Cindy Conger, Chief Financial Officer and head of the Finance Section, wrote this column.
In about a month we will say goodbye to fiscal year 2013 and say hello to fiscal year 2014. Based on information received from the Department of Energy’s Office of High Energy Physics, Fermilab’s HEP funding in FY14 is currently planned to be approximately the same as in FY13. Our lab is also slated to receive a one-time allocation of $35 million to update critical utility infrastructure, including electrical and industrial cooling systems, as part of the Science Laboratories Infrastructure program.
Of course, as is the case every year, an appropriations bill must be signed into law before DOE can provide FY14 funding for the laboratory.
Ideally Congress will have passed all appropriations bills by Oct. 1 so that our FY14 budget will be settled for the year, but that is very unlikely. We expect a continuing resolution (CR) to fund our laboratory at previous-year levels until Congress either passes the Energy and Water Appropriations bill (which funds DOE) and the President signs it; or, like this year, passes a CR that covers the entire fiscal year.
A full-year CR may not affect our overall level of funding from DOE HEP, but it would negatively affect several new initiatives including the $35 million infrastructure improvement project. Congress usually does not allow “new starts” in a CR, prohibiting funding for projects that were not funded in the previous year. These projects may be delayed depending on how long the CR lasts. Since FY13 was funded with an all-year CR, new projects are now potentially entering their second year of delay. In addition, DOE sometimes holds back funding otherwise allowed under the CR to provide for possible funding cuts in the final appropriation.
The outlook for FY14 is uncertain but should become clearer as Congress addresses funding the government for the year beginning on Oct. 1. We have a terrific science program planned for the coming year; let’s hope for budget certainty early in the year to help us to achieve it!