Good News for NSF's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory

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Publication date: 
30 November 1994

If all goes as planned, $85 million in FY 1994 and FY 1995 funding
will be released in the next few weeks for the Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).  This follows approval on
November 18 of two resolutions by the National Science Board (NSB)
of a revised funding plan for construction, associated R&D, and
commissioning of this project sponsored by the National Science

LIGO will consist of two detectors in Hanford, Washington and
Livingston Parish, Louisiana. Laser light will be sent through 4-km
L-shaped tubes designed to detect changes in the beam resulting
from gravitational waves.  The project is jointly managed by the
California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology.

The NSB action responds to a demand made by the Senate VA, HUD,
Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in July.  A
committee report accompanying the NSF funding bill stated, "The
Committee continues to be concerned about ongoing management
problems at one of the two sites for the LIGO Program, especially
in light of concerns expressed by the chief financial officer of
the Foundation, and directs the Foundation to provide its complete
reorganization plan for LIGO with the fiscal year 1995 operating
plan.  In addition, the Committee directs that no fiscal year 1995
funding for LIGO shall be obligated until the new management plan
has been approved by the National Science Board.  The Committee
directs the Foundation to submit a progress report and updated cost
estimates for LIGO by November 15, 1994" (see FYI #112.)

The board authorized amendments to the CalTech Cooperative
Agreement increasing LIGO spending to $365.4 million.  This figure
includes $212 million previously approved for construction and
associated R&D.  The first amendment authorizes an additional $84.7
million for construction and R&D.  This increase consists of $36.6
million because the construction schedule is stretched out from
four to seven years, $16 million for recommended additional staff,
$9 million for extra contingency funding, and $23.1 million in
additional funding over the project's projected base cost (mostly
for more sophisticated detectors.)  A second amendment approves,
for the first time, $68.7 million for commissioning and operations
from FY 1997 to 2001.

The new construction cost figures and staffing levels result from
an intensive project review by a committee of scientific and
engineering experts.  A project team now directed by Barry Barish
has, according to NSF, created "a new organizational structure
aimed at more specific assignments of responsibility through
appropriate delegation, strengthening the project's system of
checks and balances, and increasing accountability."  This new team
has met all project milestones.

NSF is now awaiting approval of the restructured LIGO plan by
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Louis Stokes (D-OH),
chairs of the VA, HUD, appropriations subcommittees.  With their
approval, $35 million  held back in FY 1994 funding, and $50
million in FY 1995 funding, will be released.

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