Legislators in both houses of Congress agree that science at the Department of Energy (DOE) should get a slight boost—0.9%—next year. But how they get to that number is quite another story.
This week the full Senate is expected to approve a $5.4 billion budget for DOE’s Office of Science that would eliminate support for an international fusion project in France and trim domestic fusion research. The cuts allow legislators to give relatively healthy boosts to the office's five other research programs within an overall tight budget. To reach the same total, the spending panel in the House of Representatives has proposed continuing to fund ITER and fusion but cutting biological and environmental research and holding the other programs to tiny increases.
For years, observers have been warning that the U.S. commitment to ITER, the gargantuan fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, has been squeezing other DOE basic research programs. That tension shows through clearly in the House and Senate versions of the budget for DOE for fiscal year 2017, which begins 1 October.