September 13, 2011
Director, Office of Management and Budget
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Lew:
We write to you today about the future of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), currently under development in South Dakota in partnership with the University of California Berkeley. In particular, we want to request your involvement in coordinating the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on issues relating to this project in the future. As you know, this project is a significant example of a federal, state, and private partnership involving multiple states and federal funding agencies. In an era of fiscal austerity, we are optimistic that SURF will serve a successful example of how to leverage federal funding and coordination across these many entities due to the tremendous scientific opportunities that SURF will provide for a wide cross section of scientific disciplines.
As you may have heard, the project recently received significant positive support in the form of three reviews by independent committees with respect to cost, scientific merit, and design plans for the project. Each review highlighted the need for U.S. leadership in underground physics, the significance and paramount importance of the various science projects proposed for SURF, and the capability of the project team to complete such an endeavor. In addition, the project team is working to rebrand the image of the former Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) to highlight their flexibility in adjusting the scope of the project and its stewardship model. The project team now refers to the project as SURF, and you will likely hear this acronym from now on, instead of DUSEL.
Despite this support and flexibility, the project faces a number of near-term obstacles. The Department of Energy is poised to make a decision on the agency’s planned support for the project in Fiscal Year 2013 and beyond. Given the reports we noted above, we are optimistic about the agency’s next steps. However, in the current budget climate, where tough funding decisions must be made at all levels, we ask that you coordinate with DOE and the NSF on providing the needed funding and flexibility to create out-year funding profiles – particularly as FY 2011 funding winds down. These complicated profiles must incorporate the many energy priorities as identified by the agency, NSF, the Administration, Congress, and the scientific community, identifying how best to leverage private and state money while creating jobs and elevating U.S. leadership in science on the global scale.
We believe this endeavor holds great promise and highlights the type of investment our nation must make if we expect to keep the United States at the frontier of scientific discovery, and we look forward to working with you in this endeavor.
Tim Johnson John Thune Kristi Noem
U.S. Senate U.S. Senate U.S. House of Representatives