The president’s fiscal year 2020 budget request calls for a $1 billion, 16 percent cut to the Department of Energy Office of Science, which would erase much of the budget increase Congress has provided it over the last two budget cycles. Beneath its toplines, the request also proposes small amounts to begin planning on a variety of new experiments and facilities.
Funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science would drop by $1 billion, or 16 percent, to $5.55 billion under President Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020. The cut would be distributed unevenly among the office’s main programs, with Biological and Environmental Research (BER) seeing the steepest drop, as in previous requests. Cuts to other programs would roll back most of the increases Congress has provided over the past two years. Only Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) would be shielded, with its budget remaining near its current, historically high level.
Congress has rejected similar Office of Science cuts that the Trump administration has proposed in its previous requests. At a hearing last week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee responsible for DOE’s budget, highlighted the record funding Congress has instead provided the office and also noted his own new proposal to double federal funding for energy research. Whether or not that proposal moves forward, the budget the office ultimately receives will emerge from extensive negotiations across both chambers over the scale of total federal spending and a host of other issues.
Beneath its proposed toplines, the president’s request also makes a variety of project-level proposals that Congress may also address. These include commitments to continue work on major user facility upgrades, albeit at a slower pace than at present, and to establish at least one research center in quantum information science. The request also proposes token funding to begin work on a number of new projects, which Congress could decide to pursue more rapidly.
For a summary of the request and details regarding previous appropriations cycles, see FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Quantum information science (QIS)
QIS is a principal priority for the office, manifested in the administration’s request for $168 million for it, distributed among all six program offices, including $51 million for ASCR, $53 million for Basic Energy Sciences (BES), and $38 million for High Energy Physics (HEP).
This QIS budget includes support from ASCR, BES, and HEP for the creation of “at least one multi-disciplinary multi-institutional QIS center.” DOE is required to establish such centers under the National Quantum Initiative Act, which specifies they should each receive up to $25 million annually.
The request states the centers will “include work on sensors, quantum emulators/simulators and enabling technologies that will pave the path to exploit quantum computing in the longer term.” They will also focus on “vertical integration between systems and theory and hardware and software.”
Basic Energy Sciences (BES)
The administration proposes a 14 percent cut for BES, rolling its budget back $308 million to $1.86 billion.
Linac Coherent Light Source II. The LCLS-II project at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory received its final construction appropriation of $129 million in fiscal year 2019. The administration requests no funding for the facility this year, as it is not expected to begin operations until fiscal year 2021. The administration proposes ramping down funding for a follow-on high-energy upgrade from $34 million to $18 million and pushing its completion date back two years to 2028.
Advanced Photon Source upgrade. DOE anticipates approving the start of construction late this year for an upgrade to APS at Argonne National Laboratory, aiming for completion in 2026. Accordingly, the administration proposes ramping the project’s budget up from $130 million to $150 million.
Advanced Light Source upgrade. The administration proposes to reel in the ALS upgrade’s budget from $62 million to $15 million and push back its completion date from 2026 to 2028. DOE approved Berkeley Lab’s conceptual design for the upgrade in September.
Spallation Neutron Source projects. Similarly, the administration proposes to reduce funding for the Proton Power Upgrade at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source from $60 million to $5 million and to complete work on it in 2027. It would also slow funding for the SNS Second Target Station, providing $1 million and instructing the project to draw from the $6 million Congress provided this fiscal year to continue preliminary work. DOE anticipates the station will ultimately cost between $800 million and $1.5 billion and complete construction in 2031.
National Synchrotron Light Source II beamlines. The administration requests $1 million to begin preparations for building three new beamlines at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s NSLS-II facility. It anticipates finishing work in fiscal year 2026 at a total cost of between $40 million and $60 million. NSLS-II has room for about 30 more beamlines and Congress had requested DOE prepare a plan to build all of them out. The department’s budget justification explains, “In order to adopt the most up-to-date technologies and to provide the most advanced capabilities, BES plans a phased approach to the new beamlines at NSLS-II, as was done for the other light sources in the BES portfolio.”
