Swing toward defense seen in '82 budget plans; Bulk of DOE's proposed budget aimed at filling strategic reserve and military-related projects
Washington — The budget that the incoming Reagan administration will inherit for the US Department of Energy -- a prime target for trimming or dismantling altogether -- exemplifies the dilemmas facing any such plans to prune the federal bureaucracy.
The money to be spent by the two-year-old department in the first fiscal year of the Reagan presidency is scheduled to increase 21 percent -- 11 percent in real terms after adjusting for inflation -- from $10.2 billion this year to $12. 5 billion next year.
But most of the budgetary growth occurs in two functions strongly supported by the new administration: military-related energy activities and filling the strategic petroleum reserve. Together they consume more than one-half of the department's budget and nearly 70 percent of the proposed increase.
Funding for defense purpose, chiefly the production of nuclear weapons and materiel, is slated to jump by $1.1 billion (from $3.6 billion to $4.7 billion), reflecting a buildup in the nation's nuclear arsenal under way even before the election of a presidential candidate who had made "reversing our military decline" a major theme of his campaign.
Accelerating the pumping of oil into the strategic petroleum reserve, a 750 million- barrel cache designed to reduce the nation's vulnerability to world supply interruptions, hikes the budget by more than $500 million -- from $3.3 billion to nearly $3.9 billion.
Energy Secretary-designate James B. Edwards reaffirmed only last week the Reagan administration's commitment to fill the oil reserve, now well over half-empty.
By contrast, the regulatory apparatus of the department, eyed most eagerly by the President-elect's budget-cutters, comprises a scant 2 percent of its budget -- and is shrinking from $331 million to $270 million.
Perhaps it's no wonder that Reagan officials now talk less about abolishing the Energy Department, as the Republican nominee had advocated during his campaign, and instead focus on "streamlining" it.
The embattled department, meanwhile, is budgeting for what one official calls a "very significant" shift from near-term to long-term research and development.
Money for fossil energy substitutes for petroleum and natural gas -- the largest single recipient -- would rise from $1.1 billion to nearly $1.6 billion, led by 44 percent more funds for work involving coal.
Engineering on magnetic fusion, an alternative source of nuclear power, is earmarked for a 28 percent budgetary increase, while general science rates a 20 percent hike.