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From the Director: Looking Forward

(Photo - Persis Drell)The impacts of the FY08 appropriated budget were severe for SLAC. In the face of unexpectedly low appropriations for this fiscal year and an anticipated continuing resolution for the first 4 to 6 months of next fiscal year, we moved as quickly as possible to reduce our spending and resize our workforce to a realistic assessment of the future program scope and opportunities.

As a result, 191 people at SLAC have been laid off. Seventy-two of these workers volunteered to leave the lab as part of a program that began last November to help with the necessary change in skills of our workforce as we transition to Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) operations. On February 6, 7 and 8, an additional 119 people were informed that they were being involuntarily laid off due to the FY08 budget cuts. The rest of our target of reducing headcount by 225 was made up by cancelling funded open requisitions to replace people who had left before the layoff programs began.

The layoff was labwide. All directorates and all departments were hit. The layoffs per job category were:
     • 22 physicists
     • 69 Engineers and technicians
     • 35 computing and software people
     • 65 administrative and support people

We all know people who were laid off. We have worked with some of these individuals for years. These are our colleagues. In many cases these are our friends.

The layoff decisions were made by looking forward and projecting what SLACís leadership role for the particle physics and photon science communities will be in the years to come. Guided by our future goals, we preserved support for LCLS construction and future operations and support for Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) operations. We kept core skills to support users in future particle physics programs at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) and to complete the analysis of the B-factory data. We kept core technical skills to support new initiatives for the future of Particle Physics and Astrophysics, such as the Enriched Xenon Observatory (EXO), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the SuperNova Acceleration Probe (SNAP). We retained the core accelerator research competencies which are critical to the future of both the photon science and particle physics programs broadly.

Nonetheless, these were very significant layoffs. Programs have been eliminated and many services have been reduced. The layoff notification days were tremendously difficult days for all of us. I would like to thank our HR department, which did an outstanding job of effectively and efficiently helping all of us through this distressing process. Now that the period of waiting and uncertainty is over, it is time to look forward.

We first have to acknowledge that it will be hard for all of us as over the next few weeks as we watch the departure of 191 of our friends and colleagues. While those that were involuntarily laid off received 60 days notice, all were offered paid administrative leave for that period and so many will either leave the laboratory in the very near future or have already departed. It is sad to see our colleagues leave, and staff that remain will feel a mixture of relief, sorrow and vulnerability that will not dissipate quickly.

However, we can now start to look to the future. We will continue to excel, but it will be in a smaller set of activities. We will continue to deliver world-class science with our operating facilities, but we will be running fewer facilities. We will focus on building our future with the construction of LCLS and we are very committed to making that successful. New programs in particle physics and astrophysics are in development and even upgrades to LCLS are in discussion. We are emerging from this challenging period with a scientific program at the laboratory that is refocused to align with new funding realities. With the SLAC Improvement Initiative getting underway, the programs will be better and more effectively supported by the management and operations functions at the lab.

SLAC's transition into its future is not gentle or slow, but we know what our goals are and the opportunities are great. I do believe that the most difficult period is now behind us and we are moving forward together into a new era for the laboratory.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, February 22, 2008