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Feb 23, 2011 10:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Looming Federal Cuts Could Impact Brookhaven National Laboratory

Feb 23, 2011 10:27 AM

Threatened cuts to the federal budget could gut Brookhaven National Laboratory, a research facility run by the U.S. Department of Energy in Upton, by potentially forcing officials to slam the doors on large-scale research facilities and axe 930 employees—a third of the lab’s staffing.

“We’re watching the budget situation in Washington, D.C., very closely and certainly hope that these worst-case scenarios don’t become reality,” said Pete Genzer, a spokesman for the lab.

On Saturday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives pushed through legislation that would dramatically cut federal spending through September to the tune of approximately $61 billion—if the U.S. Senate also approves the bill.

“The next step from here is to hope that the Senate is successful in fighting off these cuts and that they never take on the force of law,” said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton who voted against the bill. “The House is done.”

The bill proposes billions of dollars in cuts in terms of federal science and energy funds, including a 30 percent reduction in funding for all science facilities. For Brookhaven National Laboratory, that equals almost $170 million of the $566 million provided by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Mr. Genzer said. The lab’s total budget for the current fiscal year is $708 million, he said.

“If the budget resolution approved by the House of Representatives were to prevail, it would result in major impacts to the lab’s facilities, research programs and staff,” Mr. Genzer said.

According to an impact study conducted by the lab, the proposed cuts would require the lab to shutter or severely restrict many of its research facilities, leading to the termination of 930 positions.

Closing the National Synchrotron Light Source, a facility that the federal government has invested $2.5 billion in over the last 30 years, would displace 330 employees, Mr. Bishop said. The light source uses accelerated particle energy to illuminate the inner workings of polymers and proteins, which has medicinal and physical science implications.

Additionally, the lab would have to halt operations at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a particle accelerator that mashes subatomic particles together at nearly the speed of light. Mr. Bishop said the federal government has invested $3.5 billion into that facility and its shutdown would lead to 300 layoffs.

“Those two pieces of equipment represent the investment of, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money that would basically go to waste,” Mr. Bishop said. “A cut of this magnitude is destructive to our economy and our ability to stay on the cutting edge of scientific research.”

The U.S. Senate is expected to write its own version of the spending measure during the first week of March, cutting it close to March 4, which is when the current funding authority runs out. Without a new plan, Congress could screech to a halt.

“The bill is dead on arrival to the Senate, but the big question is whether we’re going to find some middle ground or if we’re going to have a standoff, which invites a government shutdown,” Mr. Bishop said. “I just hope we can find some reasonable way to go forward.”

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By rburger (75), Remsenburg on Feb 24, 11 11:43 AM
I am reposting without the link: In 2000 prominent Democratic fundraisers including George Soros, Alec Baldwin and Christie Brinkley encouraged Bill Clinton's secretary of energy Bill Richardson to close the troubled High Flux Beam Reactor at BNL.

This was also supported by Congressman Michael Forbes who had switched to the Democratic party. This move was criticized by the American Institute of Physics as gutting this country's capability in neutron scattering research. Now Tim Bishop is ...more
By rburger (75), Remsenburg on Feb 24, 11 5:16 PM
So if they close or significantly cut BNL....who gets the research and info on progress made?....will it all be given or handed over to big business like everything else since the bailouts?....I am no fan of BNL....but I am tired of seeing the US being ripped off constantly.....I am sure the "fire sale" will help many companies that donate to campaigns...and now that it has been decided companies can donate as much as they want even foreign companies are in the game...
By questioningsue (2), Boonton on Jul 12, 11 5:16 PM
It's really all a bad joke....and might even be considered funny from an ironic point of view if the stakes were not so high...if the research and progress fall into the hands of business there will be even less regulation....to the almost non-existent regulation currently..
By questioningsue (2), Boonton on Jul 12, 11 5:18 PM
oh who cares!?
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 12, 11 5:33 PM
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