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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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Analysis of the FY 2015 CRomnibus Appropriations Bill

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Monday, December 15, 2014


Executive Summary

In a herculean effort, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concluded negotiations on a final Continuing Resolution (CR) and Omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 83) to fund federal government agencies for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015. The so called “CRomnibus” bill sustains federal investments in research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions. The bill as passed the House and the Senate is expected to vote over the next few days with the Congressional Leadership working to round up the votes to pass the bill. The President will sign the bill.

The bill includes funding for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills and upholds the $1.013 trillion spending cap for FY 2015 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (the “Ryan-Murray” agreement). The final bill is also consistent with the $521 billion spending cap placed on defense and the $492 billion non-defense spending cap.

Reflecting the high-stakes political arena in Washington, D.C. following the election that gave Republicans a comfortable majority in the Senate, it was not certain that the oft characterized “do-nothing” Congress could agree to a final appropriations measure. It increasingly appears, however, that there will be bipartisan support for the final CRomnibus bill to give federal research agencies and education programs certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The more controversial bills, such as Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Interior and Environment, narrowly avoided a full-year CR when agreements were reached over funding the healthcare reform law and various policy riders relating to regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection agency (EPA), among other issues. The only agency remaining under a CR is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would be funded through February 27, 2015. This action provides an avenue for the incoming Republican-led Congress to take the Administration to task over the President’s recent executive actions on immigration, but the CR also will disrupt the operation of numerous federal agencies under the DHS umbrella.

The CRomnibus bill sustains support for federal research agencies and reflects continued bipartisan support for these investments even in times of tight budgets:

  • NSF would receive modest increases in all accounts for a total of $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. Cognitive science and neuroscience are highlighted in the report language with a recommended $21 million for new research.
  • While funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is held to the current level of about $5.1 billion, priority innovation programs, including Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, the exascale initiative, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) are supported.
  • Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would be funded at $325 million, a significant increase of $8.6 million (2.7 percent). Notably, the bill includes a provision (Sec. 749) exempting AFRI through FY 2015 from the 1:1 matching requirements that were mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Details of the major federal research, education, and healthcare programs funded in the CRomnibus bill follow. While the CRomnibus bill would provide budgetary certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year, the budget battle will be rejoined in the upcoming 114th Congress.  Please see the following link to view Lewis Burke's full analysis of the FY 2015 Crombnibus:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  funding  NSF  research  USDA 

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DOE Funding Bill Approved by House for FY 2014

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On June 26, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $30.4 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill to fund the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Energy (DOE), and other independent agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2014. The Committee bill overall is $2.9 billion below the FY 2013 enacted level and approximately $700 million below the enacted level after sequestration. Please note that comparisons to the FY 2013 enacted level do not reflect the across-the-board reductions required under sequestration. The House bill is $4.1 billion below the President’s budget request. This is the first domestic spending bill that reflects the significant spending reductions that would be needed under the House-passed budget resolution and in the absence of an overall long-term deficit reduction plan that would replace sequestration.

House Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) highlighted the "hard choices” the Subcommittee had to make to meet its spending allocation. The priorities for the bill include DOE’s national security programs, including nuclear weapons; national and regional infrastructure programs through the Army Corps of Engineers; nuclear clean-up; and programs to promote economic competitiveness. The funding recommendations in the bill reflect the decision of the House Republican majority to write the FY 2014 bills to an overall discretionary total of $967 billion, the post-sequester spending cap level. This level is $91 billion below the level of $1.058 trillion for discretionary spending requested by the President and embraced by Senate Democrats that assumes the sequester is overturned and a comprehensive budget agreement is reached.

The House Committee recommends a reduction of $1.4 billion below the FY 2013 enacted level before sequestration for DOE’s energy programs. For the DOE Office of Science, the House bill would provide $4.653 billion, which is a reduction of about $223 million (4.6 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level. The House bill is nearly $500 million (9.7 percent) below the President’s request for the Office of Science. The Committee indicates that it has given priority to research, such as the basic research done by the Office of Science, which only the federal government is likely to do. Within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the Committee fully funds the President’s budget request of $24.2 million for each of two Energy Innovation Hubs relating to Fuels from Sunlight and Batteries. The House bill includes $60 million to support the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), a reduction of $40 million below the President’s request. The Committee does not approve the request of an additional $68.7 million to fully fund additional centers. The Committee also approves the budget request for exascale computing totaling $68.58 million. Chairman Frelinghuysen indicated that, as it did last year, the Subcommittee restores cuts to the Fusion Energy program proposed by the President.

