Congress followed the Biden administration's lead in delivering a moderate budget increase to the Department of Energy's Office of Science in the current fiscal year, but some lawmakers believe the office needs much more money than is being asked for to advance facilities projects and core research programs.
In Congress’ fiscal year 2022 appropriation for the Department of Energy, the Office of Science’s budget increased 6% to almost $7.5 billion, largely in alignment with the Biden administration’s request. The administration is now requesting another 4% increase for fiscal year 2023, which would bring the office’s topline to $7.8 billion.
The Office of Science supports work in areas such as particle, nuclear, and plasma physics, materials science, biological and environmental research, and high-performance computing, and it also stewards a fleet of large-scale science facilities. In general, the administration’s requests for DOE have prioritized programs related to climate and energy R&D, which has left some of the office’s core science programs and facilities projects under budgetary pressure.
The office’s supporters in Congress, particularly on the House Science Committee, have expressed dismay the administration is not seeking more funding for it. On April 27, the committee held a hearing to spotlight these concerns. In their view, embodied in bipartisan provisions in the America COMPETES Act of 2022, the office’s budget should be over $9 billion in fiscal year 2023 and grow to more than $11 billion by fiscal year 2026.
Details of Congress’ fiscal year 2022 appropriation can be found in an explanatory statement accompanying the legislation as well as in reports from House and Senate appropriators. Summary figures are collected in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
In recent years, an increasingly large fraction of the office’s budget has been allocated to special efforts spanning its various programs. Under the Trump administration, the office began devoting resources to cross-government initiatives in areas such as quantum information science and artificial intelligence. Those activities have continued to grow under the Biden administration and are being joined by additional ones.
Energy Earthshots. The Biden administration’s premier initiative for DOE research programs is its Energy Earthshots campaign, which focuses R&D on specific technologies that will advance decarbonization. So far, it has announced three such Earthshots that are respectively focused on long-duration energy storage, hydrogen fuel, and methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. More are expected to follow. DOE requests $204 million for fiscal year 2023 to support small research groups and establish larger “Energy Earthshot Research Centers” that address challenges at the interface between basic research and applied R&D.
Accelerate. DOE requests $40 million to launch a separate initiative called Accelerate Innovations in Emerging Technologies, or simply “Accelerate,” which will support the transition of science advances into energy technologies through focused research and workforce development.
FAIR and RENEW. Almost $36 million is requested to launch an initiative called Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR), which will fund research capacity-building at minority-serving institutions, “including attention to underserved and environmental justice regions.”
FAIR is intended to complement Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW), an initiative proposed last year that will support training opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels that are geared toward increasing participation and retention of underrepresented groups. DOE requested $30 million to launch RENEW and now seeks $60 million for it in fiscal year 2023.
BRaVE. Another initiative first proposed last year is the Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment (BRaVE), which will facilitate access to national lab resources for applications related to the pandemic and other biological threats. The initiative builds on the ad hoc National Virtual Biotechnology Lab that launched in April 2020. DOE requested $22 million for BRaVE for the current fiscal year and seeks about $52 million for fiscal year 2023.
QIS and AI/ML. The administration requested about $300 million for QIS in fiscal year 2022 and Congress directs the office to spend no less than $245 million. The administration requested about $129 million for artificial intelligence and machine learning and Congress directs the office to spend no less than $120 million. For fiscal year 2023, the administration’s request for QIS is slightly smaller and it proposes to ramp up funding for AI/ML to nearly $170 million.
Basic Energy Sciences
Congress has just increased the BES program budget by 3% to $2.3 billion and the administration requests a further 5% increase to more than $2.4 billion in fiscal year 2023. Within that topline, the request seeks large increases for special initiatives while proposing mostly flat or even decreasing budgets for operations and construction projects at scientific user facilities.
Research programs. The administration seeks to increase the budgets for the Materials Science and Engineering subprogram and the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences subprogram to around 30% over their fiscal year 2021 levels. Those boosts would amount to an overall increase of about $255 million, almost all of which is allocated for special initiatives.
