DOE Office of Science Anticipates Reduced Award Success Rate

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Publication date: 
10 February 2014
Number: 
23

“The Office of Science anticipates that applications for new and renewal grants and cooperative agreements will be awarded at reduced success rates over the next three to five years.  After this transition period, success rates should return to historic norms.”  So writes Patricia Dehmer, Acting Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science in a January 29 memorandum to Office of Science Grant and Cooperative Agreement Applicants and Recipients.

The reason for this reduced success rate is not a reduction in the budget for the Office of Science.  The FY 2014 appropriations bill enacted on January 17 increased the Office of Science budget by $449.9 million or 9.7 percent from $4,621.1million to $5,071.0 million.   

The anticipated reduced success rate is due to language in the General Provisions section of the 639-page appropriations law pertaining to the Department of Energy:

“Notwithstanding section 301(c) of this Act, none of the funds made available under the heading ‘Department of Energy - Energy Programs – Science’ may be used for a multiyear contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Other Transaction Agreement of $1,000,000 or less unless the contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or Other Transaction Agreement is funded for the full period of performance as anticipated at the time of award.”

This language can be found on PDF page 171 of Section 310 of Public Law 113-76.

The key words are “funded for the full period of performance.”

Dehmer describes what the Office of Science is legally required to do as a result of this language in her memorandum as follows:

“The Office of Science’s financial assistance awards have historically been made for three- to five-year project periods with funding provided annually in discrete budget periods.”

She continues:

“We will no longer fund awards with a project period total cost of $1,000,000 or less in this way.  Any new or renewal financial assistance award with a project period total cost of $1,000,000 or less will be funded in full.”

The memorandum continues:

“Beginning immediately, the entire value of any grant or cooperative agreement with a total cost of $1,000,000 or less with will be obligated when the award is made.”

In other words, moving forward the Office of Science is required to account for the total award in the year that it was made instead of spreading it out over, as the memorandum states, “for three- to five-year project periods with funding provided annually in discrete budget periods.”  The Office of Science will consequently make fewer awards for an estimated three to five year “transition period.”

Note that this requirement is contained in the enacted law and not merely in the Explanatory Statement accompanying this law. 

The memorandum includes language on compliance with award terms and conditions for access to funds.