Congress already eyeing Department of Energy for spending cuts

As President Trump pitches a $54 billion boost in defense spending alongside an equal cut to numerous federal agencies, some lawmakers already are eyeing the Department of Energy in particular for major budget reductions.

A letter obtained by Fox Business Network asks acting Energy Department Secretary Grace Bochenek to identify sweeping budget cuts. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Tim Murphy, R-Pa., chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, asked the department to identify “administrative waste and a clear path to achieve significant budget savings in the next five years.”

It’s unclear whether other agencies have received similar letters. The Walden-Murphy missive dated Feb. 10 gives the DOE until March 10 to provide a copy of any internal study that identifies budget savings for the department. If no such study exists, the lawmakers requested that the agency identify potential spending cuts to make.

Walden and Murphy also suggested the DOE use an internal report created by the Pentagon that identified administrative waste on overhead, property management and human resources as a guide for potential budget cuts.

The letter was sent in advance of Trump’s Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry’s expected confirmation. Perry, during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign, infamously sought to eliminate the Energy Department – only to forget that goal in an on-stage debate blunder.

His views have since changed.

In his confirmation hearing, Perry said, “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

He said, “If confirmed, I will enter this role excited and passionate about advancing the core missions of the DOE.”

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., said she was unaware of the letter, but that she would support reviewing potential budget cuts at the DOE.

“We are looking at every agency and the dollars that are spent in those agencies to make sure they’re being spent well, that there’s no waste,” she said. “We cannot afford to continue on the path that we’re currently on where we have $20 trillion in debt and growing.”