UPDATE (Jun 27, 2018): The ARPA-E Act passed by voice vote, so it will not be included as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
This week, the House is scheduled to vote on the ARPA-E Act (H.R. 5906), introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) under suspension of the rules. This bill expands the mission of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to develop transformative science and technology solutions to address energy, environmental, economic, and national security challenges, as well as to develop technologies to address the management, clean-up, and disposal of nuclear waste.
ARPA-E is a federal program designed in 2007 to fund high-risk, high-reward projects on which the private sector would supposedly not embark on its own. Authorization for this program expired in 2013.
According to The Heritage Foundation, ARPA-E is a wasteful and unnecessary program that does not follow its own stated goals. The federal government has awarded several ARPA-E grants to companies and projects that are neither high-risk nor something that private industry cannot support as identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the DOE’s Inspector General, and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee staff. One study found that, of the 44 small and medium-sized companies that received an ARPA-E award, 18 had previously received private-sector investment for a similar technology.
Federal scientific research and development funding must be rationalized to cut waste and reign in federal spending to either meet specific government objectives or contribute to basic research where the private sector is not already working. The ARPA-E program clearly fails this test.
Congress should be eliminating—not expanding—this wasteful and unnecessary program as recommended in the budgets of the Trump administration, the House Republican Conference, the Republican Study Committee, and The Heritage Foundation.