May 24, 2008

$5 million donation relieves Fermilab of furloughs

May 23, 2008 | 5:42 pm

In an upbeat all-hands meeting at Fermilab today, director Pier Oddone announced that a $5 million donation from an anonymous donor in combination with a number of early retirements and resignations will help allow Fermilab to cease their furloughs (in which all staff had to take approximately 10% of their time off with no pay) at the end of May.

You can watch the video of the meeting held in the auditorium at Fermilab.

Oddone began by literally taking his (borrowed) hat off to the staff for their continued excellent achievement in operating the Tevatron, which has broken many records in recent weeks. He also congratulated the laboratory on its continued good safety record.

He announced that Fermilab will now have a voluntary layoff program starting in June followed by an involuntary layoff program starting in July. The voluntary program will be “structured,” which means that certain job functions are not eligible for voluntary layoffs. However, the majority of the lab will be eligible.

Oddone explained that an anonymous family in Illinois will donate $5 million to the University of Chicago (a partner in managing Fermilab for the US Department of Energy) to help support the future of high-energy physics. “I find it quite encouraging, quite astounding,” Oddone said.

Turning to current Congressional actions, Oddone spoke of the Senate bill that includes supplemental funding for high-energy physics attached to the war spending bill. However, the House bill has no such domestic spending. He cautioned that “the probability of this funding going through this year is not great.” Despite that, Oddone said he is optimistic for the future and appreciative of the effort by the community in achieving this level of support.

Oddone returned to the topic of furloughs and said the combination of more-than-expected retirements and resignations along with the new donation would allow Fermilab to stop furloughs at the end of May. He says he needs to confirm this plan next week but that staff should plan to not have any furlough after May 31. Staff will still be required to take their full vacation allowance by the end of the fiscal year.

As a result of the all-hands meeting, the mood at the lab seems to have improved appreciably, according to some Fermilab staff.

David Harris


Anonymous said...

While I am relieved for the current employees, I have to wonder why ANY new graduate would want to work for a laboratory that is run by the DOE. The threat of having the rug pulled out from under you, financially speaking, would be enough to drive me off.

Eric said...

As the friend of many scientists and engineers in their twenties, the answer to your question appears to be
"It is no longer a career. It is a job for a few years until something better comes along."

Since the training time for weapons physicists after their Ph.D. is 15 years, having entire generations of scientists with career horizons of a few years would not produce any new weapons scientists.

Anonymous said...

Let's do some math here.
LANL's budget is ~$2.2B.
There are 260 weekdays in a year.
SO, LANL costs $8.5M per day, just
a bit over $1M per hour.

That $5M would have got us to an
hour after lunch!

Anonymous said...

So, this is what it has come to for our national labs in America... hand-outs from charities? I guess LANS better starting hitting the charity circuit, ASAP.

BTW, talk is growing that LANS will need to take quick action to mitigate millions in lost funding due to high inflation. I noticed in this story that it mentioned a 10% salary cutback for Fermilab workers. Rumors are growing that this same idea is now being floated by LANS.

Anonymous said...

Frank, this story by John Fleck in Sunday's ABQ Journal deserves top billing. Here the lead-in part:

Next Nuclear Weapons Are Tough Sell for Labs - ABQ Journal

Managers at Sandia and Los Alamos national labs often talk about “the customer.” It has always seemed an odd word to me, more appropriate to some guy walking in the door at Target than the people in the military who might some day have to use the nuclear weapons the labs design.

But insofar as “the customer” is the management-speak in use, it seems appropriate to ask what the customer wants. And in that regard, the news for the labs lately is not entirely good.

Foreign Policy magazine recently conducted a survey of more than 3,400 active and retired military leaders. They have a host of concerns regarding the current state of the U.S. military, and the things that need to be done to prepare it for the threats we face as a nation in the 21st century.

A need for new nuclear weapons was about as far down the list as it is possible to get without disappearing entirely from their vision of our military future. Only 2 percent of those surveyed thought “bring(ing) a new generation of nuclear weapons online” should be one of the nation's top defense priorities — far behind the need for “more robust diplomatic tools,” among many needs singled out.

Anonymous said...

Well, 5/25/ 5:04 AM, here's another way to "do some math." At about $250k per, the $5M would support 10 quality postdocs for a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Brookhaven received a $13M gift from private investors for last year's RHIC run.

Anonymous said...

Maybe LANL employees can do a car wash to help raise money for the lab.

An what about a bake sale?

There are lots of ways that LANL can raise extra cash from the public to help save the lab.

Anonymous said...

Inflation is hurting LANL, but not nearly as much as the $200M annual LANS cost. A better idea than a 10% salary cutback is to dump LANS. They've had their chance and they've failed.

Anonymous said...

"They've had their chance and they've failed." - 5/28/08 7:35 AM

But NNSA will grade them as a huge success. Tom D'Agostino's future career depends on it, since he's the sole person who made the decision on the winner of the LANL contract.

To this day, I find it strange that more people don't believe allowing only one man over at NNSA to make this pivotal decision bears further investigation.