U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) began circulating a letter late last week urging appropriators to ensure that the proposed Department of Energy Office of Science budget is not cut this year. More than 25 Senators, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), have already signed the letter which will go to Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Ranking Republican Pete Domenici (R-NM).
“Even during times of tight budgets, we need to make this pro-growth investment in scientific research to grow new jobs and keep them from being shipped overseas,” said Alexander. “The work at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory must move ahead at full steam if we are to keep our competitive edge in this global economy.”
“The Office of Science funds much of our nation’s leading edge R&D, and it would be a big mistake to allow the proposed budget to be cut. We should do everything we can to make sure the Office of Science is adequately funded not only this year, but for years to come,” Bingaman said.
The President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2007 requested an increase of $500 million for the Office of Science – from $3.6 billion to $4.1 billion. The senators' letter urges appropriators to keep that level intact.
The Senators wrote: “This level of funding is justified in a time of increasing dependence on overseas sources of energy and where U.S. industry is finding it easier every day to outsource R&D talent overseas.” Noting the challenge posed by China and other global competitors, the letter continues, “The Office of Science is at the forefront of our efforts to compete in this global economy.”
In Tennessee, a flat line continuing resolution would damage a number of critical research programs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It could:
•Disrupt Supercomputing: Disrupt and delay progress toward a 1000 Teraflop supercomputer for science and technology applications. ORNL-Cray Corporation contracts could not be paid, forcing layoffs and squandering the lead America is building in open scientific computing while Japan, China, and Europe move forward with their supercomputing facilities.
•Shut Down the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS): Given FY06 funding levels, SNS would be forced to terminate a majority of their staff (approximately 400 people) and place the facility in standby with only a skeleton crew to keep the facility safe. Waiting a year to move toward full operation of SNS would be a significant missed opportunity as Europe and Japan race to catch up with similar scientific capabilities in neutron scattering.
•Shortchange Renewable Energy Research: Budget cuts would result in the loss of researchers in areas such as transportation vehicle technologies and in renewable energy programs, just as our nation is looking for new ways to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
The letter mirrors one the two Senators spearheaded last year that garnered the signatures of 70 Senators. A copy of each letter is attached along with the names of the 70 Senators who signed on to support Office of Science funding last year.