National Budget Problems Hit Local Laboratories

Drastic budget cuts could soon change operations at Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab. Last month the nation’s House of Representatives passed a bill cutting spending in an effort to reduce the nation’s debt, but senators like

Dick Durbin say the bill cuts too much and want to restore funding towards science.

When U.S. Senator Dick Durbin recently toured Argonne, he quickly learned cutting billions of dollars for science funding may solve short-term budget problems, but might not be the best move down the road.

“We have to have long term thinking, and that involves research and innovation,” said Durbin. “I’m going to do everything I can to restore the funds for research and innovation.”

Long-term thinking at Argonne brought innovations, like developing technology to enhance the Chevy Volt’s battery performance. According to The Science Coalition, more than half of the nation’s economic growth since World War II can be traced to science and technology innovation.

“We can’t afford to disrupt it today,” said Eric Isaacs, Director of Argonne National Laboratory. “Even though you might not see it tomorrow, you will certainly see ten years from now. So it’s absolutely something this nation can’t afford to do.”

If the Senate passes the bill, Argonne would have to cut 1,000 employees, which is more than a third of its staff. Those cuts would hit Naperville.

“A lot of our employees live in Naperville,” said Isaacs. “Those people spend their money in Naperville, and Naperville is a very important community for the laboratory.”

The cuts wouldn’t be exclusive to Argonne. Fermilab would have to let a quarter of their staff go.

“We would have to drop the rate of expenditure by 40%, and there is no way to accommodate that without furloughing people for about 2 months, shutting down all the facilities, and stop expenditures on the new projects that we need,” said Pier Oddone, Director of Fermilab.

If the Senate passes the spending bill, the building Senator Durbin just toured would shut down. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this month.

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