The House Committee makes the deepest funding cuts in programs deemed a priority by the Administration. For the Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy (ARPA-E), the House proposes to reduce funding to $50 million, which is a reduction of $215 million (81 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level. The House proposal is $329.0 million (86.8 percent) below the President’s request for ARPA-E. A Democratic amendment to restore the $215 million was defeated on a voice vote because the increased spending was not offset with reductions elsewhere in the bill, and the amendment if adopted, would exceed the Subcommittee’s budget allocation.

The House bill would transfer the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and fund the programs overall at $982.6 million, a reduction of $971 million (49.7 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level, and $1.96 billion (66.6 percent) below the President’s budget request. The President’s budget request proposed to increase these clean energy technology programs by over 50 percent to nearly $3 billion. A Democratic amendment was offered to fund EERE at $2.8 billion during committee consideration of the bill. The amendment was defeated on a party line vote as the amendment if adopted, would exceed the Subcommittee’s budget allocation.

For the electricity programs, the House bill recommends $80 million, a reduction of $32.5 million below the FY 2013 enacted level and $61.4 million below the President’s budget request. The House Committee recommends no funding for the proposed Electricity Systems Energy Innovation Hub for which the President requested $20 million.

Within EERE, the House Committee emphasizes research to address high gas prices through the Bioenergy Technologies, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies, and Vehicle Technologies programs, providing a total of $390 million for these activities. The House Committee also states that advanced manufacturing is a priority, providing $120 million for this program with continued support for the Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub.

The House bill would provide funding for ongoing Nuclear Energy activities at $656.4 million, a reduction of $96.6 million (12.8 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level and $79.1 million (10.8 percent) below the President’s budget request. The bill would provide $450 million for the Fossil Energy R&D programs, which is an increase of $29.4 million (7.0 percent) above the President’s budget request, but $84 million (15.7 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level.

The recommendations for the DOE nuclear security programs administered through the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) total $11.3 billion, which is a decrease of $235.6 million (2.1 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level, and $386.5 million (3.3 percent) below the President’s budget request. These programs include Weapons Activities, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, and Naval Reactors. As it did last year, the House Subcommittee approves $25 million to retain the viability of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

For the water infrastructure agencies, the House bill would provide $4.9 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, a reduction of $104 million (2.0 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level excluding emergency appropriations associated with Hurricane Sandy, and $50 million (1.0 percent) above the President’s budget request. The House would provide $965 million for the Bureau of Reclamation, which is $91.7 million (8.8 percent) below the FY 2013 enacted level and $93.6 million (8.9 percent) below the President’s request.

House Energy-Water Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2014

As reported by the House Appropriations Committee, 6/26/13

(In thousands)

FY 2013


FY 2014 Request

FY 2014 House Cmte Mark

House Cmte vs.

FY 2013 Enacted

House Cmte vs.

FY 2014 Request

DOE, total
















Advanced Scientific Computing Research








Basic Energy Sciences








Biological and Environmental Research








Fusion Energy Sciences Program








High-energy Physics








Nuclear Physics








Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists







Science Laboratories Infrastructure








Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency








Nuclear Energy








Fossil Energy Research and Development
















DOE Defense Activities








Weapons Activities








Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation








Army Corps of Engineers, total








Bureau of Reclamation, total








* FY 2013 values are based on the FY 2013 enacted values as given in the House report. They do not reflect sequestration.

† The House bill proposes combining EERE and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability into this new account.

‡ Includes funds from the Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriations bill.

For additional information, please see the House Energy-Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee website at

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE 

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Obama Administration Announces “Big Data” Initiative

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC , Thursday, April 12, 2012

On March 29, the Obama Administration announced a "Big Data Research and Development Initiative”[1]. The Big Data initiative aims to develop new tools and techniques to manage vast and complex data sets to help address societal challenges in areas such as environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security.

The initiative involves six Federal departments and agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the US Geological Survey (USGS). The agencies will invest more than $200 million to improve how large data sets are accessed, organized and interpreted through a number of ongoing and new activities. According to the White House press release, the initiative aims to:

  • Advance state-of-the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze, and share huge quantities of data.
  • Harness these technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.
  • Expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies.

As part of the initiative, several new competitions were announced at NSF, NIH, and DARPA. Below is information on selected individual opportunities.


National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes for Health (NIH) – Joint Solicitation: Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering

This solicitation will advance science and technology to manage, analyze, visualize, and extract information from large data sets. According to the solicitation, proposals should address one of three areas: data collection and management, data analytics, or e-science collaborative environments. All proposals should also address capacity building. NIH seeks proposals that tackle the above issues as part of data sets related to health and disease, especially imaging, molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, chemical, behavioral, epidemiological, or clinical data sets.

