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All Hands Meeting: The FY08 Budget and Its Impact on SLAC

In the Monday, January 7 All Hands Meeting, Persis Drell outlined how SLAC will respond to the FY08 budget. Video of the talk is available online as is the PowerPoint presentation. Persis' speech follows.

"This laboratory ended 2007 with a commitment to face our future as one lab. There are difficulties ahead. The purpose of this All Hands meeting is to update you on the FY2008 budget for SLAC. The House and Senate have passed an omnibus appropriations bill which the President has signed. This bill includes a budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science that is challenging all of the laboratories in the DOE complex. We have spent much of the winter break in discussion with DOE Office of Science on what would be the impacts at SLAC. I am now able to share with you what I know about our FY08 allocated budget and its impacts on the laboratory program and staffing.

"Let me start by reminding you what happened with last year's budget—the budget for the fiscal year that ended on Sept 30, 2007. The President's request for FY2007 included a significant increase for the Office of Science (~$500M) in recognition of the importance of basic research to the energy and economic security of our nation. Under a variety of names—the 'American Competitiveness Initiative' or the 'Innovation Agenda'—there was bipartisan support for increasing the budgets for the physical sciences in general and DOE Office of Science in particular. However, despite all the optimism, what actually happened in FY2007 was that we had a 6-month continuing resolution and when a budget was eventually passed, the increases for the DOE Office of Science were less than half of what was requested.

"A similar story has unfortunately now played out for the FY2008 budget. The President's request for FY2008 contained a very significant increase for the DOE Office of Science (~$600M) and there was bipartisan support in both House and Senate. However, an impasse between the White House and the Congress over funding for the Iraq war and overall spending levels led to a continuing resolution for the first 3 months of the new fiscal year (October–December 2007). When the final omnibus budget bill was finally passed into law two weeks ago, it contained only a very small increase to the DOE Office of Science for FY2008.

"In the FY2008 Office of Science budget, the budget for the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) division of DOE, which funds photon science at SLAC, is $200M less than the President's request. This means that nationally the budget for Basic Energy Sciences programs is essentially flat from FY2007 to FY2008. While many high priority programs at other laboratories were cut as a result, we here at SLAC were fortunate. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) construction is fully funded for FY2008. The BES linac operations budget, which preserves the core skills that will be needed to operate the LCLS in FY2009, is also essentially fully funded. It is extremely important to recognize that in a time of many cuts in the complex, the LCLS was protected. The funding to renovate the central lab to make a home for the PULSE ultrafast science center was preserved. The LCLS instruments project, LUSI, will get very significant new funding in FY2008. However there were hits in our BES funded program. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), which was anticipating 30% budget growth this year, is being held essentially flat, and will likely have to curtail user operations 15% as a consequence. Both of the new and growing photon science institutes, PULSE and XLAM, will have to scale back their growth plans for FY2008 as their funding will not come in as anticipated and their budgets are likely to be essentially level with FY2007.

"The budget for the High Energy Physics (HEP) division of the DOE which funds particle physics and astrophysics at SLAC is $90M less than the President's request. This puts High Energy Physics nationally at a level that is less that what the budget was in FY2007. Here the impacts to SLAC are much more severe. We anticipated about $120M in HEP funds in FY2008. Our actual allocation for this year will be closer to $95M. This is a 20% reduction to the SLAC HEP operating budget compared to the plan for FY2008. Every Particle and Particle Astrophysics program will have to take significant reductions. The programs that are hardest hit are the International Linear Collider R&D and the B-factory operations.

"The appropriated FY2008 budget for HEP cut funding nationally to the ILC program by 75%. Since this happened in December—which is 25% of the way through the fiscal year which started on October 1—the money allocated to ILC R&D in the U.S. has all already been spent. Throughout the U.S. HEP program, including at SLAC, all work on the ILC is being stopped and people are being moved to other programs. While there had been a clear message that the ILC was not going to go forward on the fast time scale that the field had hoped for, no one was expecting such a draconian action, effectively stopping the program for the year. The future of the ILC is unclear at this time, both nationally and internationally.

"With the $90M cut to the HEP program nationally, OHEP in DOE could not afford to fully operate the two major accelerator facilities in the US: the Tevatron at Fermilab and the B-factory here at SLAC. The recommendations of national peer review within the HEP community through P5 and HEPAP have given higher priority to the energy frontier science of the Tevatron program at Fermilab. In our discussions with Dennis Kovar, the acting head of the OHEP, we were unable to find a scenario that could accommodate the budget cuts to the HEP program at SLAC and allow us to run the B-factory for anything close to the planned 10-month period. Faced with a very limited final run for the B-factory, BaBar has decided that they can optimize their science output by moving to the Upsilon 3S to generate a unique data set rather than only marginally adding to the existing Upsilon 4S data set. We started running on the Upsilon 3S just before Christmas. We will terminate B-factory operations at the beginning of March, after completing a run of approximately 30 inverse femtobarns on the Upsilon 3S resonance.

