"I just don't want to be second in the world," asserted DOE
Office of Science Director Ray Orbach in his remarks to last week's
meeting of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP). Saying it
"would be a dreadful loss to our country," Orbach urged HEPAP
to produce a plan ensuring continued U.S. leadership in high energy
Orbach speaks with conviction and enthusiasm about Office of Science
programs, while worrying about its budget and how other nations are
positioning themselves to surpass American researchers. Orbach praised
HEPAP as an "example of how an organization can work together"
that could serve as an example to the physics community. Orbach bemoaned
flat funding for physics research over the last ten years, saying that
no field is more affected by this situation than high energy physics.
Calling this condition "perilous," he remarked that accelerators
are important to all research supported by his office.
HEPAP was briefed by Orbach about his office's strategic plan that
will be issued in the spring of 2003. Part of this process is the compilation
a 20-year "wish list" of desired $50+ million physics facilities.
The next exercise (Orbach stressed the word "exercise") will
refine this list and then compare it to various funding scenarios. Projected
operating costs will be included. Under one funding scenario, the budget
increases in authorization legislation now being considered by Congress
plus succeeding 4% annual increases appears to be sufficient. Orbach
noted that report language for the FY 2003 Energy and Water Development
appropriations bill is quite supportive of such planning.
Looking at the immediate future, Orbach asked for HEPAP's assistance
in prioritizing research at Fermilab and SLAC within the current budget
environment. Scientific leadership must be maintained at both laboratories,
he said. Orbach spoke at length about the imperative of American researchers
being the first to observe the Higgs boson, saying it would be a great
loss to the United States if another nation did so. "It would be
awful if we were to miss this opportunity if we did not marshal our
resources," Orbach told the committee. "It's a race . . .
I don't want to be second in that race," he said. Congress, declared
Orbach, strongly agrees with this goal. If the field's objective should
be something else, HEPAP should make that known, Orbach stated.
Looking ahead to the construction of the Next Linear Collider, Orbach
remarked that there is no conflict between the race to observe the Higgs
boson and future cooperation on this collider. There is currently no
international structure to support the future collider, but Orbach said
that meetings are being held on cost and management structures. Orbach
wants an estimate that he can have confidence in, adding budget and
schedule problems for the Large Hadron Collider have created problems.
Constructing the Next Linear Collider in the United States would be
a tremendous asset, but would require a larger financial commitment.
It is, he feels, "none too soon" to start working with Congress
on this project.
Orbach concluded his remarks as he had begun: "I want to be the
best high energy physics program in the world."