Many offices at NSF and NIH are participating in the solicitation. NSF offices include the Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), Geosciences (GEO), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Offices of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) and Polar Programs (OPP). NIH offices include the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Library of Medicine (NLM), and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Letters of Intent: Letters of Intent are not required.

Due Dates: No preliminary proposals are required. Full proposals are due June 13, 2012 for mid-scale projects and July 11, 2012 for small-scale projects.

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF and NIH plan to award a total of $25 million to 15 to 20 projects. Small-scale awards will be up to $250,000 per year for up to three years, while mid-scale awards will be up to $1 million per year for up to five years.

Eligibility and Limitations: This solicitation uses regular NSF eligibility requirements. There are no limits on the number of proposals that can be submitted per organization. Principal investigators are limited to two proposals.

Additional Resources: Contacts and additional information are available at


NSF Dear Colleague Letter – IGERT-CIF21 Track

NSF has released a Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that it will establish a Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) track in its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The CIF21 track aims to educate and support the next generation of researchers working on big data issues. NSF will publish a funding opportunity with more details shortly. The Dear Colleague letter is available at


NSF Dear Colleague Letter Data-Intensive Education-Related Research Funding Opportunities

EHR, SBE, CISE, and OCI released a joint Dear Colleague letter to alert the community that a solicitation on data-intensive education research will be released shortly. The solicitation will call for participants in an Ideas Lab to "advance teaching and learning focused on transforming large datasets into knowledge that leads to actions that can improve learning environments”. NSF expects to fund a range of research projects generated at the Ideas Lab. The Dear Colleague letter also highlights existing NSF funding opportunities in this area. The Dear Colleague letter is available at


Other Activities

In addition to the new competitions listed above, NSF, DOE, and USGS announced newly awarded grants and projects:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – 1,000 Genomes Project Data Available on Cloud

NIH posted the 1000 Genomes Project data on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) computing cloud. According to the NIH press release,[2] the data set is the world’s largest on human genetic variation and will now be available for use by researchers.

National Science Foundation (NSF) – New Big Data Awards in Ongoing Initiatives

  • The Directorate of Geosciences will award the first round of grants to support the Earth Cube[3] initiative, which aims to create a unified data infrastructure for the geosciences.
  • The Expeditions in Computing program[4] will award $10 million for a project at University of California, Berkeley to integrate machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing to convert large volumes of data into useable information.
  • The Research Training Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (RTG) program[5] will award $2 million to the University of California, Davis for undergraduate training in graphical and visualization techniques for complex data.
  • The Focused Research Groups in the Mathematical Sciences (FRG) program[6] will award $1.4 million to an unnamed group to support statistical and biological research on protein structures and biological pathways.
  • The international Digging into Data Challenge announced its second round of awards to support humanities and social science research involving large data sets.[7]

A complete listing of NSF announcements related to Big Data is available at


Department of Energy (DOE) – New Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) Institute

DOE announced[8] a $25 million award to create a new SciDAC Institute, the Scalable Data Management, Analysis, and Visualization Institute (SDAV). SDAV will be led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will bring together six national laboratories and seven universities to help scientists manage and visualize data from large and complex simulations run on DOE supercomputers.


US Geological Survey – Big Data for Earth System Science Awards

The John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis[9] announced its latest round of awards, which will contribute towards the Big Data initiative. These awards will help improve understanding of a range of issues including how species respond to climate change, earthquake recurrence rates, and the next generation of ecological indicators.


Ongoing Programs

The White House also compiled an extensive listing of ongoing programs across the Federal government that relate to Big Data challenges:

Tags:  DOD  DOE  NIH  NSF  President Obama 

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Policy Update: FY 2012 Appropriations Update: Congress Completes FY 2012 Appropriations Process

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Monday, December 19, 2011

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – December 2011

The U.S. Congress voted to accept a package of fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations measures to avoid a shutdown of a significant portion of the Federal Government as the current Continuing Resolution was set to expire Friday night. This action followed months of wrangling over the federal debt and deficit and reducing federal spending. The final bills represent real compromise and sustain important investments in federal research and education programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Department of Defense (DOD) basic research, and Pell grants, at current levels or with modest increases. The House of Representatives passed the package early on Friday while the Senate passed the bills on Saturday.

The final conference agreement details funding amounts and agency directives for federal agencies, including:

  • Defense Appropriations Bill – Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill – Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Bill – Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The $915 billion Consolidated Appropriations bill includes $30.698 billion for NIH for an increase of $299 million (0.7 percent) above FY 2011. The final bill creates the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is the top priority for NIH Director Francis Collins, and includes $10 million for the new Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). The bill decreases the NIH salary cap from Executive Level I ($199,700) to Executive Level II ($179,700)—a better outcome than the House draft bill, which recommended Executive Level III, but the first time Congress has decreased the NIH salary cap.

