SPONSORED:

Watchdog: Trump officials improperly withheld funds for advanced energy office

Watchdog: Trump officials improperly withheld funds for advanced energy office

A federal watchdog says the Trump administration improperly withheld funding from a Department of Energy (DOE) research office this year ahead of proposed funding cuts for the office.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Trump administration violated federal spending laws when it did not allocate $91 million in appropriated funding this year for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which researches advanced energy.

Once GAO informed DOE about the investigation, the department spent the funds, according to the GAO's report.

In his first budget, President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE proposed drawing down funding for ARPA-E and eventually shutting down the office by 2019.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier this year, ARPA-E withheld $91 million in funds it was obligated to spend, a move that caught the eye of congressional Democrats. Lawmakers, including Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Congressional proclamation prioritizes a critical societal issue: Lack of women of color in tech MORE (D-Texas), asked the GAO to investigate the matter.

In a report sent to Congress late Tuesday, GAO said ARPA-E officials told investigators that “the Department of Energy had directed ARPA-E to withhold the obligation” in light of Trump’s proposed cuts, which Congress did not follow through on.

The acting general counsel of DOE told the GAO that “limited oral conversations regarding whether to withhold any budget authority in the ARPA-E appropriation … did occur.” But the counsel’s office instructed the department to spend the funds in light of GAO’s investigation.

The watchdog concluded that withholding funding for the department violated a federal law that sets strict requirements for when an executive agency can block congressionally appropriated funding.

“I hope that the administration now understands that federal agencies must provide lawfully directed appropriations to the programs to which they are dedicated,” Johnson, the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said in a statement.

“It cannot attempt to shut down an agency or starve a program it doesn’t like by withholding funds. It is illegal and we in Congress will not allow it.”