The Trump Administration hasn’t had much to show for the nearly twelve months that it’s been in power at this point, other than the destruction of the accomplishments of past administrations. In that light, the Trump White House’s original budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 included a provision for the closure of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, established under the Obama Administration.
The cuts called for by the White House have not been enacted, but in the process of preparing for them to possibly go forward, Department of Energy officials directed funds already appropriated for the office in question to be withheld, which was a violation of the law, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Ironically, the DOE could have legally withheld the funds if instructed to do so by the president under certain circumstances, but the president issued no such command, which is fitting, considering how much of a hands-off approach he takes to the job he is supposed to be doing as president.
The GAO received a request from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to investigate whether or not $91 million meant for usage by ARPA-E in Fiscal Year 2017 had actually been made available, and during the course of their investigation, they confirmed that the funds had been withheld.
However, GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong revealed in a letter sent to Congressional committees that the Department of Energy’s Office of the General Counsel — their legal department — informed the relevant parties that they were breaking the law by withholding the funds in anticipation of the president’s budget proposal being passed and the funds have since been made available.
Rep. Johnson, who serves as the Ranking Democrat on the House science committee, was pleased with the result, issuing a statement thanking the GAO for their investigation and reading, in part as follows:
‘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.’
The $91 million supposed to be made available a long time ago to ARPA-E programs isn’t even the only illegal withholding that Rep. Johnson has discovered at the Department of Energy.
All the way back in June 2017, Rep. Johnson got the DOE to release Fiscal Year 2016 funds for ARPA-E programs that had been being withheld in similar fashion to the FY 2017 funds. Rep. Johnson’s office describes those funds being released as “a result” of a request she made at the time for the GAO to investigate the withheld funds.
The pattern of illegally withheld funds that Rep. Johnson has uncovered at the DOE fits in with a pattern of Trump Administration officials seeking to torpedo the operations of the agencies they are supposed to be leading.
Those to act in such a way include EPA Administrator and climate change denier Scott Pruitt, who literally sued the EPA numerous times in his past position as Oklahoma state Attorney General, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has advocated against public schools being pre-eminent in education.
Featured Image via Chris Kleponis – Pool/ Getty Images