Senate seeks to increase funding for Rochester “laser lab”

Published on June 06, 2018 by Dave Kovaleski

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The Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill seeks to include $80 million for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and its OMEGA Laser Facility.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) said that they would push for this funding level to be included in the final fiscal year 2019 funding bill before year’s end. The Senate bill also maintains funding for the overall Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that supports LLE and other national laboratories.

“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,” Schumer said. “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.”

Schumer said the funding is necessary to keep the United States ahead of foreign competitors like China on the cutting edge of high-tech innovation. It will also maintain jobs in Rochester.

“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,” Gillibrand said. “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.”

The Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester is a resource for research and education in science and technology. It is one of the premier institutions for training the next generation of leaders in physics, optics, and material science. Several companies, including Sydor Technologies, QED Technologies, and Lucid, were created as a result of the lab. This funding will allow the lab to continue its research and work in the fields of physics, optics, and material science.

Schumer and Gillibrand will advocate for the Senate’s $80 million funding level in the final appropriations bill that will be signed into law. The pending House FY19 appropriations bill would cut the lab’s funding to $68 million, which is a $7 million cut from what it received in the prior fiscal year FY18 appropriations.

The Trump Administration’s budget had cut the lab’s funding and included a 3-year phase out of all federal support for LLE.