FY23 Appropriations Update: House Numbers for the Energy Department’s Programs are Good, Similar to the President’s Request

Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) federal budget process, we turn to the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water bill. This bill 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. Very similar to last year’s mark from the chamber, the House’s plan provides healthy, robust funding for these programs, and are very close to what the President requested in May.

The bill proposes a solid, 7 percent increase for the Office of Science over FY22 enacted levels, bringing the agency’s budget to an even $8.00 billion for FY23 (an increase of $520 million). Within the Office of Science, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which houses the majority of the computing research at DOE, would see a less generous increase of just 1 percent – going from $1.04 billion in FY22 to $1.05 billion for FY23. While the Office of Science top line number is better than Biden Administration plan, the ASCR number is slightly below (by about $20 million) what the President recommended.

Much like last year, that 1 percent increase for ASCR is deceptive and contains good news. ASCR’s research subaccounts received increases and together would increase by an average of 7 percent. However, the Exascale Computing Program, which is winding down several large construction projects, received a large 40 percent cut from its FY22 levels. But this decrease is planned, as it is what the Administration requested. As with last year’s ASCR request and House plan, from a research perspective, this plan is better than the overall number would suggest.

In the committee’s report, the House appropriators voiced their support for the agency’s efforts in artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences. They also spoke highly of the Office of Science’s engagement plans with HBCUs and MSIs, in order to build research capacity and further workforce development.

Finally, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive $550 million for FY23, a 22 percent increase (+$100 million) in comparison to FY22. In terms of policy details, there seems to be a disagreement between what the Administration feels the agency is authorized to spend its funds on and what the House Appropriations Committee thinks. In the committee’s report, it states:

The budget request proposes to expand ARPA–E’s scope to include research and development on climate adaptation and resilience. However, the budget request justification notes that the expansion will require legislation beyond the current authorization. The Committee notes that ARPA–E has authority ‘‘to address the energy and environmental missions of the Department,’’ according to section 5012 of the America COMPETES Act. This includes climate-related innovations, and further, the Committee notes that ARPA–E already funds such activities.

It will be interesting to see how the Senate Appropriations Committee responds to this matter. Other than this disagreement, there are no other policy stipulations for ARPA-E in the report.

FY22 FY23 PBR FY23 House $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $7.48B $7.80B $8.00B +$520M +7.0%
ASCR $1.04B $1.07B $1.05B +$15M +1.0%
ARPA-E $450M $700M $550M +$100M +22%

The House Appropriations Committee approved their bill on June 28th; next step is for it to go before the full House chamber for passage. That is likely to be soon. Once the bill clears the House, we have to wait and see what happens on the Senate side, as that chamber hasn’t begun public work on their slate of bills. Please check back for more updates.

FY23 Appropriations Update: House Numbers for the Energy Department’s Programs are Good, Similar to the President’s Request