FY18 Appropriations Bills: DOE Office of Science

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Publication date: 
27 July 2017
Number: 
102

The House appropriations bill for the Department of Energy would maintain funding for the Office of Science at current levels, while the Senate bill would increase it by 3 percent to $5.55 billion. Advanced computing stands out as a clear winner in both bills and the longstanding rift between the chambers on funding for the ITER fusion facility persists.

The House and Senate’s draft Department of Energy appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018 resoundingly reject President Trump’s request to cut funding for the Office of Science by 17 percent, a decrease of over $900 million. The House bill would maintain funding for the office at current levels, and the Senate bill would increase it by 3 percent to $5.55 billion. Furthermore, if the chambers are able to reach an overarching budget deal that raises the current caps on discretionary spending, the final appropriation for the Office of Science may be higher than the current toplines.

The chart below shows the topline funding changes sought for the six research program offices. Detailed tables containing funding figures for selected accounts are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

Below are summaries of selected provisions from the appropriations committee reports that accompany the bills. The full House report is available here and the full Senate report is available here.

Advanced Scientific Computing Research

Of the six program offices, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) was the only one for which the administration requested an increase, seeking to raise its current $647 million budget by $75 million. Much of this influx would go toward accelerating ASCR’s efforts to develop an exascale computing system in partnership with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The House bill would partially fulfill this request, providing a $47 million increase, while the Senate bill would exceed it, providing $116 million. Although supportive of the administration’s desire to prioritize advanced computing, the bills’ topline increases mask some significant differences.

The administration requested $197 million for ASCR’s contribution to the Exascale Computing Project, a $33 million increase over the current level. The Senate bill includes $184 million for ECP and says it is “supportive of the plan to accelerate delivery of at least one exascale-capable system in 2021, reasserting U.S. leadership in this critical area.” In contrast, the House bill only provides $170 million and says it is “concerned that the deployment plan for an exascale machine has undergone major changes without an appropriately defined cost and performance baseline,” directing DOE to submit such a baseline to the committee that takes into account “flat and slightly increasing funding assumptions.”

Furthermore, the House bill would fund the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility near the current level of $110 million, while the Senate bill would provide the requested $40 million increase.

There is less distance between the bills for the other major programs. Both would provide the requested $20 million increase for the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility and would reject the proposed $12 million cut to the National Energy Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Both would also significantly boost funding for the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), a high performance computing network that supports the entire DOE laboratory system. The Senate bill is particularly generous, increasing the program’s current budget of $45 million by 76 percent.

Fusion Energy Sciences

Once again there is a large rift between the chambers on funding for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES).

For the fourth year in a row, the Senate bill zeroes out funding for the ITER project, a long-delayed magnetic confinement fusion tokamak facility under construction in France, while the House bill includes the $63 million requested. In past years, the House has been successful in securing funding for ITER in final negotiations. The Senate bill would also slash FES’s research budget by 30 percent to $232 million, while the House bill would maintain it near the current level.

In a congressionally-mandated report released last June, then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recommended that the U.S. remain a partner in the ITER project through fiscal year 2018 then reassess its contribution. The report says ITER “remains the best candidate today to demonstrate sustained burning plasma, which is a necessary precursor to demonstrating fusion energy power,” but also warns that absent budget increases, providing the required U.S. contribution would delay other facility projects. FES has since commissioned the National Academies to develop a long-term strategy for the U.S. magnetically confined burning plasma research program that considers scenarios in which the U.S. remains in or withdraws from ITER.

Responding Moniz’s report, Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that it “makes clear that moving ahead with the project would come at the expense of other Office of Science priorities that the Department of Energy considers more important — and that I consider more important. Those projects include upgrading the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, developing exascale supercomputers, and constructing the Second Target Station at the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge.”

The Senate bill contains ample evidence that Alexander still holds this view. In addition to its large boost for exascale computing, it includes tens of millions of dollars beyond the request for multiple facility upgrades, discussed below.

Basic Energy Sciences

The House bill would maintain funding for Basic Energy Sciences (BES) at the current level of $1.87 billion, although overall funding for research would decrease by 4 percent to $1.61 billion. In contrast, the Senate bill would raise the overall BES budget by $109 million.

