The Department of Energy Office of Science was among the most favored science agencies in the final spending legislation for fiscal year 2018, receiving its largest single-year budget increase since 2009.
The Department of Energy Office of Science was among the top beneficiaries of the windfall for science agencies provided by the final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2018. The bill raises its budget to $6.3 billion — a $869 million, 16 percent increase — the largest single-year influx it has received since 2009, when Congress provided $1.6 billion in stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
It had been clear since last summer that Congress would reject the Trump administration’s request for a 17 percent cut to the office, as the House and Senate both advanced spending bills maintaining its funding near the current level of $5.4 billion. However, it was uncertain how much the office would stand to benefit from the deal struck in February that raised nondefense spending caps for fiscal year 2018 by 12 percent.
As shown in the chart below, all six of the Office of Science’s main research programs received double-digit percentage increases, with Fusion Energy Sciences and Advanced Scientific Computing Research faring particularly well.
The joint explanatory statement (henceforth, “the statement”) containing funding and policy direction for DOE is available here. Unless otherwise noted within the statement, language from the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports is also valid. Detailed tables with funding amounts for programs are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Basic Energy Sciences
The BES budget will rise 12 percent to $2.1 billion, with much of the increase going toward major user facility upgrade projects. Funding for these projects will increase by over 80 percent to $345 million, while overall funding for all other activities will increase 4 percent to $1.75 billion.
Funding unleashed for light and neutron source upgrades. The statement specifies $192 million for the penultimate year of construction for the Linac Coherent Light Source-II (LCLS-II) at SLAC National Accelerator Facility, $10 million above the project plan presented in the budget request. It also provides $93 million for the upgrade to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, over double the amount appropriated last year and $73 million over the request.
The statement also specifies funding to initiate several other user facility upgrades:
- $36 million for the Proton Power Upgrade to the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (all for construction)
- $30 million for an upgrade to the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ($16 million for construction and $14 million for Other Project Costs)
- $10 million for the LCLS-II High Energy upgrade ($8 million for construction and $2 million for Other Project Costs)
The administration did not request any construction funding for these projects in fiscal year 2018, although it did for the latter two in fiscal year 2019. The House has expressed strong support for these and other DOE facility upgrade projects in package of research infrastructure bills it passed last year.
Full steam ahead for current programs. The statement instructs DOE to provide “not less than” the current amounts for Synchrotron Radiation Sources, Energy Frontier Research Centers, and Energy Innovation Hubs. It also directs DOE to proceed with renewing a five-year charter for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.
Boosts for neutron sources and nanoscience centers. The statement also specifies a minimum 6 percent increase for High Flux Neutron Sources and a minimum 7 percent increase for Nanoscale Science Research Centers.
Fusion Energy Sciences
FES received the highest percentage increase among the program offices, rising 40 percent to $532 million. Much goes toward increasing contributions to the ITER fusion facility being built in France, but funding for other FES activities also fares well, rising 24 percent to $410 million.
ITER funding brings relief but cash still withheld. The bill provides $122 million for “in-kind contributions and related support activities” to the ITER project, over double what Congress provided last year. This is equal to the amount of U.S. hardware contributions DOE has estimated is necessary for ITER to achieve first plasma by 2028, a key milestone. However, the bill does not address the U.S.’s backlog of cash obligations, which Congress has withheld.
ITER Director General Bernard Bigot has said that the hardware funding increase will “prevent ITER having to announce project delays in 2018,” but noted that cash contributions will ultimately be required to keep the project on track. He also said he “hope[s] that at least maybe a small part of the U.S. 2018 contribution could be in cash so as to give a political signal to the other ITER members.”
The Trump administration is currently assessing whether to remain in ITER as part of a broader nuclear energy policy review.
Concern about domestic tokamak facility. The statement also directs DOE to provide a report on the “science drivers” of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s NSTX-U tokamak facility, which is under repair. This reiterates an instruction from the Senate report, which also expresses concern about the repair timeline. The Senate report also recommends that DOE “prioritize operations and research” for DIII-D, which is now the sole operational national tokamak facility.
High Energy Physics
The HEP budget will increase 10 percent to $908 million, an amount well above the planning scenarios used by the most recent Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel.
Flagship neutrino facility construction ramping up. Funding for construction of the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF), a flagship particle physics project led by Fermilab, will nearly double to $95 million, which is $40 million more than requested. The statement also specifies $24.1 million for the Proton Improvement Plan-II, which will provide a beam power upgrade needed for LBNF.
Senate strongly supports Large Hadron Collider upgrades. The statement does not specify amounts for upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. However, the Senate report says the committee continues to “strongly support” U.S. participation in the facility and directs DOE to “prioritize and provide optimal funding for the LHC accelerator upgrades and the LHC CMS and ATLAS collaboration activities.”
Other experiments also fare well. The statement also specifies significantly more funding than requested for two experiments that are searching for dark energy and matter: $17.5 million for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument and $7.4 million for SuperCDMS-SnoLab. The requested level of funding is provided for LUX ZEPLIN, the Muon to Electron Conversion Experiment, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Camera.
The NP budget will increase 10 percent to $684 million.
Isotope beam facility construction continues. The statement specifies $97 million for construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University, $17 million over the request. It also includes $5 million more than the $0.2 million requested to begin building the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array, which DOE states is needed to “fully exploit the physics opportunities of FRIB.”
New domestic isotope production facility funded. The statement specifies $10 million for construction of the Stable Isotope Production Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will provide a domestic capability for making enriched isotopes for research, medical, and industrial applications.
Optimizing current facility operations a priority. The statement does not specify funding levels for facilities currently in operation, but directs DOE to “give priority to optimizing the operations for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System, and the Brookhaven Linac Isotope Producer Facility.”
Advanced Scientific Computing Research
ASCR received the second highest percentage increase among the program offices, rising 25 percent to $810 million. Much of the influx will go toward development of exascale computers, the first of which DOE hopes to complete in 2021.
Senate chair supports exascale project. Funding for the Exascale Computing Project account will rise 25 percent to $205 million. The bill does not include language from the House report expressing concerns about the project and directing DOE to submit a cost baseline to Congress accounting for a flat funding scenario. The Senate was more supportive of the project in its report, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee for DOE, highlighted the exascale project increases in a statement on the final bill.
Leadership computing facilities and ESnet fare well. Funding for the facilities that will host the exascale computers will also rise considerably:
- The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility budget will increase nearly 50 percent to $163 million;
- The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility budget will increase nearly 40 percent to $110 million; and
- Funding for ESnet, a high-speed computing network used by national lab researchers, will rise 76 percent to $79 million, supporting an upgrade that will prepare the network for the increased data flows generated by exascale computers and other DOE user facilities.
Biological and Environmental Research
Although BER was targeted for cuts in both the administration’s request and the House bill, it emerged with a percentage increase equal to that of HEP and NP, rising 10 percent to $673 million.
Funding will be at least level for many programs. The statement specifies that DOE provide “not less than” current funding levels for several programs, including BER’s three major user facilities. It also specifies $25 million for each of the three existing Bioenergy Research Centers and $15 million for the new awardee, a 20 percent overall funding increase.
Genomics a priority. The statement drops language from the House and Senate reports expressing support for certain activities related to satellite observations, climate modeling, and microbiome research, but retains Senate language directing BER to maintain genomic science as a top priority. It also instructs DOE to “expend appropriated funds for critical research on environmental and biological science.”
Science Laboratories Infrastructure
Budget for facility construction and revitalization surges. Funding will almost double for the Science Laboratories Infrastructure program, which supports general purpose facility improvements across the national lab complex. Within a total of $257 million,
- $20 million is for the Energy Sciences Capability at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
- $20 million is for the Integrated Engineering Research Center at Fermilab,
- $30 million is for core facility revitalization at Brookhaven National Laboratory,
- $38 million is for an integrative genomics building at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and
- $44.5 million is for a materials design facility at Argonne National Laboratory.