FY17 Appropriations Bills: DOE Office of Science & ARPA-E

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Publication date: 
3 May 2016

Although both the House and Senate are aiming to increase the Office of Science’s budget by $50 million, their plans diverge at the level of the six core program offices.

At first glance, the Department of Energy appropriations bills recently passed out of committee appear similar on the subject of the Office of Science. (See FYI #47 and FYI #50 for a summary of the Senate and House bills, respectively.) Both bills would provide the office with a $50 million boost, a 0.9 percent increase over the fiscal year 2016 amount of $5.35 billion.

However, differences between the chambers become apparent at the level of the Office of Science’s six core program offices. The below table compares the House and Senate figures for these offices as well as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). More detailed tables which include figures for individual facilities are available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

FY17 DOE Office of Science & ARPA-E Appropriations Summary Table

Funding Line FY16
House Change
Senate Change
Office of Science 5,350 5,572 4.1% 5,400 0.9% 5,400 0.9%
Basic Energy Sciences 1,849 1,937 4.7% 1,860 0.6% 1,913 3.4%
High Energy Physics 795 818 2.9% 823 3.5% 833 4.8%
Advanced Scientific Computing Research 621 663 6.8% 621 0.0% 656 5.7%
Biological & Environmental Research 609 662 8.7% 595 -2.3% 637 4.6%
Nuclear Physics 617 636 3.0% 620 0.5% 636 3.0%
Fusion Energy Sciences 438 398 -9.1% 450 2.7% 280 -36.0%
ARPA-E 291 350 20.3% 306 5.1% 325 11.7%

* Excludes $100 million in proposed mandatory spending for the Office of Science and $150 million in proposed mandatory spending for ARPA-E.

** All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

The starkest split is on fusion. For the third year in a row, the Senate bill zeroes out funding for ITER construction whereas the House bill maintains its support, providing the requested $125 million. Furthermore, the Senate bill endorses most of the requested cut to fusion research whereas the House bill raises it $52 million over the president’s request.

The second biggest rift is on biological and environmental research, with the House advancing a 2.3 percent cut and the Senate providing a 4.6 percent increase, both well below the requested 8.7 percent increase. Next is advanced computing research, which the House flat funds whereas the Senate provides much of the requested 6.8 percent increase.

Out of the six program offices, the one area where the House and Senate largely agree is on high energy physics research, with both chambers providing more than the request.

In addition to ITER, there are some notable differences for certain facilities. In particular, the House and Senate agree that the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and the Advanced Photon Source Upgrade deserve more than the requested amounts, although to differing degrees. The Senate provides an extra $10 million for the former and an extra $30 million for the latter whereas the House provides an extra $5 million and $15 million, respectively.

Another notable deviation is for Energy Frontier Research Centers. The House bill provides only $98 million, $12 million below the fiscal year 2016 amount and far below the president’s request of $143 million. The Senate bill does not specify a number.

As for ARPA-E, the House was initially more generous than the Senate, however a successful floor amendment by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) raised the Senate amount from $293 million to $325 million.

Comparison of the House and Senate committee reports

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports that accompany the House and Senate bills.

Cross-cutting Initiatives

Senate: “The budget request proposes several crosscutting initiatives that span several program offices. The Committee supports the Secretary’s efforts to reach outside of individual program offices to draw on the diverse disciplines within the agency as a whole. These initiatives, which address the Energy-Water Nexus; Exascale computing; the Grid Modernization Initiative; subsurface science, technology and engineering research, development, and deployment; supercritical carbon dioxide; cybersecurity; and advanced materials, would allow for a more comprehensive review of complex issues. Budgetary constraints do not allow the Committee to recommend full funding for these initiatives at this time, but the Committee directs the Secretary to prioritize funds that are provided within this recommendation to support these crosscutting initiatives to the maximum extent possible.”

Mission Innovation

Senate: “The Committee supports the premise and goals set out by Mission Innovation: to support innovative clean energy research and development to accelerate access to affordable, deployable, and transformative technologies. The Committee also supports the goal to double Federal clean energy investment over the next 5 years. The recommendations in this bill take the first step in this effort, while working within the constraints on discretionary funding.