Both bills would provide more than the requested amounts for the Linac Coherent Light Source-II (LCLS-II), the division’s highest priority construction project, and the Advanced Photon Source-Upgrade (APS-U), but the Senate is more generous to both and would provide funding to initiate several additional facility upgrades.

In addition to more than doubling funding for APS-U, providing $93 million, the Senate bill includes $20 million for the Advanced Light Source Upgrade (ALS-U), $26 million for the Spallation Neutron Source Proton Power Upgrade (SNS-PPU), and $6 million for the Linac Coherent Light Source-II High Energy Upgrade (LCLS II-HE).

The Senate justifies the light source upgrades as needed “in light of increased international investment in these unique scientific resources and the consequences for U.S. innovation leadership” and in accord with recommendations from DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. In a report issued last June, the advisory committee concluded that APS-U, ALS-U, LCLS II-HE, SNS-PPU, and a second target station for SNS are “absolutely central” to enabling each facility to contribute to world-leading science.

DOE has since formally approved the “mission need” for ALS-U and LCLS II-HE, a milestone referred to as Critical Decision-0, with total estimated cost ranges of $260 million to $420 million and $260 million to $450 million, respectively.

bes-light-source-upgrades.jpg


A slide from a presentation titled “X-Ray Light Sources: An International Perspective” given at the February 2017 meeting of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.

The bills also diverge on funding for BES’s Energy Innovation Hubs, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. The House bill accepts the administration’s request to zero out funding for both, although it also specifies $10 million for “competitive awards that continue similar research activities previously supported by the Hubs.” In contrast, the Senate bill directs BES to fund both hubs at least at the current level and to move forward with a five-year charter renewal for the energy storage hub. (Update: The House restored funding for the hubs in a floor amendement to the bill.)

However, both bills reject the proposed termination of the Centers for Functional Nanomaterials and Integrated Nanotechnologies, two of the division’s five Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRC). The Senate bill does so explicitly, while the House bill does this implicitly, specifying $122 million for NSRCs overall, which is near the current funding level.

High Energy Physics

The House bill would maintain funding for High Energy Physics (HEP) at the current level of $825 million, while the Senate bill would raise it by $35 million.

Of particular note, both bills would provide about $80 million for construction of the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF), significantly exceeding the $55 million requested. Funding for LBNF has been ramping up in recent years, and DOE held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on July 21.

The House includes little additional direction for HEP, simply providing $29.5 million for dark energy and dark matter experiments as well as the requested $9.8 million for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Camera.

The Senate is more verbose, praising the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) report for establishing “clear priorities for the domestic particle physics program." The bill also provides specific direction for additional projects.

For example, it notes that the committee “continues to strongly support U.S. participation in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and directs the Department to prioritize and provide optimal funding for the LHC accelerator upgrades and the LHC CMS and ATLAS collaboration activities.” HEP asked for $27 million to begin a High Luminosity LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project in the budget request. DOE approved the Critical Decision-0 milestone for this project last April with a total estimated cost range of $180 million to $250 million.

Also, via an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the bill recommends $24 million for the Proton Improvement Project-II (PIP-II) at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and $7.4 million for a cryogenic dark matter search experiment (SuperCDMS-SnoLab). The budget submission did not contain a figure for PIP-II and requested $2 million for SuperCDMS.

Biological and Environmental Research

Both bills reject the steep 40 percent requested cut to Biological and Environmental Research (BER), although the House bill would still shave 5 percent from its budget. In contrast, the Senate bill would increase funding for BER by $21 million to $633 million. It describes the request as “short-sighted” and says that the committee “recognizes the unique and beneficial role that the Department plays for the Nation in the advancement of biosciences to address core departmental missions in energy and the environment.”

In addition to their topline disagreement, the bills diverge on funding for BER's Bioenergy Research Centers. The House bill would provide the requested $40 million, nearly half the current funding level. The Senate bill specifies that the centers be funded at no less than $90 million, with $25 million for each of the three existing centers and $15 million for a recently selected center.

The Senate bill is also intent on preserving support for BER's research labs, setting minimum funding levels for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Research Facility and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, among other programs.