The DOE Office of Science would receive $4.889 billion, an increase of $46.34 million (about one percent) above FY 2011. The final bill provides $20 million each to establish two new Energy Innovation Hubs – one on Batteries and Energy Storage and one on Critical Materials. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs of the Department are slated for level funding at $1.825 billion. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will receive $275 million, half of the $550 million requested by the President.

DOD basic and applied research programs remain a priority within the bill as the overall increase for the Department was held to $5 billion above the FY 2011 level, a compromise between the House’s $17 billion increase and the Senate’s proposed freeze. For DOD research overall, a total of $72.4 billion is approved. While this represents a $2.5 billion decrease below the current level, the reduction is less than experienced by other aspects of the defense budget.

The final bill includes the necessary funding to continue the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550, while making changes to the program to reduce cost. However, the program is still expected to face increased funding pressures because of the overall growth of the program.

Additionally, the Senate rejected, in a 43 to 56 vote, a resolution that would have triggered a 1.83 percent across-the-board reduction against all discretionary spending except for defense, military construction, and veterans programs. The reduction was designed to pay for an additional $8.1 billion in disaster relief appropriations, which will now be provided as emergency spending following Senate approval of that legislation.

The Congress also passed, and the President has signed, a bill to extend the Continuing Resolution through December 23rd to allow the President to review and sign the Consolidated Appropriations bill into law this week. These actions will finally complete the FY 2012 appropriations process.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOD  DOE  NIH 

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The U.S. Department of Energy Solicits Nominations for the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Monday, December 19, 2011

The Lawrence Award honors mid-career, U.S. scientists for exceptional advances in research and development congruent with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) mission to advance the economic and energy security of the United States. The award is given to scientists through the DOE’s Office of Science in the following eight categories: Atomic, Molecular, and Chemical Sciences; Biological and Environmental Sciences; Computer, Information, and Knowledge Sciences; Condensed Matter and Materials Sciences; Energy Science and Innovation; Fusion and Plasma Sciences; High Energy and Nuclear Physics; and National Security and Nonproliferation.

The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award was established in 1959 in honor of a scientist who helped elevate American physics to world leadership. E. O. Lawrence was the inventor of the cyclotron, an accelerator of subatomic particles, and a 1939 Nobel Laureate in physics for that achievement. The Radiation Laboratory he developed at Berkeley during the 1930s ushered in the era of "big science," in which experiments were no longer done by an individual researcher and a few assistants on the table-top of an academic lab but by large, multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers in entire buildings full of sophisticated equipment and huge scientific machines. During World War II, Lawrence and his accelerators contributed to the Manhattan Project, and he later played a leading role in establishing the U.S. system of national laboratories, two of which (Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore) now bear his name.

Each Lawrence Award category winner receives a citation signed by the Secretary of Energy, a gold medal bearing the likeness of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, and a $20,000 honorarium; if there are co-winners in a category, the honorarium is shared equally. Nominations and selection guidelines can be found here: Briefly, nominations are made by submitting a letter of justification, a statement explaining the nominee’s connection to DOE support, a separate bibliography comprising no more than five significant publications related to the achievement, a curriculum vitae, at least three and no more than six letters of support, and a suggested citation. Submission of all nomination materials, including letters of support, in PDF format, is made online at

For a list of previous Lawrence Award laureates see

All nomination materials and support letters for the 2012 E. O. Lawrence Award must be received by March 15, 2012, 11:00 PM, ET. No materials will be accepted after the submission deadline has passed.

Tags:  award  DOE 

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Implications of Supercommittee Collapse for Science Funding and Higher Education

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Media attention has focused on the failure of the 12-member congressional Supercommittee to reach agreement on a package to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years. However, universities and science organizations are not the victims of the deficit impasse. Generally, federal funding for scientific research is not the target of deficit reduction for several reasons: (1) the amount of domestic discretionary funding for science is not large enough to have significant impact on deficit reduction; (2) science has bipartisan support among politicians since it is part of the innovation economy upon which the country’s financial recovery is partially dependent; and (3) dismantling the scientific infrastructure of the country is counter-productive in the global technology-driven forces of the 21st century. There are aspects of the current federal deficit paralysis that indirectly affect higher education – particularly relating to student aid, academic health centers, and tax policy – but reducing direct federal support of scientific research at academic institutions is not front-and-center.