“It is imperative this effort have the support and commitment of private industry as well, and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition has provided that opportunity through a separate, but parallel multinational initiative. Government investment in research alone is not enough, but by providing that public research pipeline, is integral to support a broad partnership of private investors and entrepreneurs to take risks to support innovative ideas in science and energy. Accelerated and aggressive investment in basic research, complimented with private sector investment, will provide breakthrough technologies to support energy independence, as well as drive those technologies to be affordable, resilient, and reliable systems.

“The Committee on Appropriations does not address mandatory funding proposals requested by the administration.

“The Committee believes the Secretary should focus more investment to support the goals of Mission Innovation through the national laboratory system, the Office of Science [bold added], and ARPA-E. This is reflected in the funding provided to Department of Energy programs.”

BRAIN Initiative

Senate: “The Committee is aware of the Department’s partnership with the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and coordination with the interagency BRAIN initiative. The Committee supports the Department’s contributions to the BRAIN initiative through the development of imaging and sensing tools and technologies at x-ray light sources and nanoscale research centers, as well as computational expertise, high performance computing, and data management. This complementary, multi-agency initiative is encouraged to take advantage of existing investments and infrastructure while engaging closely with the neuroscience community to accelerate our understanding of the brain. In addition, the Committee also encourages and supports the use of national laboratory system’s user facilities for the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.”

House: “The Committee encourages the Department to work with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health on a national brain observatory to leverage its high performance computing capabilities in order to advance a deeper understanding of the brain and how it works. This collaboration will lead to novel brain imaging technologies and brain inspired computing applications that will improve the Department’s high performance computing capabilities and expertise. However, while the Committee supports this collaboration, the recommendation does not include the requested $9,000,000 to support the Brain Initiative. The Department’s request would displace other activities and the Committee prefers that research awards in support of the Brain Initiative follow the same competitive process as other research proposals given the high demand for experimentation time on the Department’s high performance computing facilities.”

Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories

Senate: “The Committee appreciates the work of the Committee to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories [CRENEL]. CRENEL made recommendations to rebuild trust between the Department and the national laboratories, maintaining the focus and quality of the laboratory system, maximizing the scientific and economic impact of the laboratories, and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of laboratory operations. The Committee urges the Secretary to take these recommendations seriously, particularly those regarding repairing the relationship between the Department and the national laboratories by increasing accountability and transparency and reducing transactional oversight. The Committee directs the Secretary to submit a report to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment on the progress made in implementing those CRENEL recommendations directed to the Department.”

House: “Indirect Cost Reporting.—In the fiscal year 2014 Act, the Congress directed an independent review of the effectiveness of the national laboratories and provided several recommendations to improve the Department’s ability to meet current and future energy and national security challenges. The reviewing commission recommended that the Department provide greater transparency into laboratory indirect costs by generating an annual report on those costs. Such reporting, if used properly, has the ability to improve management efficiency through more rigorous analysis of indirect costs and enabling actions to better control costs.

“In order to meet these goals to improve efficiency and promote the transparency, accuracy, and completeness of costs incurred at its national laboratories, the Department is directed to provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, on a semi-annual basis using data from mid-fiscal year, and on an annual basis using year-end data, a report that includes the following elements: actual cost pool expense (beginning year estimate), allocation base, overhead rate, actual cost pool revenue (or recovery), the change in the rate, and surplus or deficit variance in dollars of each of the indirect cost pools at each of its national laboratories. The report shall cover the entirety of the indirect cost pools used at each national laboratory, including an accounting of these elements for management fee, taxes, and laboratory-directed research and development. The Committee expects this process will also have the benefit of providing a complete and accurate allocation of direct vs. indirect costs at each laboratory.”

Public Access

House: “The Committee is concerned that despite significant federal investments in scientific research, public access to the published results of this taxpayer-funded research is limited. The Committee directs the Department to adopt a federal research public access policy that is consistent with and advances the purposes of the Department. The Department shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress not later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act a report regarding the appropriate efforts to adopt this Federal research public access policy.”

Workforce Diversity

House: “The Committee recognizes the importance of workplace diversity in the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The Committee directs the Department to provide a detailed plan on recruitment and retention of diverse talent that includes outreach and recruitment programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Asian and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, Predominantly Black Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions. The plan shall be sent to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress within 120 days after the enactment of this Act.”

