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Letter to House Appropriators Urges Increased Funding for DOE Science Programs

Richard M. Jones
Number 112 - November 8, 2010  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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When the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2011 funding bill this summer, they recommended essentially flat funding (-0.1%) for the Office of Science.  A group of 108 corporations, universities, and associations have just sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA) urging them “to find a way to provide the increased funding requested for DOE science programs.”

The American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society were among those signing this letter which was sent by the Energy Sciences Coalition. 

The Obama Administration requested $5,121.4 million for the Office of Science for FY 2011, which after adjusting for previous earmarks, is an increase over the previous year of  6.1 percent.  A DOE budget document explains “The FY 2011 request supports the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation, which encompasses the entire SC [Office of Science] budget, as part of a strategy to double overall basic research funding at select agencies. As part of this plan, the budget request supports the training of students and researchers in fields critical to our national competitiveness and innovation economy, and supports investments in areas of research critical to our clean energy future and to making the U.S. a leader on climate change.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a 2.2 percent increase in the FY 2011 budget for the Office of Science.

The FY 2011 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, as is true with all the FY 2011 funding bills, faces an uncertain future.  Reports indicate that Senate appropriators are developing an FY 2011 funding measure that would fold all twelve appropriations bills into a single omnibus bill to fund government functions through the end of next September.  Total discretionary spending would be at a level of $1.108 trillion, a level advocated by some Senate Republicans.  Senate staff reportedly stated that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to complete the FY 2011 appropriations cycle and is looking to the FY 2012 funding bills to make significant reductions in federal spending.  The Office of Science is being funded through a temporary measure (along with the rest of the federal government) that expires December 3. 

The top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis does not want to wait until FY 2012 to make these reductions.  In a November 4 letter to Appropriations Chairman Obey, Lewis stated “As we approach the closing days of the 111th Congress, I want to make clear my strong, unequivocal opposition to any potential omnibus spending bill you and the present Democrat leadership may be planning to bring to the House floor before the end of the year.  My understanding is that you and the Democrat leadership are now in the final phases of fashioning legislation comprised of all 12 of the unfinished FY11 appropriations bills with a price tag exceeding $1.1 trillion."  He continued, "Committee Republicans are ready to begin cutting spending immediately.  Congress should not wait to do next year what we can begin in earnest today.  There is no justifiable reason to delay this process until the 112th Congress convenes in January."

Some Republicans advocate reducing total non-security discretionary spending to pre-stimulus FY 2008 levels.  Spending levels would likely vary between individual programs under such an arrangement.  The FY 2008 appropriation for the Office of Science was $4,018.1 million.   The current budget for the Office of Science is $4,903.7 million.

Congress returns to Washington a week from today.  The letter to Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis follows:

“Dear Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Lewis:

“As you continue your work on the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills, the undersigned organizations of the Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC) write to express concerns about the funding level provided for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science in the bill approved by the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and urge the committee to provide increased funding for the vital basic research it supports.

“Congress committed in 2007 to increase funding for the DOE Office of Science when it enacted the bipartisan America COMPETES Act.  In adopting this measure, which was consistent with the innovation agendas of both political parties as well as the recommendations of the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Congress affirmed the importance of basic research to economic growth and energy security.  However, the fiscal year 2011 bill approved by the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee deviates from the COMPETES commitment, providing $4.900 billion for the DOE Office of Science, $4 million below the fiscal year 2010 funding level and $221 million below the Administration request.  Without the requested funding, the DOE Office of Science will not be able to support more graduate fellowships, additional Energy Frontier Research Centers, or an Energy Innovation Hub focused on overcoming the challenges of energy storage, and it will be unable to sustain its core research programs and user facilities at fiscal year 2010 levels. 

“As the U.S. economy continues to struggle and international competition for quality jobs grows, Congress should not back away from the commitment it made in America COMPETES.  Instead, we need to invest in the kind of basic research so critical to improving our energy security and national competitiveness, meeting our environmental challenges, and producing new jobs and innovative technological breakthroughs that will fuel our economy well into the future.  We need to invest in basic research at universities and national laboratories, the education and training of thousands of future scientists and engineers, and the operation of one-of-a-kind scientific facilities utilized by over 25,000 scientists annually from industry, academia, and government.  In short, we need to invest in the DOE Office of Science, the nation’s primary sponsor of research in the physical sciences, and a unique and critical component of the federal research enterprise. 

“We recognize and appreciate the tremendous fiscal constraints the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee faced in crafting its bill in light of its 302(b) allocation.  As the process moves forward, however, we would ask that you work with the subcommittee chair and ranking member and the House leadership to find a way to provide the increased funding requested for DOE science programs.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics