A Letter from the Fermilab Director

By Sean Carroll | January 5, 2007 2:40 pm

Sadly, not about physics, but about funding issues that might lead to temporary layoffs and other severe cutbacks.

from: Fermilab Today
to: usersorg@fnal.gov
date: Jan 5, 2007 10:16 AM
subject: Message to Users from the Fermilab Director

A message from the director: Continuing Resolution

In December, Congress passed the third “continuing resolution” or “CR” to fund the federal budget for fiscal year 2007 at the 2006 level. Also in December, the incoming chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees stated their intent to pass a “joint budget resolution” for the remainder of the fiscal year. The committee chairs were careful not to specify the level of the joint funding resolution and explicitly stated their intent to mitigate as much as possible the adverse consequences that would result from such resolution. However, there has been broad speculation that the result may be a continuing resolution at the FY06 level for the remainder of the FY07 fiscal year. This would have very negative effects on many federally funded programs throughout the country, including the physical sciences and Fermilab.

Last month, DOE Under Secretary Orbach requested, and we provided, an analysis of the impact and a contingency plan should the level of Fermilab funding remain at the FY06 level. I want to share with you the unvarnished consequences of such a budget as we have presented it to DOE (see links below). Of course the specifics may change as things unfold. Among other measures, the contingency plan includes the possibility of a month-long furlough, or temporary layoff from work, of all Fermilab employees except those required for safety and for essential activities.

I want to assure you that, at this stage, this is only a contingency plan. Should such measures become necessary, I will consult with the laboratory management about how best to proceed. In the meantime, we are working very hard to make sure that the consequences of a reduced budget level are understood at all government levels and to make the strongest case to redress the situation and avert these consequences. Thanks to your extraordinary efforts, the remarkable results on the Tevatron, the neutrino program and ILC R&D make a powerful case for support.

We don’t plan on layoffs for FY07; they would not help much in achieving significant savings this year. We expect that the president’s budget request for FY08 will be supportive of the physical sciences and of Fermilab so that layoffs will not be necessary.

Last year, at the request of Congress, the National Academy carried out a study on American competitiveness that resulted in the report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” The report pointed to the critical need for the country to increase its investment in the physical sciences in order to remain competitive among the nations of the world. The president’s budget and subsequent congressional committees have recognized this critical need with broad bipartisan support. A CR at the FY06 level maintained for the full year would amount to a cut in funding, due to inflation, at a time when increased support is called for. This would undermine progress in the physical sciences and the world-competitive position of the U.S. in science and technology. I am optimistic that this will not be allowed to happen.

You will surely have many questions. I may not have a lot of answers, but for employees who would like to meet informally with me, I will be available to provide whatever information I have on Monday, January 8, at noon in One West.

For more information, visit this website: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/SpecialCorner.html.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics
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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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