Manchin: Innovation At DOE And The National Labs Is Critical To Economic Revitalization, National Security, And Maintaining Competitive Advantages

Manchin urges Congress to continue strong support of R&D funding and coordination led by the DOE and its National Labs

April 15, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the leading role of the Department of Energy in American energy innovation. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, highlighted the vital role played by the Department of Energy and National Laboratories in maintaining and strengthening the United States’ competitive advantages abroad.

“I would argue that efforts to strengthen our R&D foundation and technology development ought to start with the Department of Energy and National Labs. We should not be reinventing the wheel or duplicating programs and missions, especially when we need to be inventing the newest and best technologies,” said Chairman Manchin. "I fully support strengthening our domestic supply chains, expanding the portfolio of technologies we are researching, enhancing their commercialization, and pursuing every opportunity to advance the United States’ competitive advantages abroad. That requires a clear coordinating role and responsible consideration of funding across the federal government. As this conversation around domestic R&D and global competitiveness grows, I urge my colleagues to continue to stand strong in support of R&D funding and coordination led by the Department and its National Labs.”

Chairman Manchin questioned the witnesses on whether work in ten key technology categories being discussed by Congress were being done by the Department or the National Labs. For each of the ten technology categories, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Dr. Thomas Mason and former DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar both responded, “Yes.”

Chairman Manchin also questioned the witnesses on the opportunities and challenges facing the United States’ innovation ecosystem, and what needs to be done to ensure a successful innovation strategy.

“In the context of global competition, I want to see each federal research agency made stronger, funded adequately for the challenges we face, and well-coordinated across government. And I want to avoid reinventing the wheel at any one point… If $100 billion were invested in an agency like the National Science Foundation, would they be able to use that or would they be duplicating what’s already been done [in the other research agencies]?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“Money is good – but strategy is better. It’s not enough just to pay different places to do different things, it’s what are we going to do to actually be competitive in deploying these technologies. I think putting the full suite of the energy innovation ecosystem on the table is really what’s important here,” said Ms. Sarah Ladislaw, U.S. Program Managing Director, Rocky Mountain Institute.

“I think it’s really important to understand the differences in the way these agencies operate. The National Science Foundation is outstanding at funding a very diverse range of activities in a bottoms-up, individual investigator driven mode. The Department of Energy and the National Labs, and many other government agencies that have mission areas where they have to deliver outcomes to the American taxpayer, they focus on those mission activities and use them to drive the development of science and technology… We need to mobilize all of the R&D assets, recognize the different strengths of the agencies involved, and coordinate to make sure we got the right assignments in the right places. And I think if we do that, then we will be well-positioned for the future,” said Dr. Thomas Mason, Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bohr Quantum Technologies Corporation, Rocky Mountain Institute, and Actuate. To read their testimony click here.  

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.