Fermilab recently received bad news when Bill Brinkman, director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, wrote to lab officials explaining that the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) could not be funded under current fiscal constraints.
In the letter, which you can read here, Brinkman explains that the LBNE is an exciting project that is important to science but it simply costs too much money at the moment. Brinkman further requests that Fermilab scientists develop another plan to do the same science using a phased-in manner with incremental costs.
During recent testimony on Capitol Hill, members of the House Committee on Energy and Water repeatedly asked Brinkman for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plan under a flat budget. The committee expressed concern that DOE had not filed such a plan with the committee when it requested one.
During questioning, Brinkman admitted that DOE had worked on funding prioritization but conceded that further work was needed. Moreover, he stated that it was difficult to find funds for costly experiments such as the LBNE and ITER.
But, he added, that DOE would work on it.
It appears the letter to FermiLab came as a response to intense scrutiny from the committee. It’s also clear why the LBNE must transition to a phased-in paradigm. However, DOE remains committed to finding a way forward as is evidenced by the continued financial support that keeps the Homestake Mine water pumps active.
Budget-cutting measures may result in other projects being cancelled, delayed and reprioritized in coming years. And although the LBNE issue is a difficult hurdle to overcome for the particle physics community, alternatives to the current plan are being discussed. LBNE scientists hope to have a new plan this summer, ensuring that the United States remains a global player in particle physics.