“Proliferation” of Centers

House: “The Committee remains concerned with the Department’s continual proposals to establish new research centers reliant on outyear funding commitments subject to future appropriations. In fiscal year 2017, the Department proposed funding two new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institutes and a new Energy Innovation Hub. Furthermore, the Department is requesting continued additional funding for the BioEnergy Research Centers and the Energy Frontier Research Centers. The funding of institutes constitutes a growing portion of the Department’s budget and represents a significant out-year investment.

“The Committee continues to support the ongoing review of all existing research centers and urges the Department to take a critical look at its portfolio to determine where improvements can be made in its existing inventory of research centers. Increasing budgets are not a guarantee. The Department must be vigilant in ensuring that the out-year costs of these centers do not diminish the Department’s flexibility in pursuing other research and development outside the scope of existing centers.

“The Committee reiterates its previous direction for the Department to explicitly include in future budget justifications for all centers, hubs, institutes, facilities, and any other persistent, location-based grantees current and proposed funding levels, expected outyear commitments, and details on their programmatic and technical goals.”

Laboratory-Directed Research and Development

Senate: “The Committee directs the Department to ensure that laboratory operating contractors do not allocate costs of general and administrative overhead to laboratory directed research and development.”


Senate: “The Committee recommends no funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor [ITER] project. The Committee has previously expressed and continues to remain concerned about the rising cost of the United States’ participation in ITER under construction in St. Paul-lez-Durance, France. Funding for the contribution to ITER continues to crowd out other Federal science investments, including domestic fusion research, as well as high performance computing and materials science, where the United States has maintained leadership. The Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act directed a report from the Secretary of Energy recommending either the United States to continue its participation in the ITER project or terminate participation, and that recommendation is expected not later than May 2, 2016. The Committee is aware an updated project cost and long term schedule are also under review by an independent panel, and will be provided to the ITER Organization in April 2016.”

House: “The Committee recommends $125,000,000 for the U.S. contribution to the ITER project. The Committee continues to believe the ITER project represents an important step forward for energy sciences and has the potential to revolutionize the current understanding of fusion energy. However, cost increases and major schedule delays have brought uncertainty as to whether the project may still be completed within a reasonable baseline. The fiscal year 2016 Act included language directing the Secretary to recommend by May 2, 2016, that the U.S. either remain a partner in the ITER project or terminate its participation. The Committee notes that the Secretary’s recommendation may require a change to the recommended level of funding for the ITER project and awaits the decision. The Committee directs the Department to submit not later than December 1, 2016, a follow-up report to its May 2, 2016, report updating findings on its ITER recommendations.”

Domestic Fusion Research

Senate: “The Committee directs the Department to provide a prioritization and long-range plan for domestic Fusion Energy Sciences research and development program.”

House: “University-led research helps further U.S. research in fusion energy and trains the next generation of scientists. The Department shall submit not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act a report summarizing the Fusion Energy Sciences program’s current collaboration with universities and an explanation for its relevant funding allocations. … The Committee supports the fusion energy science community’s continued efforts hosting workshops to advance and plan for the long term vision of the fusion energy sciences field. The Department is directed to hold additional workshops and submit not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act a report summarizing these efforts.”

P5 Report / Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility

Senate: “The Committee strongly supports the Secretary’s efforts to advance the recommendations of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel Report, which established clear priorities for the domestic particle physics program over the next 10 years under realistic budget scenarios. Within available funds, the Committee recommends $55,000,000 for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment to ensure the United States meets its commitments to support joint DUNE detector design and prototyping in partnership with CERN, to complete site preparation and begin excavation for the far detector site, and to secure and define technical contributions from other international partners.”

House: “Within available funds, the recommendation includes $43,500,000 for the Muon to Electron Conversion Experiment and $50,000,000 for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF).The Committee strongly supports the Department’s efforts to advance the recommendations of the Particle Physics Prioritization Panel and urges the Department to maintain a careful balance among competing priorities and among small, medium, and large scale projects. … The Committee recognizes the importance of LBNF to maintaining American leadership in the intensity frontier and to basic science discovery of neutrino and standard model physics. However, the Committee also recognizes that LBNF construction must be affordable under existing budgetary constraints”

Exascale Computing

Senate: “The Committee is supportive of the coordinated Federal strategy in high performance computing research, development, and deployment through the National Strategic Computing Initiative. The Committee encourages further coordination between the Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration to support the Exascale Computing Initiative in development of a long range plan. The Committee strongly supports the Initiative, which is critical to maintaining our Nation’s global competitiveness and ensuring American technology outpaces rivals like China to support our national security. Exascale computers will be capable of a hundredfold increase in sustained performance over today’s computing capabilities. The Initiative is also a critical tool to advancing energy technologies.

