Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, May 26, 2000  |  Number 10
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Sensenbrenner Visits Lab

by Mike Perricone

House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr. addresses the media after his tour of Fermilab. Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr., (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Science Committee, left no one in the dark about his opinion of Fermilab.

"Fermilab is the jewel in the crown of scientific institutions in the United States," Rep. Sensenbrenner said after a tour of the lab on March 15, including a visit to the manufacturing facility for superconducting magnets critical to the success of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Some of the other places I've been, I've seen big managerial problems and cost overruns," he continued. "That's not the case here, and that's the way we want it to be. This place is well managed. Fermilab has a mission, and it accomplishes that mission."

Soon after becoming chairman of the science committee, Sensenbrenner played a critical role in the 1997 negotiations leading to the $531 million agreement for U.S. participation in LHC. He remains firm in his conviction that international cooperation is essential in building the next "big machine," the accelerator that will take particle physics beyond the energy frontier established when LHC begins operating around 2005.

"LHC is not the end of the line," Sensenbrenner said. "A new accelerator will be the next logical step, but the funding will be beyond the means of any single country. It must be an international effort. In 1997, we developed the agreement regarding CERN that took the debate out of the political arena. The Europeans pledged they would support the next generation machine anywhere in the world, something that didn't happen during the SSC [Superconducting Super Collider] fiasco in the 1980s."

At the lab's Industrial Center Building, Sensenbrenner saw cable being wound for LHC magnets under construction. Fermilab director Michael Witherell noted a level of cooperation on the project between the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation that offered "a model of agencies working together, building cooperation that is important for the future." Witherell also emphasized that in contributing to LHC, Fermilab had rebuilt its capability to produce superconducting magnets for the future--and for a future accelerator.

Sensenbrenner examines literature and component parts for LHC with US/CMS project manager Dan Green. US/LHC project manager Jim Strait of Fermilab said that the cooperation with CERN created the groundwork for the level of direct international cooperation necessary in building future "world" accelerators. Fermilab's Dan Green, project manager for the US/CMS collaboration contributing to the Compact Muon Solenoid detector for LHC, described the support of DOE in helping create a favorable funding profile that saved money by allowing many costs to be met up-front instead of delaying payment.

Looking ahead, Sensenbrenner saw "an increased role for Fermilab after LHC is up and running." He cited the need for advanced research and advanced planning for the next machine, wherever it is built, and said Fermilab is "as critical to the manufacture of that machine as it is to LHC."

But he also acknowledged the difficulties posed by the Federal budget proposals for FY2001. Fermilab faces a shortfall of some $33 million, posing serious threats to several major experiments despite large increases in other areas of science. Sensenbrenner pointed to continuing budget negotiations this summer.

"DOE science has not been dealt with well," he said, "particularly in comparison to the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. We must remember that many of the breakthroughs in medicine use as their essential building blocks many of the developments of high-energy physics. These budgets have got to go up together, to make sure our money is effectively spent."

Sensenbrenner indicated that the current budget numbers were not the final answer.

"We're going to make sure Fermilab remains one of the crown jewels of scientific research," he concluded. "We're going to make sure that the lights stay on at Fermilab."

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