storage ‘centers of excellence' that are led by DOE national laboratories. The so-called competition was restricted to DOE laboratories, each of which selected its other laboratory, industry, and academic partners without competition. None of these funds for the ‘centers or excellence' were awarded consistent with the Congressional view of competition; only the $30 million awarded to fifteen independent storage projects was awarded competitively. The Department was clearly determined to award the bulk of these hydrogen storage funds to its national laboratories without full and open competition and to persist in the fiction of ‘pre-competitive R&D' despite explicit Committee guidance to the contrary. Further, the $150 million of federal funding for hydrogen storage is to be matched by only $20 million of private sector funding. The Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 directs the Secretary to require a commitment from non-Federal sources of at least 20 percent of the cost of proposed hydrogen research and development projects; the Secretary may reduce or eliminate the cost-sharing requirement if the Secretary determines that the research and development is of a basic or fundamental nature. However, the Department requested $21.4 million for basic research on hydrogen under the Basic Energy Sciences program within the Office of Science. It is this Committee's view that the hydrogen research conducted and funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is applied research and is subject to the minimum cost sharing requirements established by the Hydrogen Future Act."

Nuclear Energy R&D: "Nuclear hydrogen initiative - The Committee provides $9,000,000 for the nuclear hydrogen initiative, the same as the budget request. The Committee expects the Department to meet the requirements of the Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-271) for competition and industry cost sharing, and expects the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology to coordinate the nuclear hydrogen initiative fully with the other hydrogen research being conducted by the Office of Science and the Office of 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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