Budget cuts hit Fermilab hard

Reduced U.S. 2008 fiscal year federal funding (a $90 million cut for High Energy Physics) will slow research development and harm international relations, suggest Fermilab officials. The federal lab may have to cut 125 personnel and say “No” to some international partners. Among cuts are funding for research and development on the International Linear Collider (ILC) and the Super Co...


Reduced U.S. 2008 fiscal year federal funding (a $90 million cut for High Energy Physics) will slow research development and harm international relations, suggest Fermilab officials. The federal lab may have to cut 125 personnel and say “No” to some international partners. Among cuts are funding for research and development on the International Linear Collider (ILC) and the Super Conducting Radio Frequency, as well as funding for NOvA.

As stated in a recent “The Director’s Corner” column of Fermilab Today , the cuts are regarded as very serious for particle physics at SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), the nation, and international relations. Pier Oddone, Fermilab director, reported that SLAC, the principal national partner on the ILC R&D program, has made ILC the keystone of their future accelerator program. “SLAC’s leadership has demonstrated the highest standard and commitment in supporting the ILC as a national priority even though the facility would be built at Fermilab and not at SLAC. We owe our colleagues at SLAC our strongest efforts to help deal with the problems created by the FY08 budget. A hit to our partners at SLAC is also a hit on our future.”

Termination of the B-factory, an electron-positron collider, is one factor that allows the program at the Tevatron to remain fully productive in FY08, Oddone said; which places a responsibility on Fermilab to deliver on that program. Oddone noted special concerns for future international collaborations due to “abrupt changes that our funding process imposes on our collaborations with international scientific partners. Even formal international agency agreements, as in the case of ITER (an international project to design and build an experimental fusion reactor) do not protect programs against abrupt changes of direction. We must fix this process if we are to regain the trust of our partners and our international standing in the scientific community.”

In a recent “All Hands Meeting,” SLAC director Persis Drell said, “The President’s request for FY08 contained a very significant increase for the DOE Office of Science (~$600M) and there was bipartisan support in both House and Senate. However, an impasse between the White House and the Congress over funding for the Iraq war and overall spending levels led to a continuing resolution for the first three months of the new fiscal year (October–December 2007). When the final omnibus budget bill was finally passed into law, however, it contained only a very small increase to the DOE Office of Science for FY08.”

Major impacts of the FY08 budget include:

  • Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world’s first x-ray laser, and LCLS Ultrafast Science Instruments (LUSI) construction will proceed with early operations for the LCLS at the end of FY09 and the LCLS in 2010;

  • Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), a division of SLAC, will likely curtail user operations in FY08 by 15% to cope with the budget shortfall;

  • The ILC program will be stopped for the rest of this year and faces a very uncertain future; and

  • The B-factory program will terminate at the beginning of March.

According to Drell, “For particle physics, the hardest hit discipline in this year’s budget; I believe that nationally we will need to adjust to a smaller base program going forward. This means that as a lab we will need to focus our efforts on a smaller number of programs and resize our workforce to a realistic assessment of the future program opportunities. Starting now, we will take actions to reduce our spending and our staffing lab-wide to address the budget realities of FY08 and prepare for FY09…We will be looking to lay off approximately 125 additional people from the lab. I say additional because we are already in the middle of a program, through voluntary and involuntary layoffs, to decrease headcount by 100 in order to readjust the skills mix at the lab to optimize the workforce forfuture LCLS operations.”


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