Zimmer, colleagues urge Congress to support funding for Argonne, Fermi National Accelerator LaboratoryBy Steve Koppes
President Zimmer and five other Illinois university presidents are urging Congress to ensure that a yearlong federal budget measure, now under consideration, will include enough support to maintain the health of Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Failure to do so could undermine the nation’s global competitiveness in science and innovation, wrote Zimmer and his colleagues in a letter dated Friday, Jan. 19, to Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. Zimmer and James Crown, Chairman of the University Board of Trustees, sent a similar letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Their concern stems from a 2007 Continuing Resolution being considered by Congress that would enable federal agencies to operate temporarily without their usual appropriations. Zimmer and many other university presidents fear that such a resolution could negatively impact the national laboratories and the university and industry scientists who perform research at the labs.
Bipartisan support for increased Department of Energy funding had emerged during the appropriations process. Yet a Continuing Resolution based on fiscal year 2006 funding levels does not take into account increased costs in such expenses as electric power and wages at the national laboratories. The Continuing Resolution would prohibit the launch of any new projects at either laboratory, among other effects.
At Fermilab, for example, a year-long Continuing Resolution at the FY2006 funding level could result in a one-month furlough of all Fermilab employees, except for safety and security personnel. At Argonne, the effects could include operating the Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at 85 percent of its planned activity.
The University has managed Argonne for the U.S. Department of Energy since the laboratory’s founding in 1946. On Monday, Jan. 1, the University also assumed a key role in managing Fermilab as a member of the newly formed Fermi Research Alliance.
The University’s FRA partner is Universities Research Associ- ation Inc., a consortium of 90 research universities that operates and manages national research facilities.