Nanoscale Science Research Center instruments. Another $1 million is requested to begin preparations to recapitalize the instrumentation at DOE’s five decade-old Nanoscale Science Research Centers. The project is expected to cost between $50 million and $90 million.
Energy Innovation Hubs. The administration requests level funding of $24 million for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory and an increase from $15 million to $20 million for the Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub. The increase will go toward a new hub as the Caltech-based Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis approaches the end of its second and final five-year award.
Energy Frontier Research Centers. The administration requests an additional $20 million for EFRCs, which would bring their combined budget to $130 million. The increase would support solicitations for new centers that are “responsive to recent BES strategic planning workshop reports, including use-inspired science relevant to advanced microelectronics and QIS.”
User facility operations. The administration proposes moderate across-the-board cuts to the operating budgets of DOE’s light sources, neutron sources, and nanoscale research centers. Every light and neutron source would operate for about 87 percent of its optimal hours, except for the Linac Coherent Light Source, which would operate at close to a full schedule.
High Energy Physics (HEP)
The administration proposes to reduce funding for HEP by 22 percent, bringing it to $768 million, about where it stood late in the Obama administration.
Research. Support for HEP research would decline 21 percent under the administration proposal. The cut would fall hardest on the Energy Frontier, Intensity Frontier, and Cosmic Frontier subprograms, which would collectively decline 34 percent to $125 million. However, computational HEP and QIS research would increase 52 percent to $20 million and 39 percent to $38 million, respectively, consistent with DOE’s recent prioritization of high-performance and quantum computing.
Large Hadron Collider upgrades. Projects associated with the ongoing high-luminosity upgrade to the LHC at CERN, the world’s premier particle physics research facility, would receive full funding. The U.S. contribution to the accelerator upgrade, which is expected to be complete in 2026, would remain steady at $50 million. Funding for the ATLAS detector upgrade is poised to ramp down from $27.5 million to $23.5 million, while funding for the CMS detector upgrade ramps up from $13.8 million to $23.5 million. The National Science Foundation also requested $33 million this year to initiate a related upgrade project for the ATLAS and CMS detectors.
LBNF/DUNE and PIP-II. Funding for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment would drop from $131 million to $104 million under the request. The budget for the associated Proton Improvement Plan II accelerator upgrade at Fermilab would also fall, from $35 million to $30 million. Together, these projects will enable cutting-edge experiments on neutrino behavior. Whereas Fermilab currently plans to complete these projects in 2026, the administration proposes a completion date in late 2030.
Astrophysical instruments. Four projects to build astrophysical instrumentation — the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope camera, Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, LUX-ZEPLIN detector, and SuperCDMS-SNOLAB experiment — have all received their final appropriations. Accordingly, the administration now requests funding to support preparations for their science operations.
Stage 4 Cosmic Microwave Background experiment. The administration requests a small level of funding to support planning and technology R&D for the proposed CMB-S4 experiment, which was recommended by the last astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. (Clarification: The decadal survey recommended new projects related to the CMB, but the specific CMB-S4 experiment was defined later and will be considered in the next decadal survey.)
Fusion Energy Sciences (FES)
The 29 percent cut the administration proposes for FES would undo much of the 48 percent increase that Congress has delivered over the last two budget cycles, bringing the program’s budget to $403 million.
ITER. The administration requests $107 million for U.S.-manufactured hardware for ITER, a multinational project based in France that aims to clear a path toward the development of practical fusion energy power plants. Although less than the $132 million the U.S. is providing this year, it is the Trump administration’s largest proposed contribution to date. The House Science Committee has stated that the U.S. must contribute $280 million to the project in fiscal year 2020 to make up for past shortfalls and meet its full obligation, including $100 million in cash support.
National Spherical Torus Experiment–Upgrade. Funding for the NSTX-U facility at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory would fall from $93 million to $65 million under the request. The facility has been in a recovery and repair process since it suffered a breakdown in 2016, shortly after the completion of a major upgrade project, and that process is expected to continue through fiscal year 2020.
