Aug 1, 2007
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that he expected budget cuts for Los Alamos National Laboratory to be more modest than those indicated in the House appropriation bill.
"As far as the level of funding, there will be some cuts, but not nearly as drastic as the House proposed," Bingaman said Tuesday in a weekly press conference with New Mexico radio reporters. "That's where I expect it will come out."
Asked if there were other missions that the laboratory might pursue in addition to nuclear weapons work, Bingaman said the laboratory is already doing a great deal - working with intelligence agencies and other non-nuclear defense work, alternative energy and other national priorities.
"Funding to maintain and modernize our nuclear weapons program is probably not going to be as robust in the future as it has been in the past," he said.
The Senate version of the bill that funds the Department of Energy and the weapons program emerged from the Senate Appropriations Committee closer in many respects to the administration's original request.
The House bill was approved by the House 312-111, but the Senate bill has yet to be considered on the Senate floor.
Bingaman was not sure when that time would arrive, but indicated that it would not be before the August recess, which begins Friday.
"We'll try to have that debate in September, when the Senate comes back in session," he said. "I hope very much that it can be done at that time. If not, it will be in October."
The Senate resumes on Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day. The fiscal year, by which the federal budget is apportioned, begins Oct. 1.
LANL Director Michael Anastasio said last week that there would be no workforce reduction before that time.
If no budget has been approved, Congress normally passes a "continuing resolution" to cover obligations for a specific time period.
"Continuing resolutions are something we are used to," said lab spokesman Kevin Roark this morning. He said he had seen a recent chart showing that the lab had operated on continuing resolutions for five out of the last seven years, one of them for nine months.
"Normally, you continue to operate under a profile identical to the last," he said. "We do the best of our ability to maintain the status quo until there's a bill."
According to laboratory figures, total employment at the laboratory is a little more than 12,150.
As of June 30, LANS employees numbered 9,070; the security force under Protection Technology Los Alamos had 632. The main services subcontractor KSL totaled 954.
A miscellaneous group including students, post-docs and other contractors were about 1,500.