Year's End 2012

Year's End 2012
September 27, 2012

Throughout history, civilizations have developed their own calendars and commemorated the start of a New Year. Modern civilizations often have two calendars, the second being the financial calendar. In the United Kingdom and Japan the financial year starts on April 1. In the United States, the relevant date for the federal government is Oct. 1 - Monday, next week.

Working in a national laboratory, our links to the national budget cycle are especially strong; for us, Oct. 1 has the potential to be much more important than Jan. 1. This is especially so, because government spending is controlled by the passage of a laws, which are, at most, valid for one year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

So, this is the last week of Fiscal Year 2012, and all books must be brought into balance. Of course, there are several books - the federal books, the state books and numerous cost reports. The deadline dates seems to fall daily - Oct. 1, Oct. 2, Oct. 5, Oct. 8, Oct. 11, Oct. 20, Oct. 25 and others - through to our submission of the books for audit on Dec. 1. But in fact, to make the October deadlines, the end of the year started a couple of weeks ago. Budgets over the past few years have been relatively tight, and the outlooks also have been difficult, so we attempted to be prudent in FY2012 in preparation for 2013. We even instituted the Voluntary Separation Program as another aid to management of FY2013. As of now, it looks as though we will finish the current fiscal year in a tidy state. Given all the mechanics involved, this is a tribute to our financial staff on the Chief Financial Officer’s team and in the divisions who are important to doing business well and correctly.

But, I can hear the queries. "OK, fine, but what about FY2013?" "Do we have a budget?" "Are we under the threat of government closure?"

The discussions since the Presidential Budget request for FY2013 was made in January have been vigorous as usual. But in the end, perhaps influenced by their need to concentrate on the elections, confrontations were not carried down to the wire. An agreement to not have a real budget, but to have a Continuing Resolution (CR) was reached and signed into law. This CR, an agreement to proceed at the existing funding level, is for six months, or through to the end of March 2013. This is well past the elections and the inauguration of the president. Our understanding of the CR is that it is based on the FY2012 appropriations. There is some flexibility for the Administration, the Department of Energy, and eventually the Office of Science, to adjust the pace at which it distributes the money. It will be particularly important that the 12 GeV Upgrade Project receive its funding early so as not to delay purchases that could affect the eventual project schedule. In fact, we are hopeful that, with lots of help within the Office of Nuclear Physics and the Office of Science, we will be in reasonable shape.

One potential fly in the ointment is the issue of sequestration. Sequestration is an across-the-board reduction of government spending. It resulted from the discussions of more than a year ago about the magnitude of the government debt and is a measure to be taken in the absence of any agreement on how to achieve needed reductions in federal spending. This remains a very contentious issue and few claim an understanding. Thus far, we just see the "Sword of Damocles" poised over us.

It is the job of the lab director to be optimistic, but there is no need to invoke that special condition. We have many real achievements in FY2012 to be proud of. The physics output of the lab has been high. We successfully completed the 6 GeV running with CEBAF and also the planned work with the Free-Electron Laser. There has been enormous progress with the 12 GeV Upgrade Project, and despite the challenges, installation of equipment is proceeding apace. With an eye to our safety and that of our colleagues, we can look forward to many successes in FY2013.