U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Energy to increase funding to its Nuclear Physics program by an additional $50 million for next fiscal year, citing a recent recommendation from the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee. The U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation advisory committee was recently charged with issuing a report evaluating scientific priorities under a flat-funding or declining budget scenario and the committee found that the Brookhaven National Lab's (BNL) ion collider would need to close. However, the Committee suggested that this scenario should be avoided and be replaced with a modest annual increase in the Nuclear Physics budget. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that with an increase in funding, the BNL's ion collider could remain open on Long Island.
"Even though this report is non-binding, it should serve as a call to arms for those who care about scientific research, Long Island's economy, and our nation's position at the forefront of innovation," said Schumer. "The solution to the problem is simply to make sure that the budget for nuclear research in this country is given a modest boost, so that hundreds of jobs on Long Island are preserved and America remains at the cutting edge of nuclear research. Cutting our nuclear research now, and ceding our advantage to our competitors, is penny wise and pound foolish."
"Closing a facility that plays an important role in the future of U.S. competitiveness and supports hundreds of jobs is the wrong approach," said Gillibrand. "If we are going to out-innovate and out-compete other countries in the fields of science and technology, we must continue to invest in cutting edge facilities like the country's only ion collider at Brookhaven National Lab."
The Department of Energy's Nuclear Physics program provides funding for facilities and research programs throughout the nation, allowing thousands of university researchers the opportunity to make new scientific discoveries in the growing field of nuclear physics.
A Department of Energy advisory panel recently recommended that if no additional funding becomes available, the agency should shut down Brookhaven National Lab's ion collider in favor of construction of a facility in Michigan. Brookhaven National Lab's collider currently supports 800 jobs and is the only remaining ion collider of its kind in the country.
Schumer and Gillibrand today called for an additional $50 million for DOE's Nuclear Physics program so that BNL's ion collider can remain open. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that shutting down the ion collider would be wasteful and would set our country back significantly. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that with the additional funding, hundreds of jobs could be saved and important research could continue.
A copy of their letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients can be found below:
Dear Secretary Chu and Acting Director Zients:
We are writing to convey our strong support for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and, in particular, its Nuclear Physics program, which includes funding for world-class facilities and research programs around the country. Continued strong support for the DOE Office of Nuclear Physics is critical to maintaining America's worldwide preeminence in the field of nuclear physics and to ensuring its continued benefits to Americans across a wide spectrum of scientific areas of discovery. More specifically, as part of your Fiscal Year 2014 Congressional Budget Request, we urge you to increase the overall baseline for the DOE Office of Science and the Nuclear Physics program by an additional $50 million above the FY13 request, consistent with the recent recommendation of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) and necessary to ensure continued world leadership in this important field of study.
We recognize that this is a significant request given the nation's current economic and budget situation. But we know from past experience that robust funding for this kind of basic research will have a substantial positive impact on society, the economy, and our standard of living. In a 2012 assessment of the impact of nuclear physics, the National Research Council of the National Academies stated, "Nuclear physics is ubiquitous in our lives: detecting for smoke in our homes, testing for and treating cancer and monitoring cargo for contraband are just some of the ways that nuclear physics and the techniques it has spawned make a difference in our safety, health and security." Now is not the time to scale back federal funding for such critical basic research and important scientific facilities and cede our position of leadership in these fields of study. Our economic competitors in China, India and other countries have seen our success in these areas and now copy our approach to innovation and are increasing their rate of investment at a time when we seem to be considering the opposite.
Strengthening U.S. investment in nuclear physics is the right thing to do to develop technologies to improve national security, identify and cure disease and meet our energy challenges, as well as to expand our knowledge about the makeup of the universe through scientific discovery. Americans stand to benefit today and in the future from U.S. investment in nuclear physics through better medical imaging and diagnostic tools, new cancer therapies, advanced tools to deter nuclear proliferation and innovative energy storage systems.
Equally important, the Nuclear Physics program plays an indispensable role in educating, training and sustaining the nation's scientific workforce. Thousands of university researchers -- professors, graduate students and undergraduates -- from the United States and around the world also rely on the unique facilities stewarded by the Nuclear Physics program to advance scientific research and nurture new discoveries. If federal support for nuclear physics in the U.S. were eroded, it would send a signal to the best and brightest to look elsewhere to be involved at the cutting edge, ultimately leaving us less prepared to tackle future challenges in all of these areas.
The NSAC report makes clear what the United States stands to lose if the budget for Nuclear Physics is flat at, or declines from, the FY13 level.
"The subcommittee is unanimous in reaffirming the LRP (Long Range Plan) vision for the field. Each of the recommendations is supported by an extremely compelling science case. If any one part is excised, it will be a significant loss to the U.S. in terms of scientific accomplishments, scientific leadership, development of important new applications, and education of a technically skilled workforce to support homeland security and economic development."
Our nation's investments in basic scientific research have always been made with the confidence and understanding that they have the potential to yield significant but unpredictable benefits to our health, our security, and our economy. As President Obama said in 2010, "The key to our success -- as it has always been -- will be to compete by developing new products, by generating new industries, by maintaining our role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. It's absolutely essential to our future."
With these concerns in mind, and recognizing the difficult constraints of the federal budget, we respectfully urge you to increase the overall baseline for the DOE Office of Science and the Nuclear Physics program by an additional $50 million above the FY13 request.
Thank you for your consideration.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand