Slaughter Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Push by New York Congressional Delegation to Save the Laser Lab
WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY-25) this week led a bipartisan, bicameral effort with members of New York’s Congressional delegation urging House and Senate appropriators to provide full funding for the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). This push is part of Slaughter’s effort to reverse the cuts proposed in President Trump’s budget, which would close the facility over the next three years. The lab supports 1,000 jobs, including 360 directly at the facility, while playing a critical role in our national security. She was joined in this effort by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Chris Collins (NY-27), John Katko (NY-24), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), and Paul Tonko (NY-20).
“More than 360 scientists, engineers and technicians are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility brings more than 400 scientists from around the world to Western New York every year to carry out fundamental research, training and education. Through its groundbreaking research, the LLE provides a strong stimulus to New York’s economy as a source of new start-up companies and a driver of the region’s optics, imaging and photonics sector,” Slaughter wrote along with her colleagues. “As you finalize a Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, we ask for your continued support for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Inertial Confinement Fusion program.”
Slaughter is asking the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations to provide $75 million for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the laser lab and nearly $545 million for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program as appropriators work to craft the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriation bill. This funding level would begin to reverse the cut proposed by President Trump in his budget proposal, a devastating plan that would close this facility over the next three years.
The LLE is an essential component of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Yield Campaign. As home to two of the world’s largest and most powerful lasers (OMEGA and OMEGA EP), LLE is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the preeminent research facilities for the DOE’s ICF and high energy density physics (HEDP) programs in partnership with three national laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia). The LLE is the largest DOE/NNSA program at a university and the only facility that trains graduate students in ICF and HEDP serving as a vital pipeline of future talent that is critically important to our national and economic security.
Slaughter has been a vocal advocate of the lab, understanding that it is a leader in developing innovative approaches to increase our energy independence and enhance our national security while playing a crucial role in New York’s growing high-tech economy. She routinely leads the effort to fund the facility every year, and continues to reach out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight President Trump’s proposed cut.
A copy of the letter is included below and is available online here:
March 8, 2018
The Honorable Thad Cochran The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations Committee on Appropriations
Room S-128, The Capitol Room S-146A, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen The Honorable Nita Lowey
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations Committee on Appropriations
H-305, The Capitol 1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Leahy, and Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Lowey:
As you finalize a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, we ask for your continued support for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program. Specifically, we strongly urge you to provide $75,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics and $544,934,000 for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program, consistent with the Senate mark in S. 1609, the FY 2018 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, and the FY 2018 budget request in the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan. This level of funding is needed for cutting-edge research and operation of state-of-the-art facilities in support of the stockpile stewardship program. More specifically, it supports critical decisions related to the maintenance and modernization of weapons systems and achieving scientific milestones set in NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan for ICF.
While we appreciate the $68,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility in H.R. 3266, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, the $75,000,000 in funding provided in the Senate is consistent with the five-year Cooperative Agreement between the NNSA and the LLE and allows the lab to meet scientific milestones in NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan for ICF in support of stockpile stewardship. In particular, this level of support allows the LLE to support growing facility operations and experiments on OMEGA to make progress on all three of the most viable approaches to fusion and support the research programs of the three NNSA labs. Funding at this level will provide the necessary resources to support the LLE’s research and academic programs to help maintain the nation’s stockpile and continue to train the future workforce. This includes the needed scientific and technical support for the 400 users from the 55 universities and over 35 centers and national laboratories that use OMEGA annually to conduct more than 2,100 experiments in cutting-edge research. Currently, demand for these facilities exceeds available time by a factor of two. This level of funding will also accelerate development and deployment of state-of-the-art diagnostics to improve measurements and collect better data on the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. Better diagnostics will fully leverage the capabilities of existing facilities.
The LLE’s OMEGA laser facility is a vital contributor to national security and an invaluable source of scientific education and leadership. LLE also has an important role to play in helping the U.S. be the first country to achieve ignition to avoid technological surprise as other countries invest in similar capabilities, especially Russia and China. The OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) are the largest and most capable found at any academic institution in both the United States and worldwide. The LLE is recognized nationally and internationally for its critical contributions to the DOE’s science-based stewardship programs in partnership with three national security laboratories (Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)). The LLE is the most cost-effective facility in the science-based stockpile stewardship program – performing 80 percent of all the target shots used in the national Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and high energy density physics programs with only 13 percent of NNSA’s ICF budget.
NNSA is currently pursuing three credible research approaches to demonstrating ignition – Direct Drive, Indirect Drive and Pulsed Power. Progress is being made in all three approaches thanks, in part, to LLE’s contributions. The LLE is the lead laboratory for the Direct Drive approach to ignition, but is also the staging and support facility for experiments at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) and supports laser research at the Z machine for SNL’s fusion approach as well as innovative fusion approaches in partnership with Los Alamos. In partnership with the national laboratories, the LLE is also pursuing critical performance enhancements to the OMEGA Laser Facility that are required to extend its capabilities and maintain a balanced approach to fusion ignition.
As Lisa Gordon-Haggerty, the Administration’s newly confirmed Administrator for NNSA recently testified at her recent confirmation hearing, recruiting and maintaining the “brightest and the best” for NNSA is a priority and the ICF program is a magnet for such talent. They are attracted by the challenge of fusion and the long-term implications for energy that will be motivated by fusion ignition in the laboratory. These future scientists not only ensure the safety and reliability of the country’s nuclear stockpile but are the experts that we call upon to evaluate the capabilities of U.S. adversaries.
As the U.S. Department of Energy’s and NNSA’s largest university-based program, the LLE is the only major facility that trains graduate students, from both the University of Rochester and other leading institutions such as SUNY Geneseo, State University of New York at Stony Brook, MIT, University of Michigan, Princeton, Idaho State University, and the University of California, and serves as a pipeline to educate and train future talent that is critically important to our national and economic security. More than 360 scientists, engineers and technicians are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility brings more than 400 scientists from around the world to Western New York every year to carry out fundamental research, training and education. Through its groundbreaking research, the LLE provides a strong stimulus to New York’s economy as a source of new start-up companies and a driver of the region’s optics, imaging and photonics sector.
For these reasons, we thank you for your past support and strongly urge that you please provide $75,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics and $544,934,000 for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program in the final FY 2018 omnibus appropriation bill to advance the ICF program.