Statement on Department of Energy Science & Technology: FY 2009

ACS Position Statement: FY 2009


ACS supports, at a minimum, the proposal for the Office of Science (18.9% increase) under ACI and calls for higher funding in keeping with the America COMPETES Act.

ACS Position

The American Chemical Society (ACS) urges Congress to approve, at a minimum, the president’s recommended budget allocation of $4.7 billion for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science in FY 2009, an increase of $749 million (18.9 percent over FY 2008). This falls short of the level authorized to enhance U.S innovation and competitiveness in the America COMPETES Act last summer, and Congress should strive to provide to return to the funding blueprint approved with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The Office of Science is central to improving energy security: It drives advances in energy production, efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy sources. It enables numerous technologies crucial to our nation’s security and environmental goals and fosters economic growth by supporting fundamental research, which economists agree drives long-term productivity and job gains. Yet fundamental research is precisely the type of research that industry has been forced to reduce. We encourage Congress to work with the Department to ensure America’s premier physical sciences research agency receives the resources necessary to meet America’s growing competitiveness challenge.

America COMPETES Act

ACS also remains committed to the broad blueprint contained in the America COMPETES Act. The COMPETES Act and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PL 109-58) both authorized FY 2009 funding for the DOE Office of Science at $5.2 billion. Unfortunately, the Office of Science was cut in real terms in the FY 2008, so this now requires a 37 percent increase over current funding. ACS recommends that Congress provide funds beyond the president’s request in order to approach this level of increase and reverse recent cuts that have led to program terminations and other draconian measures.

Office of Science

ACS believes that the Office of Science, the largest federal supporter (40 percent) of research in the physical sciences, warrants increased investment. A Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board report, the Office of Science facilities plan, and the Office’s 20-year strategic plan drew this same conclusion. In light of these documents, rising energy prices and the unstable nature of world petroleum supplies, ACS feels a $749 million increase is the minimum necessary to ensuring America’s technological leadership and economic competitiveness, as well as fostering energy self-sufficiency.

The Office of Science is now able to fund only 10 percent of unsolicited, peer-reviewed proposals—a considerably lower ratio than that for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. The FY 2009 request would allow the Office to support over 25,000 researchers. We recommend that increased funding be provided next year to support more high-quality, basic research and to shore up DOE’s scientific facilities.

Given the tight budget constraints facing policymakers, ACS urges Congress to avoid funding projects (i.e., “earmarks”) at the Office of Science that are not properly vetted via the peer review and competitive grant process. ACS strongly supports the process of peer review in determining the best use of resources at the Office of Science. Any funding for new programs at DOE should not compromise fully funding the resources of the Office of Science. ACS strongly urges policymakers to ensure robust funding for the Office of Science prior to creating or investing in new programs at DOE. Any funding for new programs at DOE should not compromise the resources of the Office of Science.

Basic Energy Sciences

The Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program, for example, is critical to advances in the physical sciences, but its flat FY 2008 budget is hampering its ability to fund significant opportunities in catalysis, nanotechnology, high-speed computing, hydrogen, biomass, and other vital research areas critical to solving the energy and climate problems facing the U.S. and world. In fact, low funding will likely force the Office to lay off critical personnel who may move to cutting-edge international facilities or retire, thus permanently depriving America of this vital source of intellectual talent. The president’s FY 2009 request would allow BES—which allocates over half its budget to facilities like our national laboratories—to restore its research-grant size closer to historic norms. ACS urges the Department of Energy’s leadership to make current and future efforts to increase grants for research across the board in the Office of Science —specifically at the Office of Chemistry, Geosciences, and Biosciences within Basic Energy Sciences.

Biological and Environmental Research

The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program supports some of America’s top groundbreaking science research: the human genome, medical imaging, climate change, and environmentally sound energy production. For example, BER funds research to understand how microscopic sea organisms absorb sunlight in hopes of discovering processes to dramatically improve the efficiency of solar cells. Strong research funding is also needed to advance efficient, pollution-prevention methods for clean-up of aging DOE weapons production sites.

Nuclear Science Education

The Society strongly supports the Office of Science program authorized in the America COMPETES Act to strengthen nuclear science education by addressing the acute needs of nuclear chemistry, radiochemistry, and nuclear engineering academic programs at American universities. It is essential for Congress to provide the authorized investment in this program, which fits well with the Office of Science’s overall mission of bolstering U.S. scientific competitiveness in key science fields.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, chartered by Congress, with more than 160,000 chemical scientists and engineers as members. The world’s largest scientific society, ACS advances the chemical enterprise, increases public understanding of chemistry, and brings its expertise to bear on state and national matters.