Washington–Today, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved fiscal year 2016 funding legislation that totals $35.4 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is $1.2 billion more than the fiscal year 2015 level and $666 million less than the President’s requested level.
Of the $1.2 billion increase, only $8 million is available for non-defense activities, demonstrating the fundamental imbalance in the current approach to funding the nation’s infrastructure, scientific research, and technology development priorities.
The Subcommittee’s allocation conforms to the post-sequester caps under the Budget Control Act. Not one Senate Democrat voted for these spartan spending levels because they do not provide adequate resources to protect America, build infrastructure, create opportunity, and spur economic growth. We need a new budget deal, in the spirit of Murray-Ryan, that stops hollowing out investments in America’s future.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, issued the following statement:
“I support this bill insofar as it works within the current budget caps. However, it reveals the serious flaws of sequestration and budgeting under the Budget Control Act and underscores once again the need to balance our defense and non-defense priorities. This bill provides robust funding for nuclear weapons modernization and environmental cleanup, vital programs that deserve to be funded. At the same time, water infrastructure, drought relief, basic scientific research and energy technology development programs are left behind. Our ability to provide a strong national defense is based on a strong economy and a strong society, and those are achieved by the non-defense programs in this bill. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact sensible budget targets across government so that America can remain strong and competitive in the 21st century.”
Key Points & Highlights
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- The bill provides $5.5 billion to fund the nation’s water infrastructure. While the bill utilizes fiscal year 2016 revenues generated from the Inland Waterway Trust Fund and meets the target for projects eligible for Harbor Maintenance Trust Funds, it is insufficient to address the nation’s full water infrastructure needs. Additional funding is needed to address the backlog of project investigations, construction needs, and maintenance activities that are needed to keep America’s ports globally competitive and its waterways as robust economic engines.
Bureau of Reclamation
- The bill provides $1.14 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation within the Department of Interior to fund water supply projects and programs in the western United States. This includes $50 million in emergency drought relief funds. As the drought expands in the west, additional funds are needed to develop water reuse projects and construct new water supply infrastructure.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs
- The bill provides $1.95 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $773 million less than the President’s request. In order to broaden the portfolio of the country’s energy options and reduce energy costs for businesses and consumers, additional funding is needed in: sustainable transportation programs that develop new fuels, lightweight materials, and vehicle engines; energy efficiency programs that develop standards and technologies to reduce energy bills; and renewable energy programs that work to lower the cost of solar, wind, geothermal, and water power technologies.
Basic Scientific Research
- The bill provides $5.145 billion for the Office of Science, $196 million less than the President’s request. The Department of Energy is the largest single provider of funding for basic research in the physical sciences in the country. Increasing the availability of our world-class scientific facilities as well as expanding research at our top universities needs additional support if America is to continue being a global leader in science and engineering.
- Cleanup of Cold War nuclear sites is funded at $6.038 billion. This program addresses a legacy of radioactive and hazardous contamination at sites across the country and the bill addresses many of the highest environmental risks posed by these sites. Yet, if not addressed, a shortfall in non-defense spending will result in roughly 500 lay-offs in Ohio.
Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation
- The bill funds the National Nuclear Security Administration at $12.3 billion, $302 million less than the President’s request. Efforts to extend the life of the current nuclear weapons stockpile are fully funded. However, programs targeted at working with international partners to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism remain funded far below the historical levels needed to address global threats. The bill also does not fully address the needs of the Naval Reactor program in modernizing its infrastructure and developing new reactors for the nation’s nuclear fleet.