Organizational History

The Basic Energy Sciences (BES) organization was formed in June 1977. The origins of the federal research programs that became BES, however, are rooted in the Nation's research efforts to win World War II. The goals of the early U.S. science programs that evolved into BES were to explore fundamental phenomena, create scientific knowledge, and provide unique user facilities necessary for conducting basic research. In this sense, the BES program predates the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946. The archives of BES budget requests and program summary books reflect the rich history of the BES program, which includes the following organizational changes.

August 2003

The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) was reorganized into three Divisions instead of two. The scientific user facility functions formerly in the Materials Sciences and Engineering Division were moved to a new organizational unit within BES, the Scientific User Facilities Division. Scientific User Facilities became a BES subprogram in the FY 2010 Budget Request.

December 1999

BES was reorganized into two Divisions instead of four. The Materials Sciences and Engineering Division included the former Materials Sciences Division and the Engineering activity within the former Engineering and Geosciences Division. The Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division included the former Chemical Sciences Division, the Geosciences activity of the former Engineering and Geosciences Division, and the former Energy Biosciences Division.

October 1998

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 1999 (Public Law 105-245, Sec. 309, October 7, 1998) changed the name of the Office of Energy Research (ER) to the Office of Science (more information).

November 1995

The DOE Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was transferred to BES with the passage of the FY 1996 Energy and Water Development Appropriations. The DOE EPSCoR program was originally established within ER's University and Science Education program by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Public Law 102-486, Title XXII, Sec. 2203(b)(3). DOE EPSCoR funding started in FY 1991.

May 1995

The newly formed Computational and Technology Research (CTR) program combined several activities previously located elsewhere in ER. These included Laboratory Technology Research; Mathematical, Information, and Computational Sciences (MICS); and the Advanced Energy Projects (AEP) Division of BES, which also included management of the DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. MICS had formerly been managed outside of BES by the ER Office of Scientific Computing. The above changes were reflected in the FY 1997 Budget Request. The AEP research activities were ramped down during FY 1998 - FY 1999 and were terminated in FY 2000; the CTR program was renamed the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program in FY 2000.


The Biological Energy Research Division was renamed the Energy Biosciences Division.


The Engineering, Mathematical, and Geosciences subprogram was reorganized into the Engineering and Geosciences subprogram and the Applied Mathematical Sciences (AMS) subprogram. Organizationally, the AMS subprogram was managed by the ER Scientific Computing Staff until the ER Office of Scientific Computing was established in 1994.


The DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was created by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219), July 22, 1982. On October 12, 1982, Secretary of Energy James B. Edwards assigned the management of DOE SBIR to ER, and the program was managed independently within the BES organization. The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program was formed by Congress when it reauthorized SBIR in 1992, and the joint SBIR/STTR program for the Department of Energy is now managed in the Office of Science.

October 1, 1977

The Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) became part of the Department of Energy (DOE) as a result of the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-91, August 4, 1977; 42 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.). As part of the formation of DOE, BES and other programs became part of the newly formed Office of Energy Research.

June 1977

The ERDA Division of Physical Research was reorganized into two divisions: High Energy and Nuclear Physics (HENP) and Basic Energy Sciences. The three BES subprograms underwent the following additions and modifications:

  • The Advanced Energy Projects Division was initiated in BES. This change was reflected in the FY 1978 Budget Request.
  • The Biological Energy Research Division also became a newly organized activity within BES derived from the transfer of projects from the Assistant Secretary for Environment that were more related to the production and conservation of energy than to solving environmental problems. This change was reflected in the FY 1979 Budget Request.
  • Research that was previously supported under the Molecular, Mathematical, and Geosciences subprogram was reorganized into two new activities: Chemical Sciences and Engineering, Mathematical, and Geosciences. This reorganization initiated the Engineering Research activity. This change was reflected in the FY 1979 Budget Request.


The FY 1977 Budget Request (released in February 1976) introduced Basic Energy Sciences research activities. The formation of BES was a response to the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, which provided specifically for energy research in non-nuclear areas. The BES name was also used (e.g., Volume 2, pages 365–379) in ERDA's FY 1976 R&D plan, A National Plan for Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration: Creating Energy Choices for the Future (April 15, 1976),which responded to an annual Congressional requirement of the Federal Nonnuclear Act of 1974.

The BES program contained three subprograms that were in the ERDA Division of Physical Research: 1) Materials Sciences; 2) Molecular, Mathematical, and Geosciences; and 3) Nuclear Sciences. The Nuclear Sciences subprogram was dissolved in 1986 and its research activities were transferred to other organizations with the DOE Office of Energy Research. This change was reflected in the FY 1988 Budget Request.

October 11, 1974

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) became part of ERDA as a result of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-438, October 11, 1974; 42 U.S.C. 5801 et seq.). The AEC research activities that became Basic Energy Sciences were originally in the Division of Research. In December 1971, the Division of Research was redesignated the AEC Division of Physical Research to help distinguish it from an expanding program in biological, health, and medical research.