Department of Energy FY 2021 Request: Office of Science is Hit Hard with Cuts; Computing Research Fairs Better

In our continuing series following the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget request, we now turn to the Department of Energy (DOE). There are similarities with the NSF budget request we detailed earlier, including large funding reductions.

The two key parts of DOE for the computing community are the Office of Science (SC), home of most of the agency’s basic research support, and ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

For SC, the President’s FY21 request of $5.84 billion is a cut of 17 percent, compared to the FY20 enacted level of $7 billion. While that is pretty horrible, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which is within the Office of Science, and where most of the computing research at the agency is located, would fair better. The program would be funded at $988 million, which is an increase of $8 million, or plus 1 percent, over last year. In comparison, the Fusion Energy Sciences and Biological and Environmental Research programs would be the hardest hit, and see cuts of 37 percent and 31 percent, respectively. ASCR’s modest increase is to support research in artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences, just like NSF’s funding, in addition to the long running Administration priority of achieving exascale (pages 47 and 48).

As for ARPA-E, it would once again be zeroed out, as it was in the President’s budget requests for the last two years. Despite that record of requests, Congress has maintained ARPA-E funding and provided an increase of 16 percent in FY20 (which happened after a 4 percent increase in FY19).

FY19 FY20 FY21 PBR $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $6.59B $7.00B $5.84B -$1.16B -17%
ASCR $936M $980M $988M +$8M +1.0%
ARPA-E $366M $425M $0 -$425M -100%

In terms of Administration priorities, it’s again similar to NSF’s request with an emphasis on artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences (QIS), and (unique to DOE) exascale. The Administration is still planning for the first exascale system to be deployed in 2021 at Argonne National Lab, and a second to come on line at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the, “2021-2022 timeline.” This has been an Administration priority since the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request (ie: the Administration’s first). There is also a mention of a third exascale system for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the national security part of the Department tasked with civilian oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and infrastructure. This system will be located at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and is expected to be delivered by FY 2023.

Like at NSF, the Administration is steering new money into DOE’s existing programs in AI and QIS. According to the Administration, DOE’s AI investment will be $125 million for FY21, an increase of $54 million dollars over last year. Additionally, the Department’s spending on QIS will increase to $237 million in FY21, which is an increase of $70 million over FY20. Finally, the Budget includes $25 million for the Office of Science to support early stage research for a quantum internet.

As with NSF’s request, it is unlikely that Congress will take this proposed budget seriously; just looking at Congress’s history of ignoring the Administration’s recommended ARPA-E budgets show that. However, like with NSF’s request, this is a bad way to begin the budget process for the year. Please keep checking back for more updates and additional information.

Department of Energy FY 2021 Request: Office of Science is Hit Hard with Cuts; Computing Research Fairs Better