Department of Energy FY 2024 Request: Healthy Increases for ASCR and ARPA-E with Focus on AI, QIS, and Other Administration Priorities

Last week, the Biden Administration slowly released details of its delayed Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Budget Request. As we have done in years past, we’ll be writing a series of posts analyzing the assorted agency budgets that are important to the computing research community. First up is the Department of Energy, specifically, the two key parts of DOE that are of concern to the computing community: the Office of Science (SC), home to most of the agency’s basic research support, and ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

The President’s FY24 request for DOE SC is $8.80 billion; which is an increase of $700 million, or 8.6 percent, compared to the approved FY23 Omnibus level of $8.10 billion. The increase goes to the, “Administration’s objectives to advance bold, transformational leaps in U.S. Science and Technology (S&T), build a diverse workforce of the future, and ensure America remains the global S&T leader for generations to come.”

DOE SC plans to fund, “a balanced research portfolio of basic scientific research probing some of the most fundamental questions in areas such as: high energy, nuclear, and plasma physics; materials and chemistry; biological and environmental systems; applied mathematics; next generation high-performance computing and simulation capabilities; isotope production; and basic research to advance new accelerator and energy technologies.” The Administration is proposing for the department to provide $168 million for AI and Machine Learning, $280 million for Quantum Information Sciences (QIS), $67 million for Advanced Computing, and $110 million for microelectronics across its programs. DOE is also planning on continuing to support its RENEW initiative to expand, “targeted efforts to increase participation and retention of individuals from underrepresented groups in SC research activities;” the program would receive $107 million, a 78 percent increase over the previous year’s enacted level.

Within the Office of Science account, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program – home to most of SCs computing research programs – would fare quite well. The program would be funded at $1.12 billion, which is an increase of $50 million, or 4.7 percent, over last year. As with the last several years of budget requests for ASCR, the Exascale Computing Project line-item is reduced heavily (-81 percent) due to construction projects nearing completion; meanwhile, all other subaccounts, including the research ones, get a healthy increase, generally. The increases to ASCR’s research will:

“advance AI, QIS, advanced communication networks, and strategic computing at the exascale and beyond to accelerate progress in delivering a clean energy future, understanding and addressing climate change, broadening the impact of our investments in science, and increasing the competitive advantage of U.S. industry.”

As for ARPA-E, the agency would likewise see a healthy increase. Under the President’s plan ARPA-E would receive $650 million, an increase of $180 million over last year, or 38 percent. The request, “will support research and development (R&D) on climate adaptation and resiliency energy innovations as well as support the Administration’s Net Zero Gamechangers Initiative,” in addition to the agency’s usual support for research grants deemed “high risk” and not yet ready for private sector support.

FY22 FY23 FY24 PBR $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $7.48B $8.10B $8.80B +$700M +8.6%
ASCR $1.04B $1.07B $1.12B +$50M +4.7%
ARPA-E $450M $470M $650M +$180M +38%

What are the next steps for the budget? While these initial numbers look very good, it’s important to keep our expectations in check; because how Congress will handle the FY24 budget is very uncertain. Both Congressional Appropriations Committees are beginning their work on their individual funding bills. However, they are expected to approach those bills in very different ways, with the Democrat controlled Senate likely siding with the President’s budget plan and the Republican held House expected to propose heavy budget cuts. The expectation among the science policy community here in Washington is that there will be strong, if not acrimonious, partisan battles over the budget this year, which will lead to legislative gridlock. A government lapse in funding (ie: a government shutdown) is a very real possibility, but not a certainty, at the moment. Flat funding for the research agencies, or even cuts across the federal government, are equally possible.

There is still a lot of time between now and the end of the fiscal year (October 1st); we will have to let events play out before we know for certain what will happen. Please keep checking the CRA Policy Boog for more updates.

Department of Energy FY 2024 Request: Healthy Increases for ASCR and ARPA-E with Focus on AI, QIS, and Other Administration Priorities