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U.S. Senate panel would give slight boost to energy science budget

U.S. Senate panel would give slight boost to energy science budget

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) science program would see a slight budget increase under a spending bill approved today by a U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee. The bill would provide $5.086 billion for DOE’s Office of Science in the 2015 fiscal year that begins 1 October. That is about $20 million above current spending levels and about $25 million less than requested by President Barack Obama.

The details of the bill, which is scheduled to go before the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, are not yet available. But a committee summary offers a few nuggets:

  • Overall, DOE would receive $28.359 billion, $1.091 billion above current spending and $64 million below the president’s budget request. Some $684 million of the increase would go to the $11 billion National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

  • An Exascale Computing Initiative to build the next generation of superfast computers would get $151 million, including $91 million within the Office of Science. The funding “will keep DOE on track to deploy this next-generation computing system by 2022,” according to the panel’s summary.

  • Funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would remain flat at $280 million, which is $45 million below the White House’s request of $325 million.

The summary is silent on funding levels for ITER, the international fusion energy project under construction in France. Members of the panel have voiced concerns about the rising cost of the U.S. contribution to ITER, which has begun to squeeze DOE’s funding for domestic fusion research.

The above numbers are part of a $34.2 billion spending measure covering DOE and an array of federal water management programs. The Senate’s DOE numbers are slightly higher than those approved earlier this month by the U.S. House of Representatives’ spending panel.  The House panel would provide $5.071 billion for DOE’s Office of Science, essentially the same as this year’s budget and about $40 million less than the White House request. The House would also hold funding steady for ARPA-E.

Once the Senate and House complete work on their bills, any differences must be resolved in a conference between the two bodies. No decision on final spending levels for 2015 is expected until after the elections in November.