As Lawmakers Prepare to Work on Spending Bill, Mixed Outlook for DOE
Weapons Complex Monitor
June 14, 2013
funding picture for the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear
Security Administration will likely become a lot more clear over the
next two weeks as the House and Senate Energy and Water Appropriations
subcommittees mark up their versions of the Fiscal Year 2014 Energy and
Water Appropriations Act. The House is set to go first, marking up its
version of the bill on June 18, while the Senate is scheduled to write
its bill the following week, on June 25. The results for DOE and NNSA
programs are likely to be very different, DOE Budget Director
Christopher Johns said this week, especially as the House E&W
Appropriations Subcommittee wrangles with a tight allocation that could
mean stiff cuts for some DOE and NNSA programs. “What we anticipate
there is that it will be dramatically bad for the Department of Energy
in that House mark, just because their funding level is so low,” DOE
Budget Director Christopher Johns said at the Energy Facility
Contractors Group annual meeting June 12. “It reflects not so much the
view of the subcommittee we work with but rather the overall funding
The House subcommittee’s $30.4 billion allocation is $2.9
billion below the panel’s presequester level from a year ago, and $700
million below the post-sequester level. In contrast, the Senate
subcommittee’s allocation is believed to be several billion dollars
higher, though the exact allocation has not been made public. Overall,
there is a $91 billion difference between the top line spending numbers
in the House and Senate, with the House setting its top line at $967
billion and the Senate setting its at $1.058 trillion. The Obama
Administration requested $7.9 billion in FY 2014 for the NNSA’s weapons
program, which was granted an anomaly in the current Continuing
Resolution funding the government to spend $7.6 billion, and $1.8
billion for its nonproliferation work.
The higher Senate
allocation is likely to offset the lower House allocation, and Johns
cautioned contractors not to “overreact” to House funding levels because
conference negotiations are likely to assuage the funding cuts. It’s
likely, however, that the government is funded by a CR for at least part
of FY 2014, Johns said. He also suggested that DOE could end up with an
enacted budget level that also layers on sequestration cuts, leaving
DOE with approximately $25 billion—about the same as FY 2013. Both
scenarios would be difficult to deal with as the cumulative impact of
the sequester takes its toll, Johns said. “We were able to sort of limp
along in ‘13 using carryover balances, realigning money, this sort of
thing,” he said. “A lot of that flexibility we’re sort of losing as we
move along. We’ll have less ability to manage to that kind of funding
level in ‘14. We’re actually managing to a higher funding level in ‘13
due to the carryover and the reprogrammings, but we can’t do that
Johns said the impact of the sequester hasn’t been as
bad as many believed because the Department was able to defer or delay
some projects in the hope that the funding picture could improve in
future years. “What we’ve found so far is through realigning dollars and
through slower spending earlier in the year there have been definite
impacts on contractors and on individual employees but it hasn’t been
the dramatic first-year impact that we thought might happen,” he said.
While the funding cuts may not be deeper in FY 2014, the impact might
be, Johns said. “It’s been a little difficult to articulate where the
sky-is-falling kinds of problems are this year but it may not get better
next year if the budget position doesn’t improve,” he said.
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