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The national effort to balance the budget is having an impact on the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center for a second consecutive year. On Jan. 7, SLAC announced layoffs of 11 people to take effect during February.
The layoffs are in response to an approximately 5 percent decrease in SLAC's fiscal year 1997 operations budget. The research center is funded by the Department of Energy and its funds are part of discretionary spending allocated by Congress each year. The number of involuntary layoffs was reduced by a voluntary layoff program last fall in which 26 SLAC employees were approved for layoff, according to Lee Lyon, SLAC personnel director.
In fiscal year 1996, the cuts were much larger, and SLAC lost 70 positions. Since Congress and the administration are hoping to balance the budget by the year 2002, national facilities such as SLAC and other federally funded laboratories and research centers are vulnerable to additional cuts in the future.
A backlash to the cuts in basic science and research may be developing. On Jan. 22, Rep. George Brown (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science, announced plans to introduce legislation to promote federal investments. "My budget plan balances investment spending with consumption spending to achieve a stable, sustainable growth path for the economy of the next century," Brown said.
Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) also introduced a bill in the Senate that calls for doubling the federal investment in basic science and medical research over a 10-year period.
While these bills are in the introductory stage and a long way from final appropriations, they demonstrate the growing concern with the fiscal health of U.S. science programs.
By David F. Salisbury