This year should be an exciting one for the laboratory and for particle physics. At Fermilab, we will have new data as our accelerators turn back on at higher power. NOvA will see its first particles, the Dark Energy Survey will begin and many of our new projects—IARC, LBNE and Muon g-2, among others—will take big steps forward over the next 12 months.
Of course, building and operating projects require funding, and the federal government continues to struggle with two major interrelated issues that affect us: sequestration and this year’s federal budget. The new year brought a much-publicized agreement by Republicans and Democrats that avoided raising taxes on the vast majority of taxpayers but also simply postponed by two months the deadline for sequestration, which would result in cuts to current budgets. As the federal government does not have a budget for the current year—we are in a continuing resolution through March 27—it is not even clear to what budget any cuts would be applied.
In the face of this uncertainty, both the Department of Energy and our laboratory will continue operations normally, making progress toward our many short- and long-term goals while planning for a variety of possible fiscal futures. In a memorandum by Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman to DOE staff on the implications of enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 for the DOE, he states:
“The agreement reached by Congress and signed by the President delays sequestration for a period of two months, until March 1, 2013. Accordingly, no automatic reductions in budgetary resources will take place at this time. The deal provides Congress with additional time to work on a balanced plan that can prevent these automatic spending cuts from ever occurring.
“This means that, for the time being, there will be no changes to our day-to-day operations or any personnel actions taken due to the threat of sequestration. We will continue to operate as normal. As the new deadline approaches, and until such time as Congress acts to permanently cancel these reductions, we will continue to keep you informed of all relevant developments.”
The postponement of sequestration further into the fiscal year would make its application more and more disruptive, and hence it is more and more unlikely that sequestration would be carried out at full strength, if at all. However, our country continues to face large budget deficits, a long-term issue that both Congress and the White House will need to work to resolve. In the meantime, it is important for our spirits to remain high despite these uncertainties, and for us to continue to make progress on establishing a vital future for the laboratory.