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From the Acting Director of the Accelerator Directorate: A Work in Progress

(Photo - Bob Hettel)
(Photo by Brad Plummer.)

It has been nearly a year since SLAC underwent the major organizational change that created the large Accelerator Directorate (AD). At the directorate's inception, the stated AD's vision was to "create an environment that fosters globally-recognized leadership in accelerator science and technology capabilities for development of future electron-based accelerators while enabling forefront user research and accelerator R&D programs today." Two primary missions for achieving that vision are also stated: 1) "Deliver beams safely and effectively in support of today's research programs based on world class operational performance and insightful anticipation of programmatic needs," and 2) "Deliver client value in an R&D portfolio for accelerator science and key technology capabilities to ensure SLAC remains the laboratory of choice when establishing future accelerators at the frontier of science."

Thinking about the AD vision after a year of existence, I have to admit that I still find it a compelling and accurate statement of what we should strive for in the directorate. Embedded in it are the multiple operational, engineering, technical and scientific purposes we serve. The mission statements, while somewhat fancily worded, also capture the essence of a large fraction of the AD's endeavors. Although it might be implied in the first mission statement, I believe a third explicit mission statement is needed to reflect another critical aspect of the AD's mandate: 3) "Provide effective centralized engineering and technical services for the entire lab that are aligned to SLAC's strategic goals." I hope the wordsmith that forged the first two mission statements can help with the third one.

With the successful and ground-breaking first operation of the Linac Coherent Light Source as a user facility—where photons were generated with 97% availability—and with similar beam availability for Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource users—now benefitting from frequent top-off injection—it is clear that the AD is succeeding with its first mission. Another part of that mission, "insightful anticipation of programmatic needs," in my view, takes the form of conceiving and executing accelerator improvement programs over the near term and planning for facility upgrades over the longer term. Over $10 million worth of these programs in the form of accelerator improvement projects are now under way. The Facility for Advanced aCcelerator Experimental Tests at SLAC, or FACET, project, which will provide a high-energy test beam for accelerator R&D, just received both CD-2 and CD-3 approval from the DOE. SPEAR3 has developed a 5-year, $20+ million upgrade plan, and CD-0 approval has been granted for the conceptual design of the LCLS-II that will substantially increase the user capacity and performance capabilities of the X-ray free-electron laser facility. The new AD is alive and well in accomplishing this first mission.

Fulfilling the second two missions is proving to be a challenge that could ultimately transform the nature of accelerator R&D at SLAC, how the matrixed divisions in the AD conduct business, and what technical infrastructure and services the directorate should provide. The Accelerator Research Division has identified strategic objectives that reflect the changing accelerator-related mission in the Department of Energy. While there is little question that R&D programs related to the performance of the LCLS and SSRL user facilities will be sustainable over an extended period, they are likely to be funded by the Basic Energy Sciences division of DOE, not the High Energy Physics division that has traditionally been the steward of accelerator development. High Energy Physics support in the area of future high-gradient and high-power radio frequency R&D programs, including those far-future laser and plasma wakefield accelerators, will continue, but the potential applications have shifted from the linear collider program to other areas. These include compact linacs that can be used for many purposes, such as driving X-ray free-electron lasers or inverse Compton sources, which should also be in the interest of the Basic Energy Sciences division of DOE. The future of high-gradient and high-power radio frequency R&D at SLAC, and the implications of the more complex and difficult funding situation, will be more thoroughly examined in reviews over the next several months. The outcome of this examination process will set the stage and hopefully "clear the decks" for solidifying strategic and tactical plans for a sustainable R&D program and fulfill the second of the AD's missions.

Clear strategic objectives for accelerator R&D will also help accomplish the third component of the AD's mission. The scientific and technical support, together with physical infrastructure, needed for these programs can be more clearly defined, and they may be different from the present situation. This support and infrastructure comes from both the Accelerator Research and the Accelerator Engineering divisions, which provide matrixed staff for the LCLS, SSRL and Particle Physics and Astrophysics directorates. The Accelerator Engineering Division is also the home to engineering service centers that do work for the entire lab and which are critical to the success of accelerator improvements and high machine availability. Over the last year, the staff labor and service center rates have been adjusted to reflect indirectly funded program and department support costs in the AD and SLAC as a whole. Whereas in the past many of these costs were covered by "landlord" funding embedded in the linac operations budget and elsewhere, they are now more directly borne by the directorates requiring services, and they are higher than in the past. The AD will only fulfill its third mission by continuing to do everything possible to minimize these costs by eliminating unneeded infrastructure and by adjusting staff capabilities to optimally serve the mission of the lab a whole. Like the Accelerator Research Division, the Accelerator Engineering Division's capabilities and ability to efficiently and effectively serve customers' needs will be examined in reviews over the next few months.

The new Accelerator Directorate is off to a good start in achieving its mission and realizing its vision. But the AD is a work in progress and there is more transformation yet in store.

—Bob Hettel
SLAC Today, July 16, 2010