250 General Science, Space & Technology:Reduce Fusion Energy Sciences Spending to FY 2008 Levels

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


Savings are expressed as budget authority and were calculated by comparing current spending levels to estimated levels, had FY 2008 spending increased only for inflation. The FY 2008 spending level of $294.3 million is found on page 16 of Nicolas Loris, “Department of Energy Budget Cuts: Time to End the Hidden Green Stimulus,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2668, March 26, 2012. The FY 2014 funding level of $505.7 million can be found on page 164 of House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 2nd Session, “Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2015.” Estimated spending for 2014, if held constant at the 2008 spending level (plus CPI inflation as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), would have been $331 million, as compared to the enacted level of $506 million. The $175 million difference between the two spending levels was increased at the same rate as discretionary spending in the CBO’s most recent August 2014 baseline discretionary spending projections.


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 Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) spending. This proposal saves $178 million in 2016, and $1.9 billion over 10 years.


Fusion Energy Sciences is big…not just big, but BIG. Time to reign it in & save $1.9 billion

Fusion technology has much potential to offer inexhaustible quantities of energy without the byproduct of spent nuclear fuel that results from nuclear fission—the way that conventional nuclear power plants produce electricity. While research on fusion should continue, the question is whether the federal government should be involved and to what extent. Currently, there are 63 public and private universities, 11 national laboratories (eight belong to the DOE), and 29 international institutions that have fusion or plasma physics programs. Furthermore, at least 10 private companies are pursuing their own means to develop fusion technologies. The basic science for fusion energy already exists, which is why several start-up companies are raising capital for their own fusion reactors, and why bigger companies are investing in fusion technologies.

Although the universities and private companies have received federal funding, now is the time to reduce the DOE’s involvement in studying plasmas. The DOE should remain involved, perhaps by continuing to participate in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program, an effort to advance fusion technology, but more of the research should be driven by the private sector. One area to cut would be the Enabling R&D program, which develops and improves “the hardware, materials, and technology that are incorporated into existing fusion research facilities, thereby enabling these facilities to achieve higher levels of performance.” ((Nicolas Loris, “Department of Energy Budget Cuts: Time to End the Hidden Green Stimulus,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2668, March 23, 2013.))

Fusion Energy Sciences is big…not just big, but BIG. Time to reign it in & save $1.9 billion

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