Now, many are trying to determine what happens next as Congress still has much work to do before adjourning next month. With funding fully enacted for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) the competitive funding arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with modest increases (NSF and NOAA), flat funding (AFRI) or a slight reduction (NASA), completion of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations process, especially for NIH funding, is an important challenge. In addition to funding the remaining appropriations bills, which are currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 16th, there are other issues looming before Congress, such as extension of unemployment benefits, doctor payments, and tax extenders. This report describes the impact of the collapse of the Supercommittee at the federal level; however, actions might be taken by state and local governments to respond to possible implications associated with the collapse of the Supercommittee process. 

Near-Term Outlook for Science Funding

Among its many to-dos, Congress must still complete nine remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, including bills that fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education (ED). It is expected that this will be done through one large "omnibus” package before the end of the calendar year. As previously reported, other science agencies for which appropriations bills have been passed—namely NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—fared relatively well in FY 2012, receiving budgets that are about flat or slightly increased above the FY 2011 enacted level. A similar outcome is expected for basic research in agencies like NIH and DOE in the final appropriations agreement.

One caveat is that it is not uncommon for a modest across-the-board reduction to be included in an omnibus appropriations bill should it be warranted to keep discretionary appropriations within the overall cap of $1.043 trillion enacted in the Budget Control Act (debt limit agreement). Should the appropriations process stall, there has been some discussion of extending the current CR into early next year, which would result in a freeze for all programs at the current (FY 2011) level until Congress completes an omnibus bill or enacts a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Planning is also underway by agencies for the President’s FY 2013 budget request which is expected to be more conservative than in past years and may even be delayed due to the uncertainty of future budget cuts. The FY 2013 process remains very uncertain at the moment with flat funding for federal research agencies considered "a win” in the coming years.

Budget Scenarios for FY 2014 and Beyond

In August, the Budget Control Act enacted a process that would institute automatic across-the-board budget cuts over nine years, known as sequestration, in the event that the Supercommittee could not reach a deal. However, given that the cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January 2013 (after the election) and are subject to subsequent revision by Congress, it is possible they will be delayed or never triggered at all. In the event no changes are made to the automatic budget cuts, the White House Office of Management and Budget would be required to reduce the discretionary appropriated budget by $109 billion per year for nine years, allocated equally between defense spending and nondefense spending.

Reductions in discretionary spending from 2014 to 2021 would be achieved by reducing the aggregate overall caps on such spending for each year. While the President could propose specific cuts to agencies such as NIH and NSF, specific appropriations would still be subject to the annual congressional appropriations process and program funding could be increased or further decreased within the overall capped amount for all discretionary spending. As a general rule of thumb, if these cuts were allocated proportionately, it would mean 6 to 8 percent reductions to the domestic spending agencies.

Concerns are already being expressed by the Administration and by both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress over the magnitude of potential spending cuts to defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the DOD budget could be cut by as much as 10 percent in FY 2013 under the mandated sequester with additional reductions in discretionary defense spending over the nine-year period to estimated savings of about 8.5 percent in FY 2021. Such reductions, totaling an estimated $492 billion, could impact big defense programs already at issue in Congress, as well as drive changes in the structure and mobility of the nation’s military services already under consideration. Additional reductions in mandatory defense spending are also likely under current law. While some want to undo the sequester for defense, the President has threatened to veto any bill that focuses only on exempting defense spending.

In short, the budget outlook for the next several years is uncertain at best. The main question on the table is whether and how to skirt the automatic cuts that would be levied against FY 2013 appropriations as required under the Budget Control Act. However, flat funding for science agencies remains a possibility over the next few years and should be viewed as a "win” in the current budget climate.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has produced a graphic that further explains the sequestration process, should that process go forward without changes by Congress:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  NIH  NSF  USDA 

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Koonin steps down as DOE Under Secretary for Science

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, November 11, 2011
Steven Koonin has announced that he is stepping down from his position as Under Secretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

ScienceInsider reports that he had been looking around for some time, because his position did not allow him enough power, especially over the budget for the DOE Office of Science. That office is lead by William Brinkman.  Michael Lubell with the American Physical Society was quoted as saying, "Here was a guy [Koonin] who had no budget authority, and that's a tough position."

Among other achievements during his 2.5 years at DOE, Koonin helped draft the agency's strategic plan and led its first Quadrennial Technology Review. He has also been connected to ASPB, including by speaking in the ASPB's President's Symposium on bioenergy at Plant Biology 2011 this past summer in Minneapolis.

Koonin has a background in theoretical physics and previously served as a professor and provost at Caltech. He also served as chief scientist for BP before coming to DOE. He will be joining the Institute for Defense Analyses' Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., upon his departure.

DOE has not yet announced who will be filling the vacated Under Secretary position.

