Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce, Following Their Push, $80 Million In Funding For Rochester Laser Lab In Just-Passed Bi-Partisan Appropriations Bill

Dec 19, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that, following their push, the federal government will include $80 million in funding for the OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in the year-end funding package. The funding will help the lab meet the scientific milestones laid out in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) 10-year strategic plan and provide resources to help maintain the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile. This funding supports 350 jobs for scientists, engineers, technicians, and support staff at LLE and indirectly supports an additional 500 local jobs, helping to drive economic growth throughout the state.

“The inclusion of $80 million in funding for the U of R’S OMEGA Laser Facility will ensure that 350 elite Rochester workers can stay on the job at the Laser Lab keeping our nuclear weapon stockpile safe and reliable while pushing the frontiers of energy research at a time when countries like China and Russia are working to beat the U.S. to new technological advances,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m such a staunch supporter of the U of R Laser Lab because it plays a paramount role in our national security and is vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions into the Rochester area. The United States of America has always taken pride in our scientific achievements, and with the U of R Laser Lab responsible for so many of them, I’ll always fight relentlessly to ensure it has the resources necessary to keep innovating on behalf of the American people.”

“The OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) leads the world in nuclear research and is key to our national security,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is also an important part of our work force and community in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region bringing scientists from around the world to the area and creating hundreds of jobs throughout the state. The funding for OMEGA is critical for our country and my state. I was proud to fight for this funding and I am pleased that it has been included in this year’s appropriations bill.”

“I am sincerely grateful to Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for their efforts on behalf of the University of Rochester, especially their steadfast support for our Laboratory for Laser Energetics. LLE is among our University’s highest federal research priorities, the largest university-based U.S. Department of Energy program in the nation, and home to the most powerful laser systems found at any academic institution in the world. Thanks to the senators’ leadership, the $80 million provided by Congress for FY2020 equals the highest level of annual federal funding ever appropriated to the LLE and demonstrates robust and sustained federal support. At our LLE, more than 350 scientists and staff and over 140 students are pursuing technological advances in service of our national and economic security. With this continued investment, LLE will advance the nation’s scientific leadership and continue its groundbreaking, globally recognized research that is vital to enhancing our safety, maintaining our global technological competitiveness, and developing New York State’s high-tech economy,” said Sarah Mangelsdorf, President, University of Rochester.

Earlier this week, Congress voted to conduct a study on programs that advance high energy physics, such as the one at the University of Rochester. This comes after Senator Gillibrand sent a letter to Senate Committee on Armed Services leaders calling for a report on the value and effectiveness of such programs in maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile and recruiting a highly skilled and talented workforce to complete national security missions.

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 the largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) university-based research program in the entire nation and is home to the OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) – the largest and most capable at any academic institution in the world. LLE conducts implosion and basic physics experiments in support of the national Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program, validates advanced concepts for ICF to be used at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in order to demonstrate ignition and energy gain, and serves as the principal laser research facility for the three NNSA national laboratories. In addition, LLE is the only ICF facility with education as a primary mission and the only major facility that trains graduate students in Inertial Confinement Fusion and high energy density physics research, making it a critical pipeline for the future national security workforce. Because of these distinctions, LLE is a vital component of the nation’s scientific capital and leadership, and key to strategic work on an independent energy future.

Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought for Rochester’s Laser Lab. They helped secure $68 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 spending bill for the LLE and advocated for federal investment in Fiscal Year 2017. Furthermore, in the 2018 bipartisan Omnibus spending bill, Schumer and Gillibrand secured $75 million in funding for the LLE for Fiscal Year 2018, and in the Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, another $80 million in funding for the LLE. The Senators will continue their efforts to help grow the laser lab, which is a key driver of Rochester’s optics and photonics industry and in maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile while developing new clean energy sources.

Schumer and Gillibrand also secured the overall $565 million for the NNSA’s Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program in the funding package, which helps to maintain the OMEGA Laser Facility. The ICF program is critical to maintaining safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent maintained through the Stockpile Stewardship Program.