Brookhaven National Lab is facing potential layoffs of 950 employees, roughly one-third of it's workforce, if budget cuts to the federal Office of Science take place.
Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, and Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko used the words devastating and depressing at a news conference earlier in the week where both men called upon Congress to restore funding.
The cuts would also close two research hotbeds by way of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and National Synchrotron Light Source.
Bishop, speaking at the American Physical Society in Ridge, said the budget plan which passed by the House of Representatives last week and will go before the Senate, could result in a $1.1 billion cut to the Office of Science, or roughly 20 percent of its overall $5.1 billion budget.
“I don’t see how a member of congress can vote for laying off 1,000 of their constituents,” Bishop said. “The challenge is to avoid going beyond painful to the destructive. It sends a terribly depressing message about the future of this country to remain on the cutting edge.”
Multiple industry professionals were on hand to support Bishop’s case.
“These are facilities that really extend throughout society in their impacts,” said Peter Stephens, a physics professor at Stony Brook University.
“It will affect scientists nationwide,” said Mike Lubell, director of public affairs at the American Physical Society. “This would do huge damage."
Bishop also said the ripple of how Suffolk County’s economy will suffer from the lack of traveling scientists will be large.
From the Town of Brookhaven’s perspective, it’s poor timing. Lesko recently announced the launch of , a program meant to help science and technology foster growth in the economy and Brookhaven National Lab was a key ingredient to the success of the initiative.
“That research is our future,” Lesko said. “Brookhaven National Lab is one of the leaders of the effort. With this distraction it would be devastating. It would publicly stall Accelerate Long Island. We’re hoping that won’t happen. I urge policy makers to give this a second look.”
While the Office of Science did not return email requests for comments on the potential cuts, Brookhaven National Lab issued a statement saying they are closely watching the moves in Washington.
“If the budget resolution approved by the House of Representatives were to prevail, it would result in major impacts to the Lab's facilities, research programs, and staff,” a spokesman from the lab said.
“The House vote is just one step in the process," the spokesman added. "The Senate will develop its own version of the bill and then the two sides must then negotiate to reconcile the differences before sending it to the President to sign or veto. We appreciate the continued support of our elected officials as these discussions continue.”
As a way to gather more support, the website WeSupportBNL.org was launched to coincide with the press conference.
Brookhaven’s Big Idea
This week, Brookhaven extended an invitation to every employee to participate in it’s first ever IDEA Award. The goal of the IDEA Award is to produce ideas that will yield savings while also improving the way government operates, according to a statement released by the Town.
“Our goal for 2011 will be to help build a new foundation for Brookhaven, and in doing so, reform our government so that it is more transparent, more efficient, and more creative in providing solutions to today’s challenges,” said Councilman Tim Mazzei, sponsor of the unanimously approved IDEA program, in a statement.
The IDEA Award (Initiatives to Determine Efficient Action) fulfills this commitment by enabling Brookhaven employees from all departments to submit their ideas for efficiencies and savings.
Town to Host SCORE Workshops
The Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Economic Development has scheduled a SCORE Workshop to be held on Monday, March 14 and Monday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Media Room on the second floor at Town Hall.
The purpose of the workshops are to help build up the small business community through its experienced members who provide guidance to prospective and existing small business owners and nonprofit organizations, and high quality technical and managerial counseling. To register for the workshops, call 631-451-6563.
“Thousands of small businesses throughout Brookhaven Town are the backbone of our local economy and our Division of Economic Development plays a vital role in helping them grow and succeed, especially during these tough economic times,” Lesko said. “I commend our Economic Development team and the members of SCORE for their dedication and service to the small business community.”