Act now, becomes law this week: U.S. guts Fermilab budget

Batavia, IL—The Bush Administration and Congress reneged on promises of increased support for basic science with the omnibus spending bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. Observers expect the bill to be signed into law by the end of this week; rapid action is needed for preservation. (Contacting the senator mentioned below would be a good start.)


Batavia, IL —The Bush Administration and Congress appears to have reneged on promises of increased support for basic science with the omnibus spending bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. Observers expect the bill to be signed into law by the end of this week; rapid action is needed for preservation. (Contacting the senator mentioned below would be a good start.)

Ironically, a controls engineer at Fermilab told Control Engineering that the main difference between working in a government lab versus academia was, “We don’t have to constantly chase grants.” That was spoken at virtually the same time Congress was passing a bill that effectively cuts $64 million from two of Fermilab’s main programs, and essentially “zeroed out” a third. The three programs affected are the International Linear Collider (ILC), the NOvA neutrino experiment, and superconducting accelerator research.

Control technologies in use at the site include automation software, PLCs and other controllers, embedded controls, networks, fieldbuses, Ethernet, sensors, I/O connections, motors, drives, valves, hydraulics,

Perhaps most significant is the canceling of NOvA’s funding . This ongoing project was to be Fermilab’s centerpiece experiment after the planned shut down of Tevatron—currently the most powerful particle accelerator in the world—scheduled for 2008. Additionally, it sounds a warning that efforts to keep Tevatron operating beyond 2008 (Kurt Riesselmann, Fermilab’s deputy head of public affairs, had expressed hopes earlier in the day that funds might be found to operate Tevatron into 2010.)

The lab is trying to convince the other international partners in the ILC to locate it in Batavia, IL. Unfortunately, the Federal government’s reneging on three quarters of their contribution speaks volumes about U.S. commitment to the project, and about the trustworthiness of U.S. promises. If ILC partners decide to move the project elsewhere, it will be a major blow to the U.S. high-energy physics community.

Similarly, losing three quarters of the funding for ongoing superconducting accelerator research is another heavy blow to high-energy physics research in the U.S. While this research will likely still be done, as will the ILC, it will be done elsewhere.

Act now: Judy Jackson at Fermilab’s office of communication says that engineers interested in expressing support for Fermilab can contact Sen. Richard Durban (D-IL), who represents Illinois and sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. A spokesperson at the senator's office on Dec. 20 said there's no comment about the cuts at this time.

Those at the Fermilab are discussing the impact .

Control Engineering 's

"Pillar to Post" blog also comments on the Fermilab cuts

and other technology news

For more information about the omnibus spending bill’s affect on U.S. support for fundamental and applied science, read Jeffrey Mervis’ article posted online at ScienceNOW Daily News .

C.G. Masi , senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk
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