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Federal funding for Brookhaven National Lab in jeopardy

The amount of federal funding Brookhaven National Laboratory receives could be in jeopardy based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018, which was released last Tuesday.

The DOE budget is based on President Donald Trump’s request and, if accepted as is, could eliminate several departments at BNL, causing up to 600 people to be laid off, according to a statement from BNL. The Office of Science budget would stay flat at $5.3 billion in total, which is still over $900 million more than what the White House recommended.

The proposal, if approved by Congress, would decrease funding to BNL by $111 million and reduce overall lab staff by 23 percent.

BNL, an Upton-based research institution mostly funded mostly by the DOE’s Office of Science, is the nation’s largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. Almost 3,000 scientists, engineers and support staff work there. President Trump’s budget proposals will be acted on by Congress later this year.

The president’s proposed budget, released in May, sent shock waves through BNL and the science community. Funding is currently secured through the end of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. 

If the budget is passed as is, BNL’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials would be eliminated completely and operations would be reduced at the National Synchrotron Light Source II and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, two groundbreaking projects at BNL, according to the statement.

“It is important to continue this effort to secure the funding needed for Brookhaven National Lab…” Congressman Lee Zeldin said.

On June 9, New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand released a statement urging the Senate appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development to provide more funding for BNL.

“In addition to the negative impact these cuts would have on the Long Island economy, they would have a devastating impact on our nation’s scientific leadership and our capacity to innovate,” Sen. Gillibrand said in the release.

Mr. Zeldin said  funding for BNL is not a new fight.

“This has been going on every year since I’ve taken office, and this was an issue going on before I took office,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been very actively engaged in now, as I have been in the past…”

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File photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory