250 General Science, Space & Technology:Reduce Basic Energy Sciences Funding

Savings in Millions of Dollars
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022
  • 2023
  • 2024
  • 2025
  • 2016-2020
  • 2016-2025


Savings are based on the recommended $287.6 million in spending cuts as found in Nicolas Loris, “Department of Energy Budget Cuts: Time to End the Hidden Green Stimulus,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2668, March 23, 2012, . This level of cut is increased for inflation through 2014 and compared to the budget authority enacted for FY 2014 of $1.713 billion found on page 117 of House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 2nd Session, “Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2015.” Both the FY 2014 enacted level of spending and the alternative, lower, spending levels are increased at the same rate as discretionary spending for 2016–2025, according to the CBO’s most recent August 2014 baseline spending projections. Savings represent the difference between these two spending levels.


Technical Notes on Scoring

CBO Baseline

Unless otherwise noted, calculations for savings for each recommendation relies on the most recent Congressional Budget Office baseline, as found in “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024,” published August 27, 2014, has been used.

Savings “Totals”

While totals for the five and 10 year savings are provided by section and for the complete set of recommendations, there are two reasons they should not be viewed as representing total savings for The Budget Book.

First, as noted in the introduction, The Heritage Foundation would recommend that the savings realized in the Function 050 Defense section would stay within the Department of Defense to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

Second, the numbers cannot be deemed to represent the realized savings if every single recommendation were adopted because policy changes made in one program can impact spending levels in other programs.  Thus, the numbers in the table do not reflect any potential interactions between the various policy changes affecting spending or savings.


Heritage Recommendation:

Reduce funding for the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program. This proposal saves $300 million in 2016, and $3.2 billion over 10 years.


Is reducing Basic Energy Sciences to 2008 level spending that hard? $3.2 billion savings in 10 yrs.

BES is a legitimate program that investigates “fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support other aspects of DOE mission in energy, environment, and national security.” ((Department of Energy, “Fiscal Year 2012 Congressional Budget Request: Science,” February 2011, p. 10, 
(accessed December 15, 2014).)) However, many of the BES subprograms stray from fundamental research into commercialization. The government should eliminate such aspects of these programs, since private companies are capable of fulfilling these roles, whether through their own laboratories or by funding university research. On areas that focus on fundamental research and not commercial activities, the funding has simply become too excessive. While there is reason to phase out all Basic Energy Science funding, proposed cuts would eliminate some subprograms entirely, and return others close to FY 2008 levels.

Programs for Elimination:

  • The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)
  • The Solar Photochemistry program
  • The Photosynthetic Systems program
  • The Geosciences program

Programs for Reductions:

  • The Experimental Condensed Matter Physics program
  • The Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics program
  • The Mechanical Behavior and Radiation Effects program
  • The Neutron and X-ray Scattering and the Electron and Scanning Probe Microscopies program
  • The Synthesis and Processing Science program
  • The Materials Chemistry and Biomolecular program
  • The Atomic, Molecular, and Optical program
  • The Chemical Physics Research program
  • The Catalysis program
  • The Separations and the Heavy Element Chemistry program
Is reducing Basic Energy Sciences to 2008 level spending that hard? $3.2 billion savings in 10 yrs.

Contributing Expert

Nicolas (Nick) Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

See publications by Nicolas Loris

Nicolas (Nick) LorisHerbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow

Heritage Experts

Jack Spencer oversees Heritage Foundation research on a wide range of domestic economic issues as director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. Those topics include federal spending, taxes, energy and environment, regulation and retirement savings.

See publications by Jack Spencer

Jack SpencerVice President for the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Katie Tubb is a Research Associate and Coordinator in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

See publications by Katie Tubb

Katie TubbResearch Associate and Coordinator

Additional Reading