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Fermilab faces $30 million in federal cuts

BATAVIA – The director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is warning a proposed $30 million cut in the laboratory's budget could significantly affect its research.

"We will shrink far below our competitors in the rest of the world," Fermilab director Pier Oddone told employees Monday.

President Obama's proposed federal budget cuts Fermilab's budget from $395 million to $365 million, Oddone said. Obama in February submitted his budget request for fiscal year 2013.

Oddone said he knows the constraints of the federal budget. The U.S. Department of Energy operates Fermilab.

"Both the President's budget and whatever budget Congress ultimately agrees to must fit the spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011," Oddone said.

One of Fermilab's main experiments – the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment – would lose $25 million in federal funding, to a "keep-alive" level of $10 million, Oddone said. He said the experiment would represent a “major leap forward” in neutrino physics.

“We will create a powerful beam of neutrinos at Fermilab and send them 1,300 kilometers through the Earth to the Homestake Mine in South Dakota, where they will be detected and measured,” Oddone said.

He said that experiment would set the stage for the United States to establish a world-leading underground physics program. Fermilab also might have to lay off staff because of the budget cuts. Oddone said that every $10 million cut from Fermilab's budget translates into roughly 50 jobs lost.

But Fermilab has no plan for any layoffs at this time, he said.

"We will not announce any moves regarding workforce restructuring until we have understood the best path forward," Oddone said. "It will take at least a couple of months."

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, questioned Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu regarding the Obama administration’s priorities in scientific research.

“I was deeply disappointed by Secretary Chu’s answers regarding President Obama’s commitment, or lack thereof, to fundamental science research,” Hultgren said in a statement.

Hultgren is a member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

"As we proceed through the appropriations process, I will work hard with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to maintain our nation’s investment in fundamental scientific research," he said.

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