“In fiscal year 2017, the ASCR portion of the Exascale Initiative is incorporated into a new budget line listed as the Office of Science Exascale Computing Project [SC–ECP] for activities required for the delivery of exascale computers. The SC–ECP will be managed following the principles of Order 413.3B, and a project management office has been established at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has expertise in developing computational science and engineering applications, as well as managing high performance computing facilities and large scale scientific research projects. The Committee recommends including $154,000,000 for SC–ECP. This funding will support hardware and software research and development, including applications software, for the development and deployment of a capable exascale system to meet the scientific and national security mission needs of the Nation by the mid-2020s.”


“The Committee is concerned that there is no clear distinction between the efforts within the NNSA and the Office of Science, and no way to determine if the work is complementary or duplicative. The Secretary is directed to provide a report to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees no later than 90 days after enactment of this act, which describes the roles and responsibilities of the NNSA and the Office of Science associated with exascale computing.”

Basic Energy Sciences Facility Upgrades

Senate: “The Committee is aware the Basic Sciences Advisory Committee will provide an updated assessment and prioritization of the next three to five projects by June, and will take into account for a finalized fiscal year 2017 agreement. The Committee recommends funding for optimal operations $489,059,000 for the five BES light sources to fully support research and allow the facilities to proceed with necessary maintenance, routine accelerator and instrumentation improvements, and crucial staff hires or replacements. The Committee recognizes the critical role that light sources play in the Nation’s innovation ecosystem, and the growing reliance on them by U.S. researchers and industry. In light of increased international investment in these unique scientific resources and the consequences for U.S. innovation leadership, the Committee supports the Secretary’s efforts to upgrade and renew these facilities across the full spectrum of x-ray capabilities.

“Within available funds for operations and maintenance of scientific user facilities, the Committee recommends $265,000,000 for high-flux neutron sources, which will allow for both Spallation Neutron Source [SNS] and High Flux Isotope Reactor [HFIR] to proceed with the most critical deferred repairs, replace outdated instruments, and make essential machine improvements. Further, the Committee recommends optimal funding for the Nanoscale Science Research Centers, and supports the development of capabilities with co-located facilities.

“The Committee recommends $190,000,000 to support the continuation of the construction effort for LCLS–II. In addition, the Committee is aware the Department did not provide adequate funding within Major Items of Equipment for the Advanced Photon Source Upgrade, which received approval for CD–1 in January 2016, and is ready to move ahead with design and procurement. The Committee rejects this approach, and provides $50,000,000 for construction, as previously recommended by the Department.”

House: “The program’s budget consists of funding for research, the operation of existing user facilities, and the design, procurement, and construction of new facilities and equipment. The long-term success of the program hinges on striking a careful balance among these three areas. However, the increasing level of research commitments and completion of new facilities make it difficult to adequately fund all three components of the Basic Energy Sciences program within existing budgetary constraints. The Committee strongly cautions the Department against assuming an ever-increasing budget when planning the balance among facility runtime, construction, and research funding.”

Climate Research

Senate: “The Committee encourages the Department to increase funding for academia to perform climate model studies that include the collection and evaluation of atmospheric data sets from satellite observations obtained in cooperation with NASA. Satellite observations of the atmosphere, within the context of the Earth as a global system, provide information that is critical in the interpretation of Earth-based observations. As other nations have launched research programs on albedo modification, the Committee recommends the Department review the findings of the National Academy of Sciences report entitled, ‘Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth,’ and leverage existing computational and modeling capabilities to explore the potential impacts of albedo modification.”

House: “The Committee continues to support the Department’s funding for academia to perform climate model studies that include the collection and evaluation of atmospheric data from satellite observations obtained in cooperation with NASA. Satellite observations of the atmosphere within the context of the Earth as a global system provide information that is critical in the interpretation of earth-based observations.”