Omnibus bill restores funding for UR Laser Lab, RIT institute

Tucked into the omnibus federal budget bill released Wednesday is the funding needed to keep the University of Rochester’s laser lab open and operating.

The $75 million is an increase over the $68 million in federal funding awarded to the facility this year. New York’s Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand jointly announced the funding, expected to be voted on by the House and Senate later this week.

Also included in the bill is the full $14 million previously pledged for the Rochester Institute of Technology-led REMADE Institute.

The Republican-drafted bill, which funds federal agencies through the end of September, must be approved by Friday to avert another government shutdown.

UR’s Laboratory of Laser Energetics employs 340, and has 100 students studying and working in some capacity at the River Road facility. The LLE is a smaller counterpart to two government-owned centers in California and New Mexico, and routinely draws scientists and researchers from across the country. Its work has both civilian and military applications, including the Department of Energy’s nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program.

News of the budget plan was “welcome relief,” UR interim President Richard Feldman said in a statement, thanking the congressional delegation and the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, in particular — calling her “one of our institution’s greatest champions for more than 25 years.”

Schumer said the funding ensures that LLE scientists and engineers stay on the job, “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.”

The congressman visited the lab earlier this month and promised to “vaporize” efforts to defund the facility, saying he would push to increase the annual allotment from $70 million up to $75 million. He also pledged to seek a five-year cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. It was the NNSA budget that proposed a three-year ramp down of support for the lab, leading to ultimate closure. He and the Slaughter, D-Fairport, also have invited NN]SA administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty to visit the lab.

Slaughter also had led the effort to restore funding for the REMADE Institute, after it was eliminated in the House budget proposal. REMADE (Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions) got its start last year, under the DOE umbrella, focused on clean energy initiatives that can make U.S. manufacturing more efficient, competitive and environmentally friendly.



Brian Sharp @sharproc

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