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December 12, 2017

GAO Finds Trump Administration Illegally withheld ARPA-E Funds:In Response to a Request from Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson

(Washington, DC) - Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) informed Congress that the Trump Administration had committed an illegal impoundment of funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in fiscal year (FY) 2017. According to GAO, “ARPA-E withheld from obligation $91 million of budget authority, in violation of the Impoundment Control Act.” This finding comes as a result of Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s efforts to ensure that the Department of Energy (DOE) appropriately funds ARPA-E in accordance with the law. Earlier this year, Ranking Member Johnson sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a formal request to GAO to investigate troubling details that were emerging from the Department and from competitively selected awardees who were informed that funding for their projects would be withheld indefinitely.

After sending a letter directly to Secretary Perry asking him to address these issues in April 2017 to no avail, Ranking Member Johnson asked GAO to investigate the matter. As a result of this inquiry to GAO, the Department relented and released in June 2017 the FY 2016 funds that were being withheld. While GAO was in the process of fulfilling the Ranking Member’s initial request, Minority Committee staff determined that the Department was likely withholding FY 2017 funds provided by Congress for ARPA-E in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 and asked GAO to look into this issue as well. This resulted in a formal finding by GAO that DOE had violated the Impoundment Control Act. As a result, DOE was forced to release the funds.

Ranking Member Johnson said the following.

“I want to thank GAO for undertaking this investigation. I am pleased that as a result, this $91 million will be released to further the critically important role that ARPA-E plays in support of our nation’s innovation ecosystem. I hope that the Administration now understands that Federal agencies must provide lawfully directed appropriations to the programs to which they are dedicated. 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.”

See the GAO letter to Congress here.

See the letter from Ranking Member Johnson to GAO here.

See the letter from Ranking Member Johnson to DOE here.