Tags:  DOE 

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ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Tuesday, October 04, 2011
The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will hold its third annual Energy Innovation Summit on February 27–29, 2012, at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, D.C.  Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E, recently announced the summit, which is designed to bring together the business and energy investment communities with leaders in clean energy research to make key connections in the energy technology pipeline.

The three-day event will include a pre-conference workshop on Monday, February 27, designed to provide researchers with insight into ARPA-E’s priorities, as well as guidance in the grant review process. ARPA-E program managers will be present to assist current and/or potential grantees about funding for ARPA-E’s clean energy technology program.  This event is highly recommended for the opportunity to meet ARPA-E program managers, to discuss ARPA-E priorities for future funding opportunities, and to network with the clean energy business and investment communities.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 28 and 29, ARPA-E will host the Innovation Summit and Technology Showcase.  Keynote speakers include the following:
  • Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and CEO;
  • Fred Smith, FedEx Chairman, CEO and President;
  • Lee Scott, former WalMart CEO;
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy; and
  • Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E.
The full program is not yet available, but participants will have the opportunity to hear from leaders in the clean energy field, as well as investors, policymakers and representatives from global corporations and government agencies.  The showcase will highlight past ARPA-E award winners and finalists, as well as their technologies.  This year’s showcase will feature projects drawn from the fields of grid-scale storage, power electronics, batteries for electric vehicles, building efficiency, advanced carbon capture and electrofuels, rare earth alternatives, plant engineering for fuel applications, advanced thermal storage, network integration architecture for the electrical grid, and power electronics for photovoltaic applications.

Registration is now open to attend the full three-day event or to only the pre-conference workshop or the summit itself.  Reduced rates are provided for registration on or before January 26, 2012 (see below).  Information on the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit can be found at:

Participation in the Showcase requires submitting a Showcase Application by December 15. An additional fee of $500 also applies.  More information about the Showcase criteria and how to apply can be found at: Rates for participation in the third annual ARPA-E Innovation Summit are listed below:

Early Bird

Advance/On Site

Full Summit and Workshop (Feb 27-29)




Academic/Government/ Start-up



Pre-Summit Workshop Only (Feb 27)

Workshop Only Pricing



Summit Only

(Feb 28-29)








This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant,Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  biofuels  DOE  event 

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DOE to host Sep. 22 webinar on biomass feedstock potential

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will host a webinar on Thursday, September 22 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EDT about the 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry, a report detailing biomass feedstock potential nationwide. The report examines the nation's capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. It provides industry, policymakers, and the agricultural community with county-level data and includes analyses of current U.S. feedstock capacity and the potential for growth in crops and agricultural products for clean energy applications.

During the webinar, authors of the report will present the purpose, approach, and major assumptions of the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, including how it differs from the 2005 Billion-Ton Study. Authors will also cover the report's findings and discuss how its data might be used by both the public and private sector to grow the bioenergy industry and help achieve President Obama's goals of expanding renewable energy resources and developing alternative fuels for America's transportation sector. Finally, the webinar will include a demonstration of how to explore Billion-Ton Update data onDOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework website and opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

In addition to registering for the webinar, please submit your questions and comments about the Billion-Ton Update to DOE's Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework forum on the subject. This will help the webinar focus on the most frequently discussed topics about the study.

Register for the September 22 webinar

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about DOE's support of research and development of biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts.

Tags:  biofuels  DOE  energy 

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Senate Appropriations Committee approves FY 2012 funding for DOE

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.  The bill totals $31.625 billion, a reduction of $57 million below the FY 2011 enacted level for programs and agencies funded in the bill.

Given the competition for funding within the bill, the DOE Office of Science, which funds basic research associated with agency missions, fared quite well.  The Senate Committee approves $4.843 billion for the DOE Office of Science, which is essentially a freeze at the FY 2011 enacted funding level.  The Committee recommendation for the DOE Office of Science is $573.5 million (10.6%) below the President’s request.

Detailed funding recommendations for the various programs within the Office of Science are displayed in the chart below.  The Senate bill would provide continuation funding for the three existing Energy Innovation Hubs (Hubs) – the Fuels from Sunlight Hub; the Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, and the Nuclear Energy Modeling and Simulation Hub, for which the President requested $24.3 million each.  As did the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee also approves the new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, providing $20 million for the new Hub in lieu of the requested $34.2 million. The Committee also recommends $10 million for the predictive modeling of internal combustion engines initiative.

The Senate Committee is silent on the President’s request for $20 million in the Industrial Technologies program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to establish a new Critical Materials Hub even though its overall recommendation of $96 million for the program matches the House-passed bill which does fund the Hub.  The Senate Committee does not approve the third new Hub requested by the President for Advanced Modeling Grid Research.

