As you might imagine, we’ve received quite a few questions about the federal budget, sequestration, and how it all might affect Fermilab. The short answer is this: we don’t know yet.
For the longer answer, I’m going to turn this post over to Fermilab Director Pier Oddone. He wrote the following for our in-house publication Fermilab Today last week, before sequestration was signed into law, but the information in it still applies. This is where we are right now, still waiting.
Sequestration has been all over the news in recent weeks. Automatic cuts to federal government spending will take effect on Friday if Congress does not take action before then. The cuts have the potential to do much harm across all sectors of our society, from fire protection to air traffic control and from preschools to scientific research.
Like many of you, I am very concerned about the effect these cuts will have on our laboratory. I wish that I were able to detail exactly what will happen at Fermilab; however, as the federal government is operating under a temporary budget that expires on March 27, it is not clear to what budget the cuts will be applied. That leaves a situation so murky that no one is able to say for certain what our lab's budget will be for the rest of this year.
What I can tell you is that we are doing everything we can to prepare for the possibility of sequestration. The laboratory took many steps in 2012 to adjust to a lower budget for the 2013 fiscal year that began in October. On top of these difficult actions, we have been deliberately spending at a low rate since October. These steps have given us some flexibility to deal with further cuts that may be applied as a result of sequestration. We are now planning for possible financial scenarios, focusing on actions that minimize the impact on our staff and our science.
As we wait for Congress to resolve these issues, we have to continue to do what we always do in the face of uncertain budgets: stay focused on our work. As always, I will keep you updated as events unfold.
I wish I could provide more exact information to everyone who has asked, but this is what we know. Fermilab employs 1,750 people, many of them from the surrounding towns, and budget cuts that impact Fermilab will have an effect on the local area, as well as on scientific discovery. As we learn more about what that effect will be, we’ll keep you informed as well.
Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He can be reached by calling 630-840-6733 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.