Impacts on laboratory staff of a government shutdown and proposed cuts

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

As I head to Washington to present our budget to DOE for the 2013 fiscal year, I want to let you know that Fermilab would not immediately be affected by a government shutdown, and to set the record straight regarding impacts on staff of proposed budget cuts.

As you know, the federal government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires this Friday, March 4. If Congress does not either pass a budget for this fiscal year or extend the Continuing Resolution by Friday, the government will be forced to shut down, which would have wide-ranging effects on the nation’s economy and citizens. Last night the House of Representatives approved a two-week budget measure that would extend through March 18, and the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation today. If the government were to shut down, however, it would not immediately affect the operation of our laboratory. Fermilab has sufficient monetary reserves in our contract from DOE to continue operating for several weeks, even if no new funds are made available. Employees of FRA, as government contractors, would be able to continue working during a shutdown as long as funds permit.

I also want to set the record straight regarding the potential impacts on laboratory staff of the proposed 20 percent cut to the Office of Science budget because some of the reporting in the newspapers has not been correct. If the proposed cuts become law, it would be necessary to implement furloughs during the remainder of the fiscal year. These furloughs could be equivalent to about a 25 percent pay cut for employees for the remainder of this fiscal year, but the salaries for time worked would not be cut. In addition to furloughs, we would need to stop the operation of all accelerators and most procurements, slow down new projects, and prepare for layoffs if the cuts would extend into FY2012. As I stated in my February 15 Director’s Corner, however, there will be much discussion in Congress before any proposed cuts become law.