"To summarize the major program impacts of the FY08 budget:
• LCLS and LUSI construction will proceed with early operations for the LCLS at the end of FY09 and CD-4 for the LCLS in 2010
• SSRL will likely curtail user operations in FY08 by 15% to cope with the budget shortfall
• The ILC program will be stopped for the rest of this year and faces a very uncertain future
• The B-factory program will terminate at the beginning of March

"What do we anticipate for FY2009 and beyond? While the bipartisan enthusiasm for the physical sciences appears to be strong and will likely continue, we cannot view the current budget challenge as a temporary set back. I do not believe that the physical science budgets will grow as quickly as has been hoped for. For particle physics, the hardest hit discipline in this year's budget; I believe that nationally we will need to adjust to a smaller base program going forward. This means that as a lab we will need to focus our efforts on a smaller number of programs and resize our workforce to a realistic assessment of the future program opportunities.

"Starting now, we will take actions to reduce our spending and our staffing lab-wide to address the budget realities of FY2008 and prepare for FY2009. We will move with all deliberate speed to a lab-wide involuntary layoff. I anticipate that the layoffs will be announced in early February with people leaving the lab in early April. We will be looking to lay off approximately 125 additional people from the lab. I say additional because we are already in the middle of a program, through voluntary and involuntary layoffs, to decrease headcount by 100 in order to readjust the skills mix at the lab to optimize the workforce for future LCLS operations.

"As a new laboratory director, delivering news of a major layoff—the largest layoff by far in the history of the lab—is certainly not the way I would have chosen to start my term. The next weeks and months as we work through this will be stressful for every one of us at the lab. We all will be affected. While I cannot reduce the magnitude or the impact of the coming layoff, I can acknowledge how painful this will be and ask that everyone be respectful of and be aware of the stress that their colleagues are experiencing in this challenging period. The HR department will have support resources available to the lab community throughout this period.

"I chose to have this All Hands today as a single meeting with webcast. As a consequence, only a fraction of you, the lab staff, can be here in person. I will be coming to meet with you in your workgroups in the next weeks, much as I did in the fall when I became Acting Director. I was planning to do this in any case. The news that I am delivering today makes it all the more urgent that I meet with you, hear your feedback and answer your questions about how the lab will evolve through this challenging year. It will take time for me to get to all the work groups. Your department heads and Associate Laboratory Directors will be communicating with you frequently and answering your questions as we work our way through this process.

"I have spoken at some length about the impacts of the FY2008 budget on the laboratory program and the laboratory staffing. However, it is extremely important that as a laboratory we recognize the tremendous opportunities we have in our future.

"The highest priority for the future of this laboratory is the successful completion and operation of the LCLS. This is an instrument that opens new scientific frontiers nationally and internationally. It will be the backbone of our future onsite program. Both project and operations budgets have been protected and as a direct consequence our future as a laboratory is protected. Even though the project is still in construction, we are already starting to plan the upgrade possibilities.

"SSRL currently serves the largest user community at the lab. While the full scientific realization and utilization of the SPEAR3 upgrade has been delayed, we are still strongly supported to be innovative and deliver outstanding scientific capability to the user community. We are also starting to discuss the long term future of synchrotron science on the site with many exciting possibilities emerging.

"As Lab Director, I am not able to deliver on the commitments to the BaBar collaboration for the final B-factory run. This is a great personal disappointment. We have a dedicated collaboration that was eager to do the science that would be enabled by the final B-factory run. It pains me greatly that at a time when particle physics needs to be ever more international, the political process in the U.S. has resulted in real damage to the relationships with our international partners. This happens when particle physics and the closely allied areas of particle astrophysics and cosmology are entering a time of incredible scientific opportunity. The turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN later this year will open a new frontier for the field. In the next decade, we hope that new observatories in space and on the ground will allow us to attack the questions of dark matter and dark energy.

"The U.S. particle physics program has been asked, through its advisory committee, HEPAP, to develop a strategic plan for U.S. High Energy Physics in light of the new budget realities. We will be active participants in this national process. We will be strong advocates of SLAC's continued leadership role in the field of particle physics, particle astrophysics and cosmology. We will be strong and articulate advocates because we are an essential part of the national and international particle physics program. Additionally, through the breadth of our programs here at the lab, particularly in technology development, accelerator science and computing, we are delivering benefits to the entire physical sciences portfolio.

"We will emerge from this challenging year with a scientific program at the laboratory that is refocused to align with new funding realities. With the strong commitment and support of the lab management to the SLAC Improvement Initiative, the programs will be better and more effectively supported by the management and operations functions at the lab. We will have the strong support of Stanford University throughout this process. The University is an important participant in the SLAC improvement initiative. We are actively looking at new areas of scientific collaboration with the main campus.

"However, this transition will not be gentle or slow. It will be painful and it will be hard. But we have a great opportunity to position ourselves for our future if we do this right. As I have said before, we have storm clouds on the horizon and dangerous shoals to navigate. We must deliver the LCLS project safely, on time and on budget and we must deliver spectacular science from that facility. On the particle physics side of the house, we have to work hard to secure the vitality of our program at this time when the field is in turmoil. In no way do I want to underestimate the difficulty of the challenges we face. However, we know where we want to sail and the opportunities are great. I am ready and impatient to move us forward into this new era for the laboratory."

Persis Drell, All Hands Meeting, January 7, 2008