Lab Makes The Numbers Add Up
by Mike Perricone
“We have a lot to get done,” said Fermilab Director Michael Witherell. “But we can get all this done within this budget. And we’ll start producing physics results that people have been anticipating for a long time.”
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Jr. announced the lab’s budget on Nov. 1, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Energy and Water Appropriations Act that had been adopted in the conference committee with the Senate.
“High-energy physics, and the work at Fermilab in particular, continues to enjoy strong support in Congress,” said Hastert, whose 14th Congressional District in Illinois encompasses Fermilab. “As Speaker, I am committed in protecting the United States’ leadership position in this field, and to maintain Fermilab’s position as the world’s pre-eminent high-energy physics laboratory.”
The Fermilab appropriation represents an increase of approximately six percent from FY01 funding, compared to an increase of 0.6 percent in the area of High Energy Physics, and an increase of 2.1 percent in the Office of Science, within the Department of Energy. The presidential budget request had initially proposed a $25 million cut for the Office of Science, but the conference committee added $88 million to reach a new total of $3.018 billion. Within the Office of Science, the High-Energy Physics budget of $706 million was identical to the request, up $4 million from FY02.
Witherell emphasized that all the budget numbers must be viewed in the context of altered national priorities following the terrorist attacks of September 11. The conference on the Energy and Water bill took place after the attacks, and Witherell noted, “understandably, there had been a major change in Washington, D.C. that affected almost everything in the budget.” He pointed out that the lab had done well despite cuts made in other areas of the DOE budget, crediting the high-visibility experimental program at the Tevatron. He estimated the lab could expect “the better part of a year” without long scheduled shutdowns in Collider Run II.
“Within this budget,” Witherell said, “we will have lots of running time and we will generate lots of new data that people have been waiting for. The luminosity will be increasing steadily through this time. The detectors are getting ready to settle into a steady physics run. That’s guaranteed. We can look forward to a lot in this time.”
Beyond the guarantees for the Fermilab experiments, the larger perspective for the field and for the lab remains virtually unchanged from a year ago.
“Unfortunately, the field of high-energy physics has lost ground to inflation in a year when it has many things to do,” Witherell explained. “As a whole, the field of high-energy physics is going to have a difficult year.”
Witherell further explained that the lab’s budget would not cover all its plans, necessitating what he called “a hard look” at the way the lab would cover its commitments.
“We are giving the experiments guidelines on what funding is available,” he said, “and asking them to adapt their needs to fit what’s available.”
For example, the CDF and DZero collider detectors have recently submitted their Technical Design Reports for their Run II detector upgrades, to the lab’s Physics Advisory Committee. There is also a new Technical Review Committee for those upgrades, reporting directly to the Director. Chaired by Jim Pilcher of the University of Chicago, this “very good group of technical experts” will form a standing review body for the life of the project.
“They’ll hold their first meeting in December, and that’s when we’ll take our first in-depth look at this challenge,” Witherell said.
NuMI, the Neutrinos at the Main Injector project, was the subject of an in-depth look by the Lehman Review Committee in September. That review approved changes in the project required by cost increases and schedule delays. The re-baselining will incorporate some $30 million in increased costs and five months in construction delays. NuMI’s funding level for FY02 is unchanged, but the new baselining will mandate increases in FY03 and FY04.
As a whole, the DOE budget increased by more than $1.7 billion in the conference committee, according to data compiled by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The original request had made substantial cuts in areas of DOE research and development, including Energy Supply (-$25 million), Fossil Energy (-$100 million) and Energy Conservation (-$125 million). The conference committee restored all those cuts, and added modest increases for a total of $20.835 billion.
In HEP, the appropriation of $706 million continues the trend of “flat” funding in effect for more than 15 years. In constant FY01 dollars, according to AAAS figures, DOE research funds have increased by about 50 percent since 1985. However, the physical sciences have remained at virtually the same level over that time. When the FY01 budget was announced around this time a year ago, voices throughout HEP and the entire science community spoke of the need to do better in FY02 and in the following years.
Nobel Prize-winner Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and former director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote a widely quoted Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post (Oct. 4, 2000) describing the importance of science and research to what was then a budget surplus. Varmus cited the need to increase research funding for the physical sciences as well as the biomedical sciences.
The times and funding conditions have changed immeasurably in the ensuing year, and Witherell acknowledged both the lab and the sciences must adapt.
“We will be able to do a lot with this funding,” he said. “A year from now, we’ll be seeing a lot of preliminary analysis of Fermilab data going on. The best way for us to make our case for funding in subsequent years is on the basis of experiments running successfully and getting results.”
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