Impacts of sequestration on Office of Science programs

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Publication date: 
8 March 2013

“Sequestration cuts will have real and lasting consequences.” – DOE Office of Science Director William Brinkman

Office of Science Director William Brinkman testified before the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee on March 5.  In addition to his oral opening statement, Brinkman provided the subcommittee with written testimony. 

“We face a unique and challenging time during this period of intense budget uncertainty” Brinkman told the subcommittee.  In addition to the March 27 expiration of the short-term continuing resolution (CR) funding, “we face sequestration cuts that will mean a reduction of $215 million for the Office of Science as compared to the FY 2012 enacted level” he said.  “There will be impacts to our programs, facilities and construction projects that affect not just the progress of the science we steward, but also the everyday lives of the researchers, institutions, and business we support.”

“Each of our six core science programs will have to absorb this cut in proportion to their budgets,” Brinkman explained, an amount estimated as 5.0 percent. The following are additional excerpts from Brinkman’s written testimony regarding the impacts to specific programs:

Advanced Scientific Computing Research:

“Growth in computing performance has the potential to advance multiple sectors of our economy, including science, manufacturing, and national defense. In our Advanced Scientific Computing Research program, reductions in our supercomputing budget will mean cancelling the second planned request for proposals for the new FastForward initiative to accelerate the next generation of supercomputers at a time when international competition in this domain is growing. Research funds to universities will be delayed, impacting as many as 60 graduate students.”

Basic Energy Sciences:

“In our largest program, Basic Energy Sciences, the Linac Coherent Light Source II (LCLS II) upgrade project at SLAC is in danger of a significant delay that will lead to substantial increases in total project cost. Our FY 13 Budget proposed changing the scope of LCLS-II, making it a construction line item; however, under a CR construction funds are not available. As a result the project cannot enter into a contract for civil construction, and it faces reduced funding levels that will delay its completion. The new National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), planned to become fully operational in 2015, may be forced to reduce early operations, impacting its scheduled availability for scientific users.”

Biological and Environmental Research:

“In the Biological and Environmental Research program, there are wide ranging impacts due to the current CR, spanning low dose radiation, biofuel feedstock, and carbon cycle research. Three funding opportunity announcements will be cancelled, impacting potentially over 25 grants. Other grants will be cancelled before their final year, impacting scores of senior investigators and students alike. ANL [Argonne National Laboratory], LBNL [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory], Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and ORNL [Oak Ridge National Laboratory] all face reductions in their BER research programs.”

Fusion Energy Sciences:

“In the Fusion Energy Sciences, sequestration will impact both domestic research facilities and funding for U.S.-made hardware for the international ITER project. We are still assessing the proper balance of reductions in these two areas. Funding levels for ITER below the FY 13 Budget request will impact our ability to meet US hardware delivery dates in support of the ITER construction schedule.”

High Energy Physics:

“In High Energy Physics, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) will face reduced accelerator runtime and staff reductions. Core research will also be reduced, impacting scientists at universities nation-wide and at DOE laboratories.”

Nuclear Physics:

“In Nuclear Physics, the run time at RHIC [Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider] at BNL [Brookhaven National Laboratory] will be reduced, prematurely ending a series of planned experiments with polarized protons and compromising efforts to make unique and world-leading discoveries. The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory faces funding reductions that will reduce scientific efforts, as well as have other impacts on materials and supplies procurement that will hinder the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility 12GeV Upgrade - a project already extended by previous budget shortfalls.”

Brinkman concluded this section of his written testimony by cautioning, “Overall, the impacts to facilities operations at our laboratories will have an impact on university and private sector research. Over 25,000 scientists nationwide, and across many fields, rely on Office of Science user facilities for their research. While the impact is difficult to quantify, the scientific progress of many researchers will be slowed by user facility budget reductions.”