The news is no less bleak for more than 500 families facing layoffs from Los Alamos National Laboratory. But Capitol Hill negotiators, the not-so-lame duck Pete Domenici among them, appear to have fended off further cuts at LANL — for now, anyway.
A House-Senate conference Sunday night restored more than $400 million of the $600 million that might have been slashed from the nuclear-weapons budgets of Los Alamos, Sandia and California's Lawrence Livermore national labs.
The agreement covers several energy agencies, and faces a week of slogging through a far bigger congressional spending package before the Bush White House decides whether it likes what the bare-majority Democratic Congress has agreed on.
But give Domenici and the rest of New Mexico's congressional delegation credit for fighting back a bunch of representatives and senators nationwide who've had the long knives out for the labs and what they see as wholesale waste on the Hill.
Domenici notes that what came out of conference is no "bed of roses" for our labs — but it could've been lots worse: 11,000 other LANL employees, for the moment, remain employed, and lab leaders have bought a bit of time.
Time for what? Well, for what we hope will be another look at their mission.