Energy Earthshots. Of the $204 million requested across the Office of Science for the Energy Earthshots campaign, $104 million is within the BES research programs budgets. About half the BES funds would go toward establishing an initial cohort of Energy Earthshot Research Centers, which would be modeled on the existing BES Energy Frontier Research Centers.
EFRCs and Energy Innovation Hubs. Congress has just increased funding for the Energy Frontier Research Center program from $115 million to $130 million, and the administration proposes $129 million for fiscal year 2023. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, an Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne National Lab, will receive its 10th and last year of funding in fiscal year 2023. DOE plans to announce a new competition for its next energy storage hub during that final year. The administration is seeking a small increase in the $20 million budget for its two artificial photosynthesis hubs, which are respectively led by Caltech and the University of North Carolina.
EPSCoR. DOE’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research funds projects in a set of states and territories that have traditionally received a disproportionately small share of federal research funding. The administration is seeking to increase the DOE EPSCoR budget from $25 million to $35 million, but there is significant support in Congress behind proposals to expand the program far more aggressively.
User facility operations. Congress has just increased the operating budget for the BES light source and neutron source user facilities from $817 million to $832 million, but the administration seeks a rollback to $790 million for fiscal year 2023. The proposal is part of a budget-reallocation measure across the Office of Science that would leave most major facilities operating at 90% of their optimal schedule. BES user facilities have generally been running at between 93% and 100% of optimal.
Spallation Neutron Source. Congress has already appropriated most of the funding needed for a power upgrade at Oak Ridge National Lab’s Spallation Neutron Source that is expected to cost $272 million altogether. Accordingly, it is only receiving $17 million in fiscal year 2022, down from $55 million, and the administration is requesting another $17 million for fiscal year 2023. The lab is aiming to complete the project in 2025.
The budget for a much larger project to add a second target station at the facility is increasing slightly to $32 million in the current fiscal year and the administration requests $37 million for fiscal year 2023, well below the targets proposed in the COMPETES Act. The station’s total cost is expected to exceed $2 billion.
High Flux Isotope Reactor. Without mentioning a specific amount, DOE’s request states that it plans to begin allocating funding in fiscal year 2023 for early work on a project to replace the pressure vessel on Oak Ridge National Lab’s HFIR facility.
Advanced Photon Source. Funding for the ongoing upgrade project at Argonne National Lab’s Advanced Photon Source is ramping down from $157 million to $106 million, and DOE is seeking a final installment of $14 million in fiscal year 2023. The project, which has a total cost of $815 million, continues to proceed according to plan, and APS expects to start a one-year shut down in April 2023 to accommodate installation of the upgrade.
Advanced Light Source. As funding for the APS upgrade winds down, funding for an upgrade to Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source is ramping up. Congress increased the project’s budget from $62 million to $75 million this year, and DOE is requesting $135 million for fiscal year 2023. The project’s anticipated cost has escalated in recent years but remained steady over the past year at $590 million. DOE expects the project will be ready to begin its main phase of construction in late 2022.
Linac Coherent Light Source-II. Some components of the new LCLS-II X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) facility at SLAC are already coming online and the project received the last installment of its roughly $1 billion total budget in fiscal year 2019. However, the pandemic caused significant delays and a cost overrun of almost $100 million, which, as of this fiscal year, has now been fully covered through reprogrammed funds and additional appropriations.
A follow-on upgrade to LCLS-II is being planned and that project’s appropriation declined slightly to $53 million in the current fiscal year. The administration is seeking $94 million for fiscal year 2023. Estimates of the upgrade’s total cost have more than doubled in the last few years to $660 million, and although that figure has not officially changed in the last year, DOE warns it could soon be revised to near $710 million due to pandemic-related disruptions.
National Synchrotron Light Source-II. Congress has increased funding for a project to add three beamlines at Brookhaven National Lab’s NSLS-II facility from $5.5 million to no less than $15 million, and the administration seeks a further increase to $25 million in fiscal year 2023. The project is expected to cost $95 million overall, and DOE is now starting to plan a follow-on project that could support the construction of as many as 19 additional beamlines.
