Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce $68 Million in Funding for Rochester Laser Lab Included in Just-Unveiled Omnibus Spending Bill – Passage in Congress Would Send Legislation to President’s Desk

Dec 10, 2014

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $68 million for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Schumer and Gillibrand continued their multi-year effort of advocating for increased funding for LLE during the appropriations process this year. The bill, along with the funding allotment for this program, which allows the University of Rochester to continue the critical work being done at its lab, will be voted on by both the House and Senate as early as this week. This allocation is an increase of $4 million over the $64 million allocated to the Lab in Fiscal Year 2014 and over $9 million more than the $58.75 million allocated to the Lab under sequestration. With this funding, the University of Rochester will be able to continue its critical research and work in fusion power, which has the potential to completely eradicate U.S. dependence on foreign oil. This funding will provide the necessary resources to support the Lab’s research program and operations and experiments on OMEGA, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world. Absent this level of funding, the Lab could have been forced to lay off scientists and engineers, and reduce their capacity and partnerships with national laboratories.

“This is a major milestone in our quest to secure the funding needed to allow the University of Rochester laser lab to continue its world-class research in fusion power. The inclusion of this provision in the omnibus bill will ensure that the lab is not forced to lay off scientists and engineers and that their partnerships with national laboratories do not suffer,” said Senator Schumer. “All we need now is for this bill to pass both the House and the Senate, and then the legislation heads straight to the President’s desk. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill and help us secure the $68 million needed for the lab – $4 million more than last year – and keep the University of Rochester at the cutting edge of high-tech innovation and maintain Rochester as a job-creating center of laser innovation.”

“This critical funding for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics will help keep Rochester at the forefront of our nation’s scientific leadership and quest to find affordable and efficient sources of energy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am so pleased that this money is going to the brilliant and hardworking researchers at the University of Rochester, and I look forward to seeing the continued role the Lab plays in launching new start-up companies and supporting New York’s high-technology sector.”

Established in 1970, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester is a unique national resource for research and education in science and technology and a major asset of the University not found at any other university in the country. Both the Rochester area and the University have a history of innovation that provides a singular environment for LLE within a technologically sophisticated scientific community.

LLE is home to the OMEGA laser, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world, and the OMEGA EP (Extended Performance) laser, a high-intensity, high-energy short-pulse laser, and serves as the principal laser research facility for three national laboratories.  The center’s primary goal is to investigate the interaction of intense radiation with matter and to support the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) using OMEGA and OMEGA EP as well as validate advanced concepts for ICF to be used on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in order to demonstrate ignition and energy gain.  It is a vital component of our nation’s scientific capital and leadership, and key to strategic work on an independent energy future.

As one of the leading institutions training the next generation of leaders in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, LLE is an economic development magnet that bolsters local high tech jobs and attracts scientific talent to Rochester.  The LLE currently employs 316 full-time staff members, 20 University Faculty members and 5 contract employees. Since its inception, the LLE has attracted almost $2 billion to New York State to support cutting edge research, and more than 1,000 individuals are currently involved in the program. Through the LLE’s mission, the University also attracts as many as 300 additional visiting scientists each year to Rochester from national laboratories, universities, and companies and currently hosts over 141 students (graduate, undergraduate, and high school).

Last year, the University of Rochester requested funding under the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for its Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). The funding was used to develop new laser and materials technologies, provide education in electro-optics, and conduct research and development in advanced technology related to high-energy-density physics. In 2009, Schumer urged his colleagues in Congress to support additional funding so the Laser Lab could avoid drastic budgets cuts and layoffs.

In 2010, Senator Schumer announced that President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 included $62.5M in funding for Rochester University’s Laser Lab and pledged to continue to work for funds to strengthen this first-class institution.