Today we welcome Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to discuss the Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget request and the Department’s priorities.

Before he joined the Administration in 2017, Secretary Perry served as the 47th Governor of Texas and under his direction, the state of Texas became a national leader in energy innovation and economic growth. The Secretary has brought this same approach and valuable experience to the Department of Energy – and today we can see the results.  

DOE is the nation’s largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences and is a world leader in technology development and innovation. The Department funds robust research programs across the scientific disciplines – from materials science and mathematical modeling to fusion energy science and the characterization of neutrinos.

Through decades of strategic investments in R&D, DOE is also responsible for groundbreaking discoveries in computing, manufacturing, and medicine.

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has jurisdiction over all of the Department’s civilian research, development, demonstration, and commercial application programs, as well as the 17 DOE National Laboratories. This is equal to over $10 billion in spending at DOE – approximately one-third of its overall budget. Our discussion with the Secretary will focus on programs within this broad jurisdiction.

The President’s request emphasizes increased reliance on the private sector to drive commercialization of energy technologies. This ensures the Department will focus limited research funds on the early-stage and basic research that the private sector cannot perform.  While I support efforts to refocus on fundamental research, the FY 2020 budget request also cuts funding in the majority of these DOE programs from enacted levels.

This Committee has consistently supported robust funding for basic research performed by the Department, in particular, the Office of Science. The President’s request includes an overall $1.04 billion decrease in funding for the Office of Science – including a $307 million cut to Basic Energy Sciences, a $211 million cut to High Energy Physics, and a $161 million cut to Fusion Energy Sciences – all programs that have historically received strong bipartisan support from this Committee.

For example, Committee members on both sides of the aisle have steadily supported full funding for U.S. contributions to the ITER project, a key fusion energy experiment funded through the Office of Science. With steep cuts to the Fusion program, the President’s budget proposes just $108 million in U.S. contributions for this project, which is only one-third of what is required in FY 2020 to maintain our participation in this world-leading international research collaboration. Fusion could be the next great energy frontier – with the potential to produce near-limitless, zero-emission power for centuries.

We can’t afford to cut investments in this critical science. 

However, by comparison, the FY 2020 budget request includes stable funding for Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR), one of the Office of Science’s top priority programs. ASCR supports the Exascale Computing Project and its mission goal of completing of the world’s first exascale computing system.

Exascale systems can perform one billion, billion calculations per second and developing one is critical to enabling scientific discovery, strengthening national security, and promoting U.S. industrial competitiveness. Thanks to DOE’s targeted investments in ASCR, the United States now hosts the top two fastest supercomputers in the world – Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sierra at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – and the Department is on track to reach exascale by 2021.  As other countries like China race to develop exascale systems of their own, DOE’s continued strong support of advanced computing is essential to maintain U.S. leadership in this field.

In order to support innovation in next-generation science, DOE must also invest in research infrastructure and in cross-cutting research initiatives with other Federal agencies. This includes initiatives in critical research areas like quantum information science, big data and artificial intelligence, and nuclear science, as well as key investments in our nation’s light sources and neutron sources.

I want to thank Secretary Perry for his testimony today, and for outlining his plans to execute DOE’s mission objectives in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond for this Committee.  Maintaining U.S. leadership in science will require a shared commitment to prioritize DOE research and support the next generation of energy technology.