R&D in the FY 2014 Omnibus: Department of Energy

A few low-carbon R&D programs avoided what would have been drastic cuts, and most would recover significant funding from sequester levels.

For the most part, the Department of Energy (DOE) has done moderately well regarding funding in the FY 2014 omnibus, though such a perspective might be attributed to lowered expectations. While few programs would reach the levels proposed by the President's budget, which particularly favored low-carbon technology R&D, many would nevertheless surpass FY 2012 funding levels in nominal dollars. Per AAAS estimates, DOE R&D will rise to $11.8 billion in FY 2014, a 20.4 percent increase above sequestration levels and a 9.3 percent increase above FY 2012 (or a 5.3 percent increase in constant dollars).

The figure is much closer to the Senate recommendation than the House, which would have kept overall R&D roughly flat from sequester levels while implementing sharp cuts in renewables and efficiency and in transformational R&D at ARPA-E. In particular, the Office of Science managed to get relatively close to the President's request, while R&D funding outcomes at the National Nuclear Security Administration and the department's energy technology programs are somewhat more mixed.

The below chart only shows AAAS estimates of R&D funding; for a more detailed chart that includes discretionary spending by program, click here.

A few observations:

  • Within the Office of Science (SC), the most favorable outcomes look to have gone to the Advanced Computing, Fusion Energy, and Nuclear Physics, all of which will experience growth from FY 2012 levels even after inflation. High Energy Physics' appropriation also surpassed the President's request. Within Fusion Energy Sciences, appropriators reduced the United States' contribution to the international fusion energy project ITER by $25 million below the President's request, leaving more funding available for domestic activities. The Energy Frontier Research Center program received $100 million, equal to the Senate mark and partway between the House mark and the President's request, which were rather far apart. Overall SC funding would remain essentially flat from FY 2012 funding levels after inflation, likely ensuring another year of missed America COMPETES Act targets.

  • While neither the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) nor the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) were within a stone's throw of the President's request, the outcome must still be a relief for both agencies considering the magnitude of the cuts they were facing in the House. Both agencies' appropriations ended up closer to the Senate mark than the House. Within EERE, funding will shift noticeably toward bioenergy and advanced manufacturing.

  • The appropriations for the offices of Nuclear Energy and Fossil Energy were both something of a surprise, as both programs ended up with higher numbers than either chamber of Congress or the White House had proposed previously. The increase in Nuclear Energy was focused on a handful of specific R&D programs, including small modular licensing support and fuel cycle R&D, among others, while the Fossil Energy boost was fairly broad-based.

  • The National Nuclear Security Administration's R&D activities ended up closer to the lower House figures than the higher Senate figures, and were clearly short of the President's request, but would still show growth from FY 2012 levels. In particular, nonproliferation R&D would receive a funding boost even as broader nonproliferation spending would be cut.

Somewhat surprisingly, DOE R&D would reach an all-time high adjusted for inflation, even as few programs would clearly thrive under the omnibus agreement.