Spring is here

Spring is here
April 15, 2009

The age in which man lived in fear that winter, with the sun disappearing for longer and longer periods, was the precursor of the end of the world is past for most of us. Nevertheless, there are some winters when we might be forgiven for admitting such a fear. This winter, the economy was in manifest difficulties and a Continuing Resolution controlled much of what we did. The situation was mitigated by our receiving a construction start for the 12 GeV Project.

There was then an early warm-up in January, when immediately following the inauguration of the new president, we started to receive requests for what we call fire drills. During the drills, we responded to questions like: “What if we sent you some money to do X, or Y, how would that advance your program?” I joked on a few occasions that we are not so good at these exercises, we are much more practiced at saying what would happen if our funding were reduced. So, despite 6 inches of snow on my car at Richmond Amtrak station after one 24 hour visit to Washington, the past winter was not, in the end, so bad.

But better was yet to come. We have since heard the announcements about how the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act will lead to our receiving a $65 million boost for the 12 GeV Upgrade Project and $10 million in general plant project money. We also expect to receive support in the areas of cyber security, accelerator improvements and lattice QCD. Most recently, we received notification and authorization for the actual appropriations for the 2009 financial year. This, then, supersedes the continuing resolution. The appropriation was at the level proposed by the previous president in January 2008 and, compared to the alternatives, is excellent news. It permits a number of moves on our part, including:

  • allowing the spring run to happen so that our goal for the total running for this financial year will be 34 weeks;
  • enabling a program of raises and promotions, which had been on hold during the continuing resolution.

Now, our federal funding is dominated by that which we receive from the DOE Office of Science, and that comes primarily from the Office of Nuclear Physics, with a little from the Office of High Energy Physics and from work force development. But some comes from the Department of Defense. Both the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force have provided resources that ensure a healthy program of work with the FEL facilities. And finally, the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided funding directly for the 12 GeV Upgrade project. In a year such as this, we really appreciate this phenomenal support from our local community.

At the all-staff meetings last week, we discussed how we will need to be careful not to overreach our resources and to deploy our efforts judiciously to meet the liens from all our healthy programs. It is clear, however, that the potential is there for a vibrant year with fine advances in the laboratory and its physics and technology programs.

The exclamation mark came yesterday morning with the groundbreaking ceremony for the 12 GeV Project. Despite the weather, our friends arrived and helped us celebrate in memorable fashion. At the ceremony, I had the privilege of thanking, on your behalf, several of the people from politicians to previous laboratory directors to program offices at the Department of Energy that were instrumental in the launching of this project. That this was possible is in large part a result of the efforts of the staff of the laboratory. You know who you are. Each of you should give yourself a pat on the back.