The Senate Committee concurs with the President’s request to provide up to $100 million to continue support for the 46 existing Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), but not to fund additional centers at this time.

For the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, the Senate Committee recommendation of $621.8 million is $10 million (2%) above FY 2011.  The Committee recommends $295.1 million for climate and environmental science, which the House significantly reduced.

The Senate Committee would approve $7.5 million to support  graduate fellowships.

For the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Senate would provide $250 million to continue support for research into high-risk, high-reward transformational new energy technologies, an increase of $70.4 million (39%) above the FY 2011 enacted funding level, but $300 million (55%) below the President’s request.

The applied research programs of DOE relating to renewable energy through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) are sustained at the current level of $1.796 billion for FY 2012. The President requested $3.2 billion for these programs.  The House reduced EERE to $1.3 billion overall.  Details of the Senate recommendations for wind and solar energy, biomass, and the technologies programs are included in the following chart.   New initiatives within the EERE programs are unlikely given the constraints under current budget allocations.

Additional details on the funding recommendations approved by the Senate Committee are included in the chart below.

Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2012

As reported by the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11

(In thousands of dollars)

FY 2011 CR

FY 2012 Subcom Mark

Subcom vs.

FY 11 CR


vs. House

Subcom vs.

FY 12 Request

DOE, total



-42,176 (<1%)

808,254 (3%)

-5,134,802 (17%)





42,665 (<1%)

-573,449 (11%)

Advanced Scientific Computing Research



19,622 (5%)

14,526 (3%)

-23,981 (5%)

Basic Energy Sciences



15,665 (1%)

5,715 (<1%)

-291,140 (15%)

Biological and Environmental Research



10,000 (2%)

74,748 (14%)

-96,077 (13%)

Fusion Energy Sciences Program



-40,000 (11%)

-70,537 (17%)

-64,237 (16%)

High-energy Physics



-15,220 (2%)

-17,000 (2%)

-17,000 (2%)

Nuclear Physics



10,000 (2%)

-1,866 (<1%)

-55,186 (9%)

Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists



-2,600 (12%)

2,151 (12%)

-15,600 (44%)

Science Laboratories Infrastructure



11,053 (9%)

33,313 (32%)

25,000 (22%)




359 (0.01%)

491,364 (38%)

-1,404,053 (44%)

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology




6,550 (7%)

-2,450 (2%)

Biomass and Biorefinery Systems R&D



-2,695 (1%)

30,000 (20%)

-160,500 (47%)

Solar Energy



26,500 (10%)

123,857 (75%)

-167,000 (37%)

Wind Energy




4,000 (5%)

-46,859 (37%)

Geothermal Technology



-4,003 (11%)

-4,000 (11%)

-67,535 (67%)

Water Power



4,000 (13%)

-16,000 (32%)

-4,500 (12%)

Vehicle Technologies



19,157 (6%)

65,157 (26%)

-268,846 (46%)

Building Technologies




60,500 (40%)

-260,200 (55%)

Industrial Technologies



-12,241 (11%)


-223,784 (70%)

Federal Energy Management Program



-402 (1%)


-3,072 (9%)

Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability



-10 (<1%)

1,504 (1%)

-96,717 (41%)

Nuclear Energy



-141,824 (20%)

-149,633 (20%)

-170,028 (23%)

Fossil Energy Research and Development



-185,529 (42%)

-217,993 (46%)

-193,975 (43%)




70,360 (39%)

70,360 (39%)

-300,011 (55%)

Loan Guarantee Program






DOE Defense Activities



527,480 (5%)

450,969 (4%)

-662,598 (6%)

Weapons Activities



293,602 (4%)

98,339 (1%)

-399,384 (5%)

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation



109,347 (5%)

326,230 (15%)

-136,492 (5%)

Defense Environmental Cleanup



22,262 (<1%)

64,381 (1%)

-404,781 (7%)

Army Corps of Engineers, total



6,787 (<1%)

95,594 (2%)

291,000 (6%)

Bureau of Reclamation, total



4,415 (<1%)

161,704 (18%)

48,611 (5%)

For additional information, including the Appropriations Committee’s press release, please see the Senate Appropriations Committee website: .

This post includes content provided by ASPB's external government relations consultant, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  energy  Senate 

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DOE Under Secretary for Science kicks off ASPB President's Symposium at Plant Biology 2011

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Anyone participating in ASPB's annual meeting, Plant Biology 2011, will definitely want to stay through the meeting's final session, the ASPB President's Symposium on Plants and BioEnergy.

