Senator Bingaman Addresses DOE Concerns
Senator Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM) spoke before the University Research Associate's Council of Presidents
two weeks ago. In his remarks, excerpted below, Bingaman discussed his
concerns about the department, legislation which he has sponsored, the
need for support by the scientific community, and the weapons laboratories.
Among his observations:
DOE OFFICE OF SCIENCE
been a strong proponent of the science and technology programs at DOE
for many years. In the last year or two, I have been increasingly concerned
about the stature and health of the DOE programs funded by its Office
of Science, which up until recently was headed by Dr. Millie Dresselhaus."
"Along with a bipartisan group of 20-30 fellow Senators, we have
strongly advocated in the last year that the Office of Science receive
the same sort of treatment in the budget process accorded to the other
principal science agencies in government, the NSF and the NIH. In doing
this, we were joined by numerous Presidents of colleges and universities
who also wrote and communicated with Congressional leadership. Together,
we were successful last year in achieving the largest growth in the
budget for the Office of Science in a decade."
"I plan to
work with my colleagues in this Congress to maintain and increase this
support. I hope that you will join in this effort again, as well. In
addition to support for broadly increasing the budget for science and
technology in DOE across the board, I am focusing on three specific
target areas that I would like to briefly describe to you.
is the area of advanced computational science in DOE." "I
introduced a bill in the Senate laying out a multiple-year program of
increased resources for advanced computation, both in the Advanced Scientific
Computing Research program at DOE and in the basic science programs
that would develop and use discipline-specific supercomputing hardware
and software. Although this bill was not enacted into law, it played
an important role in increasing the funding that was seen in the appropriations
act for DOE. I have re- introduced this bill this week in the Senate,
along with Senators Craig, Murray, and Schumer. Its bill number is S.193,
and will be available in printed form in a few days on the web. We hope
to use it to continue to build support for budget increases in this
legislative initiative of mine has been to introduce a bill, S.90, that
will guide DOE's program and investments in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Again, this is a critical, enabling area of research that can and will
broad impacts on many scientific disciplines."
"A third legislative
initiative that is under development is focusing specifically on the
future of nuclear science and engineering in universities." "I
am working on legislation with some of my colleagues that will set funding
levels that will provide a stable baseline for universities, so that
they can make long-term decisions and commitments related to faculty
and institutional facilities."
HELP NEEDED FROM SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY
bills to have a positive impact on funding decisions in the Congressional
appropriations process, it is not enough for proponents to introduce
them. We need active help and support from the larger scientific community,
and I invite you to examine these bills closely, to let us know how
they might be improved, and to help us reach out to other Members of
Congress who might support them."
STRESSES AT THE LABORATORIES
DOE laboratory system is coming under increasing stress from a number
of sources. I do not believe that its long-term viability can be taken
for granted. If the DOE labs were to slip from their current level of
excellence, I think that there would be some important negative effects
for the entire U.S. scientific and technical community. I believe that
it is in the interest of the entire community to work together to see
that the next 4 or 5 years leads to a refocusing and strengthening of
the DOE laboratory system for the long term.
source of stress on the laboratories is a structural divide enacted
by the last Congress between the defense programs of the DOE, and the
labs primarily associated with these missions, and the civilian programs
of the Department and the rest of the labs that have been traditionally
associated with those programs. This came about through the formation
of the National Nuclear Security Administration (or NNSA) in 1999. The
first Administrator of the NNSA, General John Gordon, has wisely chosen
to emphasize the need to continue civilian programs at the so-called
NNSA labs Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia. He developed a
good working relationship with Dr. Millie Dresselhaus, who led the DOE
Office of Science in the last Administration. But it is always unsettling
to rely almost entirely on future incumbents of these two positions
to have a appropriate attitude and working relationship towards each
other. History shows that separate organizations have a propensity of
going their own separate ways, and the organizational mentality in Washington
can often be highly territorial.
leaders in the NNSA and the rest of DOE do not work together as well
as General Gordon and Dr. Dresselhaus did, it could be a real problem
for the labs as research institutions of excellence. As you know, science
and technology cannot be compartmentalized into neat defense and civilian
pigeonholes. That's not how scientists at the DOE labs work many of
them are supported by both defense and civilian parts of the DOE."
to the organizational difficulties of setting up a separate NNSA within
DOE, the allegations of serious lapses in security over the past 3 years
at DOE, and the political response in Washington, has led to a number
of other serious pressures on all the DOE labs and their research excellence."
REVITALIZING THE LABORATORIES
Richard M. Jones
need to make a concerted effort to revitalize the DOE laboratories as
scientific institutions over the next few years, if we are to maintain
their special contribution to DOE's missions and to the broader scientific
and technical community of which you are a part. That will have to include
both improvements to management policies that discourage scientists
and engineers from coming to and remaining at the laboratories, and
also attention to the aging physical infrastructure at many of the labs.
"I don't see
efforts to work on these problems as being a zero-sum game with increasing
R&D support for universities through both DOE and the other science
and engineering funding agencies. I do think that they are important
for all of us to work on, if we are to have a vibrant and varied structure
for supporting and carrying out scientific and engineering research.
"I look forward
to your help and support to make sure that we apply the best institutional
management practices from the university sector at the DOE laboratories,
and make sure that the roles of the universities and the DOE labs in
maintaining our technological leadership."
Media and Government
American Institute of Physics
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