Uneven Cuts for Department of Energy

Rolling AnalysisUneven Cuts for Department of EnergyHuge bump for NNSA, dramatic cut for all other DOE programs.

In its third budget request, the administration is sticking with the script for the Department of Energy (DOE), calling for: a huge bump in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a dramatic cut for all other DOE programs, and a haircut for the DOE altogether.

On the NNSA side, the new request for $16.5 billion is $1.3 billion, or 8.9 percent, more than the $15.2 billion enacted for the current fiscal year (FY2019). The large increase is notable because Congress has already beefed up the agency’s budget in recent years in agreement with the administration’s requests. The FY19 enacted amount for NNSA was 18 percent more than the FY17 level of $12.9 billion, and the agency’s budget has grown by a full third over the last five years.

Until the full DOE budget justification is released next week, it’s hard to say exactly where the added NNSA funds for this year would go, but the “skinny” budget emphasizes programs to modernize the nuclear arsenal and rebuild nuclear weapon infrastructure. (see post below) This includes funding to “repurpose” the MOX facility in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits for nuclear weapons.

For the non-NNSA programs at DOE, the administration proposes a cut of $5.3 billion, or a full quarter of the current level. Of that, at least $1.5 billion would come from DOE’s Office of Science, which received $6.6 billion in FY19 and for which the new budget proposes $5 billion. Despite the overall cut to the office, the administration singles out the Exascale Computing Project for a bump in funding that would double the project’s current budget of $233 million.