Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill includes $80 million for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and its OMEGA Laser Facility. This Senate funding level rejects the Administration’s budget request to cut the Lab’s funding and a 3-year phase out of all federal support for LLE. The Senate bill also maintains stable support for the overall Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that supports LLE and other national laboratories. After securing this funding increase in the Senate, the Senators said that they would push for this funding level to be included in the final Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill before year’s end. Today’s announcement is the continuation of Schumer and Gillibrand’s multi-year effort of advocating for federal investment in LLE. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill provides essential funding that allows the University of Rochester to continue the critical work being done at this lab.
“This $5 million increase for the University of Rochester Laser lab – that I personally secured last week- will ensure the laser lab can continue safeguarding our nuclear stockpile, expand its world-class research in new energy discovery, and power up this Rochester-Finger Lakes region economic driver, if passed into law,” said Senator Schumer. “The inclusion of this federal investment in the Senate funding bill would ensure that the lab is not forced to lay off scientists and engineers and that their partnerships with national laboratories and spin-off businesses do not suffer. I will push for this funding increase to be included in the final Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill before the year’s end. This federal funding will keep the United States at the cutting edge of high-tech innovation ahead of foreign competitors like China and maintain Rochester as a job-creating center of energy innovation.”
“This funding is an important investment that will help ensure that the Rochester region continues to be at the forefront of scientific progress, national security, and the high-tech economy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The University of Rochester’s Laser Lab is an incredible asset to the state and nation. Scientists are drawn to Rochester to conduct cutting-edge research that creates hundreds of good-paying, local jobs and helps drive economic growth and innovation in the region. I was proud to fight for this funding, and I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that the University of Rochester’s Laser Lab has the necessary support to succeed in the years ahead.”
With this funding, the University of Rochester will be able to continue its critical research and work in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, which have the potential to completely eradicate U.S. dependence on foreign oil and strengthen national security. This funding will also provide the resources necessary to support the Lab’s work in the Department of Energy’s nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). Since underground nuclear testing ceased, the only way to get the information needed by the federal government on the performance, weapons effects, and safety of our current nuclear weapon stockpile is by doing ICF (inertial confinement fusion) test experiments. 80 percent of these ICF test experiments are done at the University of Rochester Laser Lab. Absent this funding, the Lab could have been forced to lay off scientists and engineers, reducing their capacity and limiting their partnerships with national laboratories.
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 as well as a major asset 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. As one of the premier institutions training the next generation of leaders in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, LLE is an economic development magnet that provides high-tech jobs and attracts scientific talent to the Rochester community. Many Rochester companies, including Sydor Technologies, QED Technologies, and Lucid, were created as a result of the Lab and now employ hundreds of people. LLE’s work has also generated almost $16 million in business with more than 50 local companies across New York State.
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 141 students (graduate, undergraduate, and high school).
Schumer and Gillibrand said they would advocate for the Senate’s $80 million funding level in the final appropriations bill that will be signed into law rather than the pending House FY19 appropriations bill which would cut the Lab’s funding and mean job cuts to the Rochester lab’s workforce. The House FY19 Energy and Water proposes to allocate $68 million to the Laser Lab, which is a $7 million cut from what the Lab received in the prior fiscal year FY18 appropriations.
Gillibrand has been an active advocate for the University of Rochester’s LLE, pushing appropriators for continued funding for the laboratory in this year’s Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill in March of this year, and Leader Schumer ensured the final Senate package included this vital support.