Both bills contain language supportive of funding for academic groups to analyze atmospheric data from satellite observations collected in cooperation with NASA, and the Senate bill encourages BER to increase funding for such studies.

Nuclear Physics

The House bill would decrease the Nuclear Physics (NP) budget by $3 million while the Senate bill would raise it $17 million to just under $640 million. Beyond the topline, there do not appear to be any significant disagreements between the chambers, although the Senate provides more detailed instructions.

Both would provide $97 million for construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), $17 million above the request, which had proposed rebaselining the project. The Senate bill encourages NP to work with Michigan State University, which hosts the facility, to “commence early operations”. 

The Senate bill also provides more funding than requested for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and the division’s two new major equipment projects, the Stable Isotope Production Facility and the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array.

Committee report comparison

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

Public access

House: Public Access Plan.—The Committee appreciates the Department issuing its Public Access Plan on July 24, 2014. The Committee urges the Department to continue efforts towards full implementation of the plan and expects an update on progress to be included in the fiscal year 2019 budget request.

Interagency collaboration

Senate: The Committee continues to support the Department’s partnerships with the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, and national security agencies.

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 Department investments and infrastructure while engaging closely with the neuroscience community to accelerate our understanding of the brain.

The Committee also encourages and supports the use of national laboratory user facilities for the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Solar fuels research initiative

House: The Department is directed to submit to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress not later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act a solar fuels research initiative strategic plan. The 10-year plan should discuss research challenges and opportunities, program goals, and milestones to overcome scientific and technological impediments. The plan should also include a description of the planned coordination between the Office of Science and EERE to leverage basic research and early-stage translational research in solar fuels to accelerate the pace of innovation, an assessment of U.S. leadership in solar fuels research relative to international competition, and the extent to which investments are sufficient to maintain U.S. leadership.

Exascale computing

House: The Committee is concerned that the deployment plan for an exascale machine has undergone major changes without an appropriately defined cost and performance baseline. The Department is directed to provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act an update to the exascale plan that includes a detailed cost and performance baseline, taking into account flat and slightly increasing funding assumptions, for the technological challenges remaining to be solved to deliver an exascale machine.

Senate: The Committee is supportive of the plan to accelerate delivery of at least one exascale-capable system in 2021, reasserting U.S. leadership in this critical area.

Energy innovation hubs

House: The recommendation provides no funding for the continued operation of the Batteries and Energy Storage Innovation Hub and the Fuels from Sunlight Innovation Hub. However, the recommendation includes $10,000,000 for competitive awards that continue similar research activities previously supported by the Hubs.

Senate: The Committee understands the Department has either delayed or does not intend to initiate a renewal for the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research [JCESR]. The Committee directs the Department to move forward with the review and renewal process to support the next 5-year charter for next-generation battery and storage technologies. Recognizing the critical role battery and energy storage technologies play in both the transportation and electricity sectors, the Committee recommends not less than $24,088,000 for JCESR. In addition, the Committee recommends not less than $15,000,000 for the Fuels from Sunlight Hub, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis [JCAP] to continue to perform research on the fundamental science of carbon dioxide reduction needed to enable efficient, sustainable solar-driven production of liquid transportation fuels.

Light and neutron sources / nanoscale research centers

House: Within available funds, the Committee directs the continued support of all the nanoscience research centers and urges optimal operations for all the light sources. The recommendation includes $15,000,000 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, $489,109,000 for facilities operations of the nation’s light sources, $261,000,000 for facilities operations of the high flux neutron sources, and $122,272,000 for facilities operations of the nanoscale science research centers.

Senate: The Committee recommends not less than $125,366,000 to continue the five existing Nanoscale Science Research Centers, and rejects the proposed termination of both the Center for Functional Nanomaterials and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies.

The Committee recommends $496,059,000 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 support for 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 continues to support efforts to upgrade and renew these facilities across the full spectrum of x-ray capabilities. In support of the priority recommendations from recent Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee reports, the Committee recommends $6,000,000 for the High Energy Upgrade at LCLS II. In addition, the Committee recommends $93,000,000 for the Advanced Photon Source Upgrade. The Committee recommends $258,200,000 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. The Committee does not recommend funding for the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center.

