FY24 Appropriations Update: Senate Provides Slight Increases for Energy Department Computing Research

Continuing our coverage of the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) federal budget process, we turn to the Senate 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. The Senate Appropriators generally stuck to the May Debt Limit Agreement and provided either slight cuts or slight increases to the covered energy research programs. In short, a far cry from the generous budgets requested by the President in March but slightly better than what the House Appropriators approved.

The bill proposes a 4.1 percent increase for the Office of Science over FY23 enacted levels, bringing the agency’s budget to $8.43 billion for FY24 (an increase of $330 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 decrease of 4.7 percent – going from $1.07 billion in FY23 to $1.02 billion for FY24, under the Senate’s plan.

Much like the last several years of ASCR budgets, that 4.7 percent decrease is deceptive. Similar to the specifics in the House’s budget plans, only part of the planned draw down of funds from the exascale construction accounts is moved over to the research subaccounts; typically, all the money is shifted over. Out of $63 million, the Senate is proposing only about $10 million be moved in the research side of the program. When accounting for this, the research subaccounts would receive a general 1.0 percent increase under the Senate’s plans.

In the committee’s report, the Senate appropriators voiced their support for the agency’s efforts in artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences. For AI, the committee provided not less than $135 million for artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts within the Office of Science. And for QIS, the committee provides not less than $255 million, with a breakdown of $120 million for research and $125 million for the five National Quantum Information Science Research Centers.

The appropriators also voiced their support for the Office of Science’s engagement plans with HBCUs and MSIs, with particular praise for the agency’s RENEW and FAIR programs, in order to build research capacity and further workforce development. This is in contrast to the House’s plans which eliminated funding for the programs with little justification. The Senate budget mark also support’s DOE’s EPSCoR program, recommending $35 million.

Finally, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive a cut of $20 million, or a reduction of 4.3 percent compared to FY23 enacted levels. The agency would go from $470 million in FY23 to $450 million under the Senate’s FY24 plans. That is below the flat funding of the House’s mark and well below the $650 million plans that the Administration recommended.

FY23 FY24 PBR FY24 Senate $ Change % Change
DOE SC Total $8.10B $8.80B $8.43M +$330M +4.1%
ASCR $1.07B $1.12B $1.02B -$50M -4.7%
ARPA-E $470M $650M $450M -$20M -4.3%

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved their Energy and Water legislation on July 20th; the bill now heads to the full chamber for consideration. It’s unclear when that will happen, but it will likely be after the Senate comes back from its August recess. While the House and Senate are not far apart with their Energy and Water plans, at least as far as computing research is concerned, that is the exception with this year’s funding legislation. It is expected that Fiscal Year 2024 will take a lot of time and effort to close out. There is already talk of a months-long continuing resolution(s) and even a possible government lapse in funding (ie: a government shutdown). CRA will continue to monitor the situation and report on any new develops; please keep checking back for the latest news.