Friday, 12 January 1990 Washington, DC
1. THE DRELL PANEL ON SSC PHYSICS OPPOSED ANY REDUCTION IN ENERGY
below the original 20 TeV goal. The 15-member panel was assembled
just two weeks ago, after it became clear that a redesign would
be required (WN 29 Dec 89).
They were asked for their "advice on
the range of useful machine parameters in order to complete the
design phase of the facility" in view of "budget constraints."
The advice amounted to, "Damn the constraints--full speed ahead."
The panel concluded that "...lowering the SSC beam energy from 20
to 17 TeV would yield insufficient cost reduction to justify the
reduction in physics reach....Lowering the energy below 15 TeV
would unacceptably increase the risk of missing important new
physics....It is imperative that the project be supported so that
it can proceed on schedule." The expectation is that Secretary
of Energy Watkins will ask Congress for the extra billion or so,
in spite of his earlier insistence on holding the line at $5.9 B.
A month ago, in a Dallas Morning News interview, Watkins refused
to rule out an increase, and, in a Washington Post interview this
week, his deputy Henson Moore also seemed to be back-pedaling.
The impact of the increase on other programs is the next worry.
2. THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE MAY BE ENTITLED TO AN APOLOGY.
In a Nov 88 report (WN 18 Nov 88),
the CBO warned that "...there
is a high risk that the SSC will experience cost increases." The
CBO said a 46% overrun would be typical. The high-energy physics
community ridiculed the CBO report; after all, what does the CBO
know about accelerators? The Director of Energy Research, Robert
Hunter, indignantly declared that "...the SSC does not require
major component development, and consequently can be costed with
confidence." The redesigned SSC is expected to cost an additional
$1.3 B--an overrun of about 22% before they even start digging.
3. NSF WILL DISTRIBUTE THE PAIN OF SEQUESTRATION ACROSS-THE-BOARD
in FY 90. Reversing an earlier decision to protect high-priority
programs, a notice to grantee organizations from Erich Bloch says
that all continuing grants will be reduced by 2% from originally
committed amounts. In fact, sequestration took only 1.5%, which
frees money for new proposals. The notice states that support for
students is a high priority of NSF and should not be reduced. All
that's left is equipment and travel. A similar squeeze in the
early 80's created an instrumentation crisis in university labs.
4. VICE PRESIDENT QUAYLE WAS HIGHLY CRITICAL OF NASA IN A SPEECH
on Wednesday to the American Astronomical Society in Washington.
Acknowledging that "...the rest of the world is catching up and
may pass us by," he said that new programs are taking too long
and costing too much. His repeated references to the value of
unmanned space exploration produced fulsome applause from the
assembled astronomers. He offered no new funds to "reassert our
world leadership in space," but promised innovative approaches
that would "challenge the accepted way of doing business."