Construction.—The Committee recommends funding for two new projects as shown in the table below. Within the amounts recommended for construction, the Committee recommends $26,000,000 for preliminary engineering and design of the Proton Power Upgrade project at SNS, and to continue work towards a project baseline. In addition, the Committee recommends $20,000,000 for the Advanced Light Source Upgrade.

Earth observation and modeling

House: The Committee continues to support the Department’s funding for academia to perform 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. Additionally, the Department encourages cooperative research on this topic with the national laboratories and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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.

Genomic science

House: The Committee notes that the Office of Biological and Environmental Research has pioneered research in fundamental genomic science of plants and microbes. The Committee urges the Department to build upon and leverage this expertise and to invest in scientific infrastructure needed to facilitate a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles governing microbiome establishment, function, and interactions in diverse environments, fostering a predictive understanding of how microbiomes interact with plants, control the availability of materials such as carbon, nutrients, and contaminants, and respond to changes in the environment.

Senate: The Committee directs the Department to maintain Genomic Science as a top priority, and continues to support the Mesoscale to Molecules activity. The Committee recommends $69,300,000 for the Joint Genome Institute, an essential component for genomic research.

University fusion research

House: University-led research helps further U.S. research in fusion energy and trains the next generation of scientists. In fiscal year 2017, the Department was directed to summarize the fusion energy sciences program’s current collaborations with universities and report back to the Committee. The Committee looks forward to the results of this report.

Senate: The Committee supports continued research in the Fusion Energy Sciences Program on High Energy Density Plasmas and recognizes the partnerships between the laboratories and research universities to address the critical need for skilled graduates to replace an aging workforce.

National Spherical Torus Experiment repair

Senate: The Committee recommends the Department prioritize operations and research for DIII–D tokomak facility. The Committee remains concerned about the timeline of facility repair and recovery actions for the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade [NSTX–U], as operations have ceased through at least fiscal year 2019. The Committee directs the Department to assess science drivers for the NSTX–U to support future planning and reconfiguration for the Fusion Energy Sciences program, and provide a briefing to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress upon completion.

ITER

House: The Committee recommends $63,000,000 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.

Senate: The Committee recommends no funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor [ITER] project, as this funding would come at the expense of other Office of Science priorities.

High energy physics projects

House: Research.—Within available funds, the recommendation provides $9,800,000 for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Camera and $29,500,000 for the dark energy and dark matter experiments.

Senate: Within available funds, the Committee recommends $82,000,000 for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. The Committee recommends funding for the Muon to Electron Conversion Experiment (Mu2e) consistent with the approved baseline funding profile and $5,000,000 to continue the upgrade of the Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests II. In addition, the Committee continues to strongly support U.S. participation in the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] at CERN, and directs the Department to prioritize and provide optimal funding for the LHC accelerator upgrades and the LHC CMS and ATLAS collaboration activities.

Within Cosmic Frontier Experimental Physics, the Committee recommends $17,500,000 for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument and $14,100,000 for the G2 Dark Matter Experiment LUX ZEPLIN. The Committee recommends $9,800,000 for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Camera. The Committee recommends $24,100,000 for the Proton Improvement Project II at Fermi National Laboratory. This funding will advance design work for accelerator upgrades that will support the LBNF project. The Committee also recommends $7,400,000 for SuperCDMS–SnoLab.

Nuclear physics facilities

House: Operations and Maintenance.—Within available funds, the Department is encouraged to fund optimal operations at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility to support runtime at the 12GeV Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility and at Brookhaven National Laboratory to support runtime at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

Senate: Within available funds, the Committee recommends $97,200,000 for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams [FRIB], and encourages the Department to work with Michigan State University to commence early operations at FRIB. The Committee also recommends $5,000,000 for the Stable Isotope Production Facility to provide increased domestic capacity for production of critically needed enriched stable isotopes for research, defense, and industry, and reduce the Nation’s dependence on foreign supplies. The Committee also recommends $3,200,000 for the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array [GRETA], which will enable advanced, high resolution gamma ray detection capabilities for FRIB.

The Committee further recommends $174,600,000 for operations at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, and optimal operations for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System, and the Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer Facility.

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