Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) 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. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee is recommending flat funding for the DOE SC research accounts.
Under the House’s plan, the Office of Science would be funded at the same amount it was funded in FY23: $8.10 billion. Within the Office of Science, the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, which houses the majority of the computing research at DOE, would receive an overall cut of 4.7 percent – going from $1.07 billion in FY23 to $1.02 billion for FY24. Regular readers will recall that the President’s budget request from March recommended an 8.6 percent increase to the Office of Science and a 4.7 increase for ASCR.
There is some good news in the details for ASCR. Much of the decrease is from planned reductions in the exascale construction accounts. What has happened in past budgets is that the money that is moved out of those accounts, would then be shifted to the research side of the program. The House appropriators only did that in part this year, with about $10 million moved to the research subaccounts, while the remaining ~$50 million was placed elsewhere in the bill. From a research point of view, this would represent a slight increase.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. In the committee’s report, the House appropriators also zeroed out the budgets for the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) and Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) programs, whose aims are to expand and diversifying the researcher workforce and institutions that DOE works with for the research they perform. No justification was given in the report beyond describing them as part of the Justice40 Initiatives, a priority of the Biden Administration. As well, during the full committee markup, an amendment from Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) was adopted on a party-line vote which would prohibit, “funding for any Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, training, or program,” at the Energy Department.
Finally, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would also be flat funded, receiving $470 million for FY24, the same amount it received in FY23. No details were given in the committee’s report for ARPA-E’s budget.
|DOE SC Total
What’s going on here? With regard to funding levels, this is the House Republican Caucus moving forward with their agenda in line with the May Debt Limit Agreement. Their stated aim was to get federal spending under control, and this funding bill is working to that end. With regard to eliminating the DEI programs, this is likely both finding funds to put toward more favored projects, as well as political attacks on Administration priorities. Given the character of legislative work in the House, where it is a majority rules system, the House Republicans have the ability to push their agenda through the chamber.
The House Appropriations Committee approved their bill on June 22nd; next step is for it to go before the full House chamber for passage. Once the bill clears the House floor, we have to wait and see what happens with the Senate slate of funding bills. It is safe to say that the Senate Democrats will not agree with the House’s plans. In fact, they are likely to be far apart. That will set up its own difficult dynamic for closing out Fiscal Year 2024. A continuing resolution is an almost certainty right now, and a lapse in government spending (ie: a government shutdown) is looking very possible. But we are far enough from the end of the Federal fiscal year (October 1st) that outcomes could change. Please check back for more updates.