Fermilab Today Friday, January 5, 2007  
A message from the director: Continuing Resolution
Pier Oddone

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.

—Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

Links to additional information

A message from Fermilab's chief operating officer
Bruce Chrisman

At this point, a possible employee furlough is only a contingency. Should it become necessary, there will be many questions to answer and decisions to make. We have begun working through this process. Although we recognize that employees will have many questions, we are not yet in a position to answer them. Rest assured that we will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

—Fermilab Chief Operating Officer, Bruce Chrisman

Q&A from Monday's session (Jan. 8, 2007) with Pier Oddone
  • What are the chances that the furlough will happen? They are low, because all we really need is a transfer of funds within the Department of Energy budget, which our analysis indicates DOE could accomplish without adverse consequences to other programs. There is no need for an increase in the overall DOE budget from FY06 to FY07, but Congress would need to approve the reallocation of funds.
  • If the furlough happened, when would it be? We would probably schedule it in July, right before the start of the scheduled shutdown of the accelerator complex for maintenance.
  • How would you handle insurance? Benefits would continue. Fermilab would try to absorb the cost of personal insurance.
  • In the event of a furlough, we would not be able to draw vacation pay? That is the current inclination.
  • Is it possible to use our retirement accounts to bridge the gap and keep the payroll steady? You own your retirement account, so that will be a personal decision. But you need to take into account the specific constraints for your retirement investments.
  • Can we look for alternative employment during that month? For example, doing some consulting? We would make that possible, of course.
  • You said the lab may close for one month, except for essential personnel. Can you define essential personnel? The exact configuration will not be determined until we know that we have to do the furlough. We think we will know in about 4-6 weeks whether a furlough is coming. At that time we would begin detailed planning.
  • What if we stagger the furlough, so that people take two weeks at one time and another two weeks at a later time? We will take that into consideration, but it is my feeling that such a split will be difficult and inefficient for operating the lab. I'm disinclined to use that option.
  • What kind of cost-cutting measures have been discussed with supervisors? There is a hiring freeze except for extraordinary circumstances. Also, I have asked all division heads to cut back to only essential travel and expenses.

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