Nanoscale Science Research Centers. Congress directs DOE to ramp up the budget for a project to recapitalize equipment at DOE’s five NSRC facilities from $5 million to no less than $15 million, and the administration requests $25 million for fiscal year 2023.
Fusion Energy Sciences
The FES budget is increasing 6% to $713 million in fiscal year 2022 and the administration seeks a 1% increase to $723 million for next year. Although the administration has not favored the program in its budgets to date, the White House recently held a summit to initiate work on a long-term strategy for accelerating commercial fusion energy. Meanwhile, the House Science Committee has taken a particularly strong interest in the program and advocates an immediate budget increase to $1 billion.
ITER. Congress has kept funding for the international ITER facility flat at $242 million, with at least $60 million reserved for the U.S. cash contribution, and the administration requests $240 million for fiscal year 2023. However, the U.S. remains somewhat behind in its funding obligations to the project and the Science Committee recommends increasing its annual budget to $325 million.
The administration’s request notes that the overall U.S. contribution to the project through the achievement of first plasma is expected to be $3.4 billion, which includes $900 million in cash contributions. ITER has been expecting to achieve first plasma in late 2025, but the project is currently facing the prospect of delays stemming from various causes. Anticipating the first plasma milestone, the administration has planned to spend $2 million this year to organize a team that will prepare the U.S. fusion research community to be “ready on day one to benefit from the scientific and technological opportunities offered by ITER.” It requests the same amount for fiscal year 2023.
NSTX-U. Recovery efforts are continuing at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab’ National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade facility following a failure in 2016, months after its startup. NSTX-U was initially expected to be offline for only about a year, but changes in plans have been pushing the restart target back and now DOE states that in fiscal year 2023 it expects to begin commissioning component systems to prepare for the start of plasma operations at a later date.
MPEX. Congress increased funding from $21 million to $25 million for the Material Plasma Exposure Experiment at Oak Ridge National Lab, which will test materials in conditions analogous to those that would prevail inside a nuclear fusion reactor. The administration requests $14 million for fiscal year 2023 as the project approaches the end of its funding profile, though it will not actually begin assembly until early 2023.
Milestone-based funding. Congress has directed FES to spend up to $45 million in fiscal year 2022 to launch a program authorized in the Energy Act of 2020 that will reimburse private fusion ventures after they achieve defined technical milestones. The administration requests $32 million for all public-private partnerships in fiscal year 2023, encompassing both the milestone-based program as well as the smaller INFUSE program, which supports collaborations between private fusion ventures and DOE national labs.
Fusion plant studies. The administration has planned to spend $3 million this year on studies that will lay groundwork for a future fusion power plant, and it is requesting $4 million for this activity in fiscal year 2023.
Inertial fusion energy. The Energy Act of 2020 also directed DOE to create an inertial fusion energy program within FES, supplemental to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s inertial confinement fusion program and efforts supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Accordingly, the administration requests $3 million to establish the program, which will support research in foundational science and technologies identified through a Basic Research Needs workshop taking place this month.
Petawatt laser. Momentum is flagging for a project to upgrade the Matter in Extreme Conditions end station at SLAC. The project received nearly $16 million in fiscal year 2021, but Congress provided only the requested level of $5 million this year, and the administration now proposes $1 million, which would effectively put the project on ice. Adding to MEC’s difficulties, DOE has increased its upper-bound estimate for the project’s cost from $372 million to $461 million. MEC is part of SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source XFEL facility, and the upgrade would increase its power into the petawatt range, responding to a 2017 National Academies report that spotlighted a dearth of petawatt-scale laser facilities in the U.S.
High Energy Physics
The HEP program budget is increasing 5% to almost $1.08 billion in fiscal year 2022 and the administration is seeking another 4% increase to over $1.12 billion for fiscal year 2023. Despite its growth over the last five years, the program has been grappling with the increasing cost of its construction portfolio, which has squeezed funding for core research and technology R&D.
