FY22 Appropriations Update: Senate Numbers for the Energy Department’s Programs are Good and in Line with the President’s Request


Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) federal budget process, we turn to one of the first FY22 bills to come out of the Senate Appropriations Committee: the Energy and Water bill. This proposed plan contains the budgets for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC) and ARPA-E, as well as funding for the Exascale Computing R&D program, for which DOE is the lead federal agency. Regular readers will recall that the House’s plan, released in July, provides healthy, robust funding for these programs, but is not as good as what the President requested in May; the Senate version is mostly in line with the President’s proposal.

The legislation proposes a healthy increase of 6.6 percent for DOE SC over FY21 levels, bringing the agency’s budget to $7.50 billion for FY22, an increase of $470 million. That is slightly more than what the Administration initially requested ($7.44B). Within the Office of Science, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which houses the majority of the computing research at DOE, would see an increase of 2 percent – going from $1.02 billion in FY21 to $1.04 billion in FY22. That is exactly what the Biden Administration requested for the program. The committee’s report spoke highly of DOE SC’s and ASCR’s work on quantum information sciences and AI & machine learning; they also encouraged the agency and program to continue their work in these areas.

As with the House’s proposed plan, when you look into the details of ASCR’s numbers, things look much better for research. The construction accounts within ASCR received a 24 percent decrease, while all other accounts within the program received an 8 percent increase; averaged out, that is where the overall 2 percent increase comes from. This cut to construction costs comes as several large super-computer systems ASCR has built in recent years are getting closer to coming online and it is in line with what the agency requested in May.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive $500 million for FY22, a 17 percent increase (+$73 million) from the $427 million it received in FY21. Again, this is in line with the Administration request. Finally, just like their counterparts in the House, Senate appropriators did not fund ARPA-C, President Biden’s proposed research development program to tackle climate change. In the committee’s report, they noted establishing this new program would require more legislation than the budget process allows. Instead, the appropriators encouraged ARPA-E to focus on more climate research; again, just like the House appropriators.

FY21 FY22 Senate $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $7.03B $7.50B +$470M +6.6%
ASCR $1.02M $1.04B +$20M +2.0%
ARPA-E $427M $500M +$73M +17%

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved their bill on August 4th; next step is for the legislation to go before the full Senate chamber for passage. When that will happen is anyone’s guess; the Senate is currently in their August recess, having finished their work on the infrastructure deal, and they won’t be back until after Labor Day. It’s likely that when they return, September will be taken up by the contentious budget reconciliation process making its way through Congress; don’t be surprised if that reconciliation process takes much longer. That will likely suck the air out of the room for any other legislation to be considered, including appropriation bills. We’ll keep track of developments, so please check back for more updates.