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The Senate has approved a flat budget for the Department of Energy.
On Wednesday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $4.843 billion for DOE’s Office of Science in 2012. That’s the same level as this year, and a slight bump over the $4.8 billion approved in July on a largely partisan vote by the House of Representatives covering the entire department. Although the funding is a far cry from the $5.416 billion that the Obama Administration had requested in February for the next fiscal year, which begins on 1 October, officials at the Office of Science’s 10 national labs say they’re not complaining. “Even staying flat when a lot of other programs are getting cut is relatively good news,” says Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In budgets, “flat is the new good,” quips Eric Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. [emphasis mine]
That a government official is now happy that the budget is flat is a good sign that we might finally be making some cultural progress in terms of bringing the federal budget under some control. In the past the very thought of no increase would have sent these people into spasms of outrage. Now they realize how pointless such a tantrum would be, and might actually do their budget negotiations harm.