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Lab won’t be affected by sequestration

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Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:30 am

LEAD — Operations at the Sanford Lab will not be affected by the federal sequestration that is set to go into effect at the end of March.

Ron Wheeler, executive director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility, said that under the sequestration, the lab would receive just $500,000 less than its 2013 allocation of $15 million.

“That’s pretty good from our perspective,” Wheeler said.

Operating expenses at the Sanford Underground Research Facility are paid through the Department of Energy’s Office of Science budget, and administered through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Kevin Lesko, chief physicist for the Sanford Lab and representative from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, said the California lab could soften the $500,000 shortfall using institutional funds.  

Wheeler said he is pleased with Washington’s support of the Sanford Lab.

“I believe that under sequestration, given how hard the agencies were hit, we were actually treated very favorably,” he said. “It shows pretty strong support from the Office of Science that they gave us the $14.5 million.”

Wheeler said that while the President Barack Obama’s budget has not yet surfaced, the Senate passed a continuing resolution and the House of Representatives is expected to do the same. Additional cuts are expected, but Wheeler said he does not expect the Sanford Lab to be affected.

In a related matter, Wheeler reported that lab officials are watching the Department of Energy closely, as changes in leadership take shape. Dr. Steven Chu is stepping down as the Energy Secretary, while Dr. Ernie Moniz has been nominated to accept the post. Wheeler reported that Moniz is familiar with the Sanford Underground Research Facility, as he previously indicated to Sen. Tim Johnson. Additionally, Dr. William Brinkman, former head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, will be leaving his post effective April 12. Wheeler said he has not been able to determine who is replacement will be.

“Whoever replaces him will be key for our relationship with the Office of Science,” Wheeler said. “I’m keeping my bags packed because I think it’s important that once the new director of the Office of Science is in that we pay a visit.”

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