DIII-D. Operated by General Atomics, DIII-D is currently the only major operational tokamak facility supported by DOE. The administration proposes cutting its combined research and operations budget by 30 percent to $84 million and operating it for 13 weeks out of the year, or 65 percent of a full schedule.
Materials Plasma Exposure Experiment. The administration requests $12 million for continuing construction of MPEX at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a slight decrease from its current level of $15 million. The experiment, which is projected to cost between $40 million and $60 million, will test materials intended for use in burning plasma environments, such as those that would be experienced within nuclear fusion power plants.
Matter in Extreme Conditions Petawatt Upgrade. The administration requests $2.6 million to begin preparatory work for a power upgrade to the Matter in Extreme Conditions end station at the SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source. The upgrade is a response to a 2017 National Academies report recommendation that DOE establish at least one ultrafast, high-intensity laser facility that is co-located with other DOE scientific facilities.
(Image credit – SLAC)
Nuclear Physics (NP)
The administration proposes a 9 percent cut to the NP budget, bringing it to $625 million.
Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Funding for the FRIB facility at Michigan State University is set to decline from $75 million to $40 million as construction proceeds toward its completion in 2022. Only $2.5 million is requested for the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array (GRETA) detector to be installed at FRIB, down from $6.6 million. DOE’s budget justification explains that “project plans will be re-evaluated upon an FY 2020 appropriation to consider changes to the project cost and schedule.” GRETA is currently projected to cost between $52 million and $65 million. The administration requests $1 million to begin work on a High Rigidity Spectrometer for FRIB, projecting it will ultimately cost between $80 million and $90 million.
Neutrino-less double beta decay experiment. The administration requests $1.4 million to commence work on an experiment that would provide “unprecedented” resolution for detecting the hypothesized neutrino-less double beta decay process. If successful, the experiment would establish that neutrinos are their own anti-particle. The experiment is expected to cost between $215 million and $250 million. Pursuing such a project was a top recommendation of the 2015 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science.
Electron-Ion Collider. Initial funding of $1.5 million is requested for work on the Electron-Ion Collider, a major accelerator facility that would be constructed either at Brookhaven National Laboratory or the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. The collider would be NP’s next large-scale construction project after FRIB and is expected to cost on the order of $1 billion. The project was recommended in the 2015 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science and backed by a recent National Academies study.
Stable isotope production facilities. The administration requests a final year of funding for construction of the Stable Isotope Production Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It also requests initial funding of $5 million for a follow-on U.S. Stable Isotope Production and Research Center, which is projected to cost between $150 million and $200 million. Both projects aim to enhance U.S. domestic capacity for producing critical non-radioactive isotopes through isotope separation processes.
Major facility operations. Although operations funding would not be dramatically reduced under the administration’s proposal, operating hours would be substantially cut back. The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at Jefferson Lab would operate for 24 percent of its optimal schedule, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven for 41 percent, and the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS) for 31 percent.
Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR)
Funding for ASCR would decrease 2 percent under the administration’s proposal to $921 million.
Exascale computing. Within ASCR, the administration requests $464 million for exascale computing, which includes a decrease for the Office of Science Exascale Computing Project from $233 million to $189 million as work on two exascale computing systems proceeds toward their anticipated completion in 2021 and 2022.
High performance computing facilities. An increase for high performance computing facilities from $572 million to $586 million is requested, which includes preparations for the deployment of exascale systems at Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
Biological and Environmental Research (BER)
Funding for BER would decrease 30 percent to $494 million under the administration’s proposal, repeating earlier unsuccessful attempts to scale back the program.
Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences. Consistent with prior proposals and the administration’s broader efforts to deprioritize Earth science, the heaviest cuts to BER would fall in this area. Overall funding would decrease from $139 million to $93 million. This includes a decrease in the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Research Facility from $86 million to $43 million, which is only partially accounted for by last year’s one-time appropriation of $18 million for the purchase of a new aircraft.
Biological Systems Science. Funding for BER’s biological programs would decrease from $368 million to $327 million under the request, which would include cutting the budget of the Joint Genome Institute from $70 million to $60 million. The request also proposes to reserve $20 million for biosecurity, an administration priority.