LBNF/DUNE. Annual funding for the flagship Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment continues to rise slowly, increasing from $173 million to about $189 million, and the administration is requesting $180 million for next year. That figure aligns with a “conservative” funding profile DOE floated last year to address ballooning costs as well as the competing need to fund upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider. DOE is currently using a provisional estimate of $3 billion for the project’s overall cost, with international contributions valued at an additional $660 million. However, the department does not anticipate completing firm baseline cost estimates for all elements of the project until 2023 at the earliest.
DOE’s conservative profile would support a plan to start up the project’s main “far-site” detector complex before completing its beamline and “near-site” detector. This would enable it to begin addressing at least some science goals by early 2029. The House Science Committee advocates a more aggressive approach, with the COMPETES Act recommending a $200 million budget for fiscal year 2022 and $325 million for the following year.
PIP-II. DOE has just given the go-ahead for the main phase of construction to begin on Proton Improvement Plan II, an upgrade to the Fermilab accelerator complex that is required for LBNF/DUNE. In line with the increased activity, funding is ramping up in fiscal year 2022 from $79 million to $90 million and the administration is seeking $120 million for fiscal year 2023. PIP-II’s overall cost to DOE is projected to be $978 million with contributions from international partners valued at $330 million. The upgrade is expected to be completed in the late 2020s.
LHC upgrades. For fiscal year 2022, Congress directs DOE to spend no less than the requested $40 million on the forthcoming luminosity upgrades for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and its CMS and ATLAS detectors. However, that request was well below what was needed to stay on track, and so the HEP program has already diverted an additional $25 million to the projects from various other efforts, including a general plant project at Fermilab, according to Office of Science Deputy Director for Science Harriet Kung. Last year, a DOE official indicated such a diversion would prevent the “worst impacts” of a budget shortfall while still leaving the projects with a higher fiscal year 2023 budget requirement of $97 million. The administration is now requesting $85 million, but CERN also announced a schedule shift in March that starts the shutdown to accommodate the upgrade in 2026, a year later than previously planned. The National Science Foundation is requesting $33 million for its share of the projects.
CMB-S4. Congress has increased its funding direction for the Cosmic Microwave Background-Stage 4 experiment from no less than $6 million to no more than $20 million, while the administration requested $2 million. For fiscal year 2023, the administration requests only $1 million to continue early design and planning work. The project is expected to have a total cost of between $320 million and $395 million.
Like the HEP program, the NP program has recently been facing tight budgets due to increasing facility costs. Although the House proposed a particularly tight budget for the program, Congress ultimately delivered a 15% increase bringing its topline to $728 million, which program head Tim Hallman reported will cover immediate needs.
Electron-Ion Collider. Work on the flagship EIC project at Brookhaven National Lab continues to ramp up slowly with Congress increasing its construction budget from $5 million to $20 million in fiscal year 2022, matching the request. The administration is seeking another $20 million for next year. However, the project’s full budget is unclear since it also comprises supplemental funds for “other project costs” (OPC). EIC received almost $25 million for OPC in fiscal year 2021 and Congress did not specify an amount for fiscal year 2022, but the NP program may well allocate OPC funding to EIC from discretionary funds.
In any case, the House Science Committee regards the project as underfunded, believing its budget should have been $101 million in fiscal year 2022, ramping up to $300 million by fiscal year 2024. The point estimate for the project’s total cost remains $2.25 billion.
RHIC. When it is built, EIC will replace Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which is expected to continue operating into 2024. RHIC’s final data-taking campaign will be conducted with the new sPHENIX detector, which is expected to complete construction during fiscal year 2022, on time and on budget, with commissioning scheduled for fiscal year 2023.
FRIB. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a new user facility located at Michigan State University, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 2 to mark the beginning of science operations. Its construction was completed ahead of schedule and on budget, with DOE contributing $636 million and Michigan State $96 million. Funding for FRIB operations is increasing from $52 million to about $80 million in fiscal year 2022 and operating costs are expected to run about $95 million in fiscal year 2023.
GRETA and HRS. Congress has increased funding for the Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array, which will be installed at FRIB, from $6.6 million to up to $15.8 million, whereas the request was for level funding. The administration is now planning a further $6.5 million budget increase, which DOE indicates will allow the project to proceed as quickly as is technically feasible. Funding for the High Rigidity Spectrometer, another instrument for FRIB, is increasing from $3 million to up to $13 million, which would be $10 million more than requested.
Advanced Scientific Computing Research
The budget for ASCR is increasing by 2% to almost $1.04 billion and the administration is requesting a further 3% increase to $1.07 billion.
Exascale computing. The administration is requesting $227 million for exascale computing activities, down from the $439 million budget in fiscal year 2021. The decrease reflects the upcoming completion of the Frontier computer at Oak Ridge National Lab and the Aurora computer at Argonne National Lab. A third exascale computer, called El Capitan, is being built for Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and is being funded through the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Research programs. As funding for the exascale efforts ramps down, it is increasing for ASCR’s research programs, from $260 million in fiscal year 2021 to a requested $379 million in fiscal year 2023. These programs encompass a variety of efforts, including large shares of the Office of Science’s work in quantum information science and artificial intelligence. The requested amount also allocates $50 million for contributions to the Energy Earthshots campaign, half of which is for the research center program.
Computing facilities. Congress is increasing the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s budget from $148 million to no less than $160 million and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s budget from $221 million to no less than $250 million, and the administration is requesting about those levels for next year. The budget for the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley Lab is increasing from $110 million to no less than $120 million, and the administration seeks $113 million for fiscal year 2023.
High-Performance Data Facility. The administration requests $2 million for early planning work on a “high-performance computing and data management facility designed from the ground up to satisfy the unique requirements of state-of-the-art real-time experimental/observational workflows.” The project is motivated by the rapid growth in the rate and volume of data being produced by Office of Science user facilities.
Biological and Environmental Research
Because much of the BER portfolio is relevant to climate change, the program has been a focal point for the Biden administration. In the current fiscal year, Congress increased its budget 8% to $815 million, just short of the requested $828 million. Lawmakers also followed the administration in favoring BER’s Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences subprogram, directing DOE to increase its budget from $350 million to no less than $410 million, accounting for almost the entire BER increase. Now the administration is requesting a further 11% increase to $904 million for BER, but in this case most of the increase would be allocated to the Biological Systems Science subprogram.
Energy Earthshots. The request for BER includes $50 million for the Energy Earthshots campaign, which includes funding for Energy Earthshots Research Centers.
Climate and equity. The administration requests $3 million in fiscal year 2023 to fully implement and operate the National Virtual Climate Lab, which aims to provide a unified access point for engagement with climate science capabilities and workforce training opportunities at DOE national labs. The initiative is intended particularly to serve minority-serving educational institutions and “frontline communities.”
DOE states that in fiscal year 2023 it will continue to lay groundwork for establishing a “network of climate centers” affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. The request states that “the centers will serve as the translational agents connecting BER climate science with broader socioeconomic and environmental justice issues for equitable solutions.” The “network” formulation replaces a previous conception of a “National Climate Laboratory or center.”
Urban Integrated Field Labs. In March, DOE announced the launch of the Urban Integrated Field Lab program it proposed in its fiscal year 2022 budget request. The program will aim to “improve scientific understanding of how climate change affects microclimates and micro-environments across all types of urban communities; how biogeochemical cycling and atmospheric composition vary across urban regions; and how equitable solutions may be identified as a means to minimize impacts, especially on the most disadvantaged urban communities.” DOE estimated $17 million would be available for the program in the current fiscal year and the administration requests $22 million for fiscal year 2023.
Low-dose radiation research. Congress directs DOE to allocate no less than $8 million for research on the biological effects of low doses of radiation, up from the minimum level of $5 million it prescribed last year. DOE discontinued its low-dose radiation research program in 2016 and has expressed hesitation about restarting it, and the budget request makes no mention of low-dose research. However, the House Science Committee has been pressing DOE on the subject and the Energy Act of 2020 established a funding target of $30 million for the program for fiscal year 2023.
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