LLE's Future Funding Challenge

From the Director

 

15 May 2018

 

To Staff, Students, and Colleagues:

 

The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee just released their report for the FY 2019 Bill, which will be voted on in full committee on Wednesday, 16 May 2018. The Bill includes $68M for LLE which is the same amount the House appropriated for us for FY 2018 and is $29.7M more than the President's request. In the final Omnibus for FY 2018, we received $75M–the level that the Senate placed in their FY 2018 Bill. The ICF Program would receive $510M which is $35M below FY 2018.

 

Very importantly, the House Subcommittee rejects the President's proposal to close us down and included strong language in our favor: "The recommendation rejects the NNSA's request to discontinue major experimental activities within the ICF program. Funds provided to the ICF program support unique experimental platforms that help assess the state of the current stockpile and enable decisions on life extension programs without underground nuclear weapons testing. While progress in achieving ignition at the National Ignition Facility has been slow, the value of maintaining a robust research program in high energy density physics will continue to be recognized and strongly supported....."

 

Additionally, the Committee created a separate line for high-energy-density research and development which would receive $50M, that will also pursue in FY 2019 if this category and funding came out in Conference. Details are, of course, lacking at this time.

 

While the funding recommendation is somewhat disappointing, it is not the President's proposal and the House has traditionally been our low water mark when it comes to the annual appropriations process. Moreover, the House sends a strong message to the Administration with their language rejecting their budget and proposed cut and elimination of our Facility. The Senate has always championed us and the ICF Program and they were the ones that insisted on our $75M funding level in the FY 2018 Omnibus. The Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up their Bill next week and we will know soon after what their recommendation is.

 

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best,
Mike

 

LLE is a Unique National Resource

 

Points to consider are :

  • The inertial fusion program is critical to national security both for the contribution to the Stockpile Stewardship Program and maintaining U.S. leadership in this important area of science including fusion (ICF), plasma physics, high-energy-density science (HEDS), high-power lasers and pulse power.
  • This program attracts, trains and tests scientists (both theoretical and experimental) that contribute to a wide range of topics important for national security and the U.S. economy.
  • The U.S. is presently the world leader in this field and the President’s budget will do irreparable harm and result in the surrender of our leadership in this important field of science and technology (Russia and China have are aggressively pursuing research and capabilities in ICF and HEDS).
  • The PBR effectively eliminates academic research in the field of HEDS, cutting off the pipeline of trained students that enter our national security laboratories. The ~$100M cut in the ICF budget in addition to the impact at LLE and other institutions, eliminates support for academic research in HEDS, and ends the National Laser Users’ Program that provides hundreds of experiments to academic scientists and students.
  • LLE operates an efficient, productive state-of-the-art laser facility that is a model for user facilities across the U.S. and around the world. LLE has continued to upgrade the Omega facilities since their construction—the lasers are modern, flexible, and have over 200 diagnostics available for scientists.
  • Closing LLE impacts the ~350 scientists, engineers, technicians, and administrators working at LLE today. The salaries and benefits are ~$60M/year with much of the spending occurring in the local region.
  • LLE administers the National Laser Users’ Facility (NLUF) that was developed specifically to provide research opportunities for scientists from over 40 universities including MIT, Princeton, Rice, University of California, University of Nevada, University of Michigan, SUNY Geneseo and many more. Many of these students have gone on to careers in national security. The PBR eliminates NLUF.
  • Since the founding of LLE, more than 500 students from the University of Rochester and other major universities have obtained their doctorates based on research at LLE.
  • There are ~140 students (100 graduate and ~40 undergraduate) students presently conducting research at LLE. These students are both from Rochester and other universities. The research would be terminated in the PBR.
  • LLE spends >$8M/year to purchase high-technology equipment from the local region and nationwide.
  • In addition to Academia, Researchers from all over the world depend on LLE facilities to conduct their research:
    • Scientists from the NNSA laboratories (LLNL, LANL, SNL) and NRL conduct over 800 experiments/year on LLE facilities.
    • Scientists from laboratories abroad (France (i.e. CEA, University of Bordeaux), England (AWE, Imperial College, Rutherford, Oxford, University of York) collaborate with LLE scientists and engineers and conduct research on the Omega facilities on ICF/HEDS science and new measurement technologies.
  • Many industries have been founded and inspired by research at LLE. These include QED, Sydor Technologies and Lucid. LLE also partners with companies such as Corning, Optimax, and Plymouth Gratings to develop new capabilities and technology that push the forefront of optics manufacturing.
  • LLE is a world-renowned center for high-power laser research and advanced optical technologies such as high-performance optical coatings. LLE provides coated optics for the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the Laser MegaJoule (LMJ) laser in France and the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) in Europe. Recognizing the quality of the work done at LLE, the CEA, the French Center for Nuclear Weapon Research, recently provided LLE with an advanced coater for large aperture optics. LLE also recently designed, constructed, tested, and shipped a state-of-the-art laser to a NNSA sponsored research area at the Advanced Light Source located at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently published a report recommending that the U.S. invest in high-power lasers, a field that was once dominated by the U.S. (the technology was invented at LLE) and is now being challenged by Europe and Asia (China). The closure of LLE would eliminate one of the two centers in the U.S. (the other being LLNL) for this science and technology.