June 16, 2014 - ASM Letter Concerning DOE Authorization Bill

The Honorable Lamar S. Smith
Chair, Committee on Science, Space and Technology
U.S. House of Representatives
2409 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-4321

Dear Representative Smith:

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has serious concerns about the proposed House bill entitled the Department of Energy Research and Development Act of 2014. In its current form, the bill would make significant cuts in R&D funding for the energy and environmental sciences that provide knowledge to maintain our position of leadership in innovation in the United States.

The ASM is the largest single life science Society with more than 39,000 members, many of whom are engaged in environmental research. The proposed legislation would seriously undermine important research supported by DOE grants and would adversely impact US innovation in large scale genomics, biofuels, and biotechnology . The proposed budget cuts would have lasting negative implications for energy and environmental R&D. The legislation includes the following reductions:

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) R&D – 29%, or $486 million, below FY 14 appropriated levels, 49% below the President’s FY15 base request level, and 91% below the President’s full request level for EERE including the Administration’s Opportunity, Security, and Growth Initiative (OGSI),
  • ARPA-E – 14.3%, or $40 million, below FY 14 levels, 30% below the lower FY15 request level, and 39% below the request level with OGSI,
  • DOE Office of Science’s Biological and Environmental Research Program (BER) – 18.1%, or $110 million, below FY 14 levels, and 21% below the FY15 request level

The DOE has traditionally been a major funder of environmental and bioremediation research, supporting crucial advances in microbiology research and development relevant to soil microbial ecology. DOE funding has underwritten much of our current scientific understanding the role of microbes in the carbon cycle as related to the environment, as well as optimal methods to restore sites contaminated by chemical or radioactive materials.

DOE funding substantially boosts microbiology R&D in bio-based fuels, a promising alternative energy source that would be adversely impacted in the proposed bill. For example, it would eliminate existing authorization for certain systems biology projects and repeal authorization for BER’s Bioenergy Research Centers. It also would limit BER climate science related initiatives and require BER to prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics over climate and environmental research. The ASM strongly disagrees with downgrading BER efforts in bioenergy and environmental sciences.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed bill and urge Congress to reconsider the severe budget cuts and BER limitations included in this legislation. Ongoing R&D in environmental microbiology has wide-ranging benefits that cannot be sustained without adequate DOE support.


Jeff Miller, Ph.D.
President, American Society for Microbiology