Senate budget makers shut down the DOE research budget cuts proposed by the White House in May and left no room for interpretation as to why.

“The Committee definitively rejects this short-sighted proposal, and instead increases investment in this transformational program and directs the Department to continue to spend funds provided on research and development and program direction,” the Senate appropriations committee wrote in a report penned alongside a bill funding the Department of Energy.

Origami dollar.

Money well spent.
Image credits lukaswafl / Pixabay

We all know by now that the current U.S. administration has a bone to pick with certain fields of scientific pursuit. Back in May, that grudge materialized in some very drastic cuts to several of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) basic and applied research programs. Among the White House’s list of undesirables for the new fiscal year (beginning 1st of October,) one could find the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), an 8-year-old agency which works to turn the most promising ideas from basic research into workable energy technologies. The ARPA-E was earmarked for complete shut-down under the new budget proposal.

That proposal went through the House of Representatives, but Senate appropriators shot it down as soon as they saw it. “The Committee definitively rejects this short-sighted proposal,” they write in their report, and would actually increase ARPA-E’s budget by 8% (to US$330 million.) The report also explicitly forbids the DOE from using monetary constraints to shut down the program.

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The DOE’s Office of Science would also see its biological and environmental research (BER) budget gutted by 43% (down to US$349 million.) Similarly, the appropriations committee “rejects the short-sighted reductions proposed in the budget request” and would see BER funding increased by 3% (to US$630 million.)

Some areas, however, will see cuts. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s applied research budget will see a 7% cut compared to last year, to US$1.937 billion. Still, that’s way more than what the White House proposed — only US$636 million. The Senate appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development would also cut 39% off fusion energy R&D (to US$232 million,) and discontinue the US’ involvement in the international fusion project, ITER, currently under construction in France.

Still, it’s good to see that the US will not readily surrender its long-term pursuit of science (especially pertaining to environmental sciences, which are now more desperately needed than ever) to appease a passing administration.

You can read the full report on the Senate’s appropriation committee’s website.