Kicking off the session will be one of the nation’s chief advocates for renewable energy research—Dr. Steven E. Koonin (at right), who is Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE). A computational and nuclear physicist, Dr. Koonin served as a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology for nearly 30 years including nearly a decade as Caltech's provost.  He was most recently chief scientist at BP before being confirmed as DOE Under Secretary in May 2009.

Dr. Koonin will be followed by the leaders of several DOE-supported Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs).  The EFRCs are harnessing the most basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy:
  • Maureen McCann, Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio), Purdue University:  "A roadmap for selective deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to advanced biofuels and useful co-products"
  • Richard Sayre, Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems (CABS), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center:  "Molecular strategies for enhanced biomass and oil accumulation in microalgae"
  • Robert Blankenship, Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC), Washington University in St. Louis:  "The Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC)
  • Andrew Bocarsly, Princeton University:  "Artificial Photosynthesis: The Efficient Reduction of Carbon Dioxide and Water to Organic Products"
The session will be held in room L100 of the Minneapolis Convention Center from 2:00 until 5:05 p.m.

Tags:  biofuels  DOE 

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DOE releases strategic plan

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, May 09, 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued its 2011 Strategic Plan, which outlines the broad, cross-cutting and collaborative goals that stretch across our complex. It is to serve as a blueprint for DOE to help address the nation’s energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

The plan outlines that DOE's mission is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.  The report identifies four overarching goals:
  1. Catalyze the timely, material, and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies.
  2. Maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering as a cornerstone of our economic prosperity with clear leadership in strategic areas.
  3. Enhance nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts.
  4. Establish an operational and adaptable framework that combines the best wisdom of all Department stakeholders to maximize mission success.

Among the specific targeted outcomes is "Develop cellulosic ethanol technologies by 2012 that can facilitate mature production costs less than $2.00/gallon."

In the area of bioenergy, DOE will continue to develop biotechnology solutions for energy, the environment, and carbon sequestration, with particular emphasis on Basic science research translates into cost-effective technologies for next-generation production of biofuels.

The Department will support research in the discovery, design, and synthesis of biomimetic and bioinspired functional approaches and energy-conversion processes based on principles and biological concepts. The emphasis is the creation of robust, scalable, energy-relevant processes and systems that work with the extraordinary effectiveness of processes from the biological world.  Areas of particular focus include the following:
  • Understand, control, and build complex hierarchical structures by imitating nature’s self- and directed-assembly approaches.
  • Design and synthesize environmentally adaptive, self-healing multicomponent systems that demonstrate energy conversion and storage capabilities found in nature.
  • Create functional systems with collective properties not achievable by simply summing the individual components.
  • Create biomimetic and/or bioinspired routes for the synthesis of energy-relevant materials.
  • Develop science-driven tools and techniques for the characterization of biomolecular and soft materials.

Genomics-based systems biology research, agronomic strategies, and fundamental understanding of biological and chemical deconstruction of biomass are particularly important elements of these activities. Research supported in this area will have impacts beyond bioenergy, underpinning technologies such as batteries and fuel cells, catalysis, hydrogen generation and storage, and membranes for advanced separation.

The targeted outcome is to apply systems biology approaches by 2015 to create viable biofuels processes and greatly increase

Additional Information:

(Thanks to Toby Smith, Energy Sciences Coalition)

Tags:  DOE 

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Amendment to House CR proposes to eliminate funds for DOE biological and environmental research

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
One of the 500+ House amendments offered on the Continuing Resolution (CR) that would cut $100B from the federal budget would eliminate funding for biological and environmental research (BER) within the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), reads as follows:

Amendment No. 304: At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following new section:

Sec. 4002. None of the funds provided by this Act under the heading ``Department of Energy, Science'' shall be available for biological and environmental research authorized under subtitle G of title IX of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 16311 et seq.).

Rep. McClintock has offered a second amendment (no. 305) that removes the funding that would otherwise be appropriated to BER under the CR.  Rep. McClintock represents the 4th district of California, which includes the northeast corner of the state, including most of the state north and east of Sacramento.

We believe that Rep. McClintock has offered his amendment in order to eliminate climate change research.  But BER also supports a significant amount of research unrelated to climate change, including fundamental and applied research in support of DOE's energy, environment, and basic research missions, such as the development of biofuels.

Among the programs that could be shuttered if these cuts are enacted would be the three Bioenergy Research Centers: BioEnergy Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, and Joint BioEnergy Institute at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  It could also mothball a number of BER user facilities including the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Atmospheric Radiation Measurement, and the Joint Genome Institute.

ASPB urges you to add threats to DOE's biological and environmental research portfolio to your talking points when you contact your Congressional representative.

Additional information:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  House 

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