Sunday, December 23, 2007

Illinois Delegation Responds To Fermilab's Predicament

This has been distributed for immediate release:

December 21, 2007


In light of recent funding cuts, Illinois members will meet to discuss strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) and Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) today sent the following letter to Jim Nussle, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), calling on him to increase next year’s funding for the High Energy Physics (HEP) program, which supports research at Fermilab in Illinois, and at several other laboratories and universities across the nation that are doing vital, cutting edge research.

Durbin, Obama, and Biggert are in discussions with Congressional appropriations and authorization committees and the Department of Energy to address the current funding situation and avoid potential layoffs during fiscal year 2008. They also plan to call for an Illinois delegation meeting in January with representatives from Illinois labs and organizations to discuss a strategy to avoid potential job loss at Fermilab. The spending bill, approved by Congress this week, provided the HEP program with $88 million less than was requested. This challenges Fermilab's ability to remain one
of the world's preeminent research facilities after it has achieved outstanding success in research on neutrinos, the high energy frontier, and particle astrophysics.

Adequate funding for the labs is critical to ensure that our country maintains its technological edge and that we continue to add to our high-tech manufacturing base. Fermilab is the nation’s premier high-energy physics laboratory. The laboratory leads U.S. research into the fundamental nature of matter and energy, and in 2007, Fermilab’s researchers and facilities achieved results judged by the American Institute of Physics as among the Ten Top Physics Stories from around the world.


[text of the letter is below]

Dear Director Nussle:

We are writing to you concerning a matter of critical importance to our country, to science in America, and to our global competitiveness. As you continue to develop the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2009, we respectfully request that you increase funding for the High Energy Physics (HEP) program in the Office of Science at the Department of Energy.

As you know, the budget approved this week by Congress dealt a severe blow to HEP, which received $88 million less than requested. This budget rejected funding for the NOvA neutrino experiment at Fermilab, and drastically cut funding for research and development on the International Linear Collider. These cuts could cripple Fermilab's ability to remain one of the world's preeminent research facilities. And this is at a time when Fermilab has achieved outstanding success, with significant results in each of its central areas of research: neutrinos, the high energy frontier, and particle astrophysics.

The facilities at Fermilab are essential for the basic scientific research that nurtures technological and scientific advances, and that fuels American innovation. Fermilab is one of a handful of our nation's premier training sites for scientists, and a centerpiece of the system of DOE National Laboratories. Disruptive funding
shortfalls have ripple effects throughout the American scientific community, displacing today's scientists and discouraging tomorrow's. We must work together to restore funding in basic physics research to maintain America's role as the innovator in technology, to retain our leading scientific institutions and their skilled workforces, and to provide opportunities for future scientists.

While we recognize the formidable challenges you face regarding the demands on the federal budget, we respectfully encourage you to increase the funding request for the Office of Science, particularly for the HEP program, in the President’s FY2009 Budget.


Barack Obama
Richard J. Durbin
Judy Biggert

One hopes that they can do something not just for Fermilab, but for high energy physics funding in general. In the scheme of things, $88 million is merely pittance and does not make or break the US budget, especially in light of the humongous defense spending. We we are nickle-and-diming things here. Yet, that small amount means survival or closure of many HEP research projects. Like I said earlier, if Fermilab survives this, none of the current members of Congress (save for Judy Biggert) deserves to bask in any of Fermilab's future glory, because they tried to kill it.


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