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From the DirectoróChallenging Times: Questions and Answers

(Photo - Persis Drell)These are challenging days for the laboratory. It has been two weeks since I announced a major layoff, and it will be early February before individual staff are notified whether or not they will be laid off. This period of waiting is difficult for all of us. The senior management is working hard to get through this process as quickly as we can, and to do the best job possible of positioning the laboratory for its future.

Since the All Hands announcement, I have been meeting with work groups at the lab, department by department. Iíve now had a dozen such meetings, involving over 2/3 of the laboratory staff. The purpose of these meetings, above all, is to answer your questions. These meetings have been instructive and informative, and the questions posed to me have been excellent. While the tension in the room is always evident, I admire the respectful way that staff are facing the challenges before us. I cannot always give the answers everyone would like to hear, but I can ensure that, through these meetings, I can provide the most accurate information available.

Questions that come up frequently are:

Q: Did you consider a furlough instead of layoffs?
A: Yes, we did, and we decided against it. A furlough is only effective if one is dealing with a temporary budget problem that will be fixed next year. We donít believe that the reduction in the PPA program at SLAC, or HEP nationally, will be easily recovered in the near term.

Q: Will the layoffs affect our commitment to safety at the lab or our commitment to improve the M&O functionality at the lab?
A: Absolutely not. We must continue to move forward to make SLAC a safer lab with more effective M&O services optimized for the multi-program lab we are becoming. The Department of Energy is investing in our future with the LCLS because they believe we can achieve these goals. I do not intend to let them, or you, down.

Q: How are we going to keep doing what we are doing now with fewer people?
A: We cannot continue to do everything we are doing now with fewer people. We will cut scope scientifically. The B-factory will be turned off. Accelerator research activities have been drastically cut back with the cuts to the ILC budget. On the support side, we will be eliminating services. When the layoffs are announced I will publish a list of services at the lab that are to be reduced or phased out.

Q: When and how will the layoffs be announced?
A: We are aiming for the week of February 4. At the latest the announcements will be the week of February 11. We will schedule the notifications to different directorates or departments on different days. As soon as a schedule is finalized we will let you know what it is. Staff will be informed individually, by their line management and Human Resources staff.

Q: How are our high energy physics users, particularly the international users, reacting to the early termination of the B-factory and the cuts to the ILC program?
A: Our international users are, understandably, extremely upset by what has happened to the ILC and the B-factory programs. I believe it is not too strong to say that they feel betrayed by the abrupt termination of programs they have invested heavily in. Our collaborators have been planning for and investing in upgrades to BaBar for several years, and they are profoundly unhappy about the loss of the science enabled by the final B-factory run.

Q: How do you feel as the new director having to deal with this?
A: This is a great lab. We have tremendous scientific opportunities in front of us. I am trying to focus on those future opportunities and ensure that as we go through this very difficult time, we keep in mind where we want to get 3 years from now. Every decision I am making is focused on optimizing our success in the future. I can deal with the challenge of the present because I believe that the opportunities for the future are great.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, January 25, 2008