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This project is being sold on the basis of two very different messages. One is the scientific merit of the project. We will hear about that from today's witnesses. The second is the public works aspect.
Selling the SSC as a big public works project has risk as well as benefits. You can promise money to Texas and to several other States. I gather that is happening. However, if this becomes just another big public works project, you could be on dangerous ground. Funding then becomes mainly a question of how much money does your State get and how much does my State get?
You face a different set of questions. If people see they can get more money some other way, or that they are not getting what they think they deserve, their support of the SSC could suffer. Your scientific arguments could be forgotten. The main motive could get to be jealousy.
I think you will see some of that in the debate in the House on Congressman Roe's SSC authorization bill. In two words: be warned. I hope you will sharpen your case for the project on its scientific merit.
The Subcommittee sent DOE a long list of questions about this project to be answered for the record of this hearing. We do not mean to be hostile in asking pointed questions of DOE. These are questions DOE should be able to answer if it expects to get the money that is being requested.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is the authorizing and oversight Committee for the SSC. It is the job of oversight to ask hard questions about cost, about management, and about how the SSC is going to fit into a balanced program of support for basic science. I intend to do the job to the best of my ability.
I am very pleased to have, as I said earlier, the real Chairman of this Committee with us this morning. Senator Johnston, do you have any opening statement?
[The prepared statement of Senator Ford follows:)
STATEMENT OF SENATOR WENDELL H. FORD
April 24, 1990
Subcommittee on Energy Research and Development
Hearing on the Superconducting Super Collider
Today's hearing on the superconducting super collider and the DOE science
budget has become an annual event for the Subcommittee. This is a very important part
of the Department of Energy's budget. In these programs, the Department is "fortifying
foundations" -- foundations for the nation's scientific and technological expertise and our
The fiscal year 1991 request for these programs is $2.3 billion, an increase of 13.6
percent over the fiscal year 1990 appropriation.
We are talking about physics, chemistry,
materials science, mathematics, engineering, geoscience, biological and environmental
science, and the major facilities where American science is practiced.
DOE's proposed budget provides for broad-based support for science. It provides
for growth. It also makes substantial commitments that will require Congress to vote
much larger increases in the future.
The largest such commitment is the superconducting super collider project that is
getting under way in Texas. The fiscal year 1991 budget request for the SSC is $318
million, an increase of $100 inillion over last year's appropriation.
When we get into
construction on this project, the annual appropriation needed for the SSC alone will be
almost $1 billion.
It is no secret that some of us are pretty nervous about this project. We are
nervous about the commitment of resources involved. It has not made us any less
nervous to learn that the total estimated cost of the SSC may increase by $1 billion to
$2 billion above the original estimate of $5.9 billion.
This project is being sold on the basis of two very different messages. One is the
scientific merit of the project. We will hear about that from today's witnesses.
The second is the public works aspect. Selling the SSC as a big public works
project has risks as well as benefits. You can promise money to Texas and to several
other states. I gather that is happening.
However, if this becomes just another big public works project, you could be on
dangerous ground. Funding then becomes mainly a question of how much money does
your state get and how much does my state get.
You face a different set of questions.
If people see they can get more money some other way, or that they're not getting what
they think they deserve, their support of the SSC could suffer. Your scientific arguments
could be forgotten.
The main motive could get to be jealousy. I think you'll see some of that in the
debate this week in the House on Congressman Roe's SSC authorization bill.
I hope you will sharpen your case for the project on its scientific merits. The
Subcommittee sent DOE a long list of questions about this project to be answered for
the Record of this hearing. We do not mean to be hostile in asking pointed questions
of DOE. These are questions DOE should be able to answer if it expects to get the
money that is being requested.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is the authorizing and oversight
Committee for the SSC. It is the job of oversight to ask the hard questions about cost,
about management, and about how the SSC is going to fit in to a balanced program of
support for basic science.
We intend to do our job.
STATEMENT OF HON. J. BENNETT JOHNSTON, U.S. SENATOR
FROM LOUISIANA The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Senator Ford, and I want to congratulate you for having this hearing on what really is a very vital and important subject. I have a written statement which I would like to put into the record and just to make a couple of additional comments.
I have long been interested in high-energy physics. We cover high-energy physics not only in this committee but in my Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. It is safe to say that it is the most basic research of any kind that the country does, because it is inquiring into the very nature of matter, and nature of energy, and while the payoff from that research is difficult to quantify, to predict and to put a dollar value on, it is nonetheless at the heart of everything we do and everything we are. We are curious about what is in the cosmos-certainly we should be curious about what we are made of and what the cosmos is made of. So it is with a degree of great curiosity and fascination which I approach this subject.
I also approach it with a number of concerns. First, technological concerns: whether the design of this machine is proper; whether the incremental additions to our knowledge from this are worth the price; whether the scientific payoff from this machine justifies its existence. I think the answer to those questions is yes, but they are very important questions, and we should delve into that.
The second set of questions has to do with the budget. Can we find money for this particular endeavor? How much is it; how much cost overrun, if that is the right term. Sometimes I think we make mistakes by coming in with a low-ball figure and trying later to justify it. I was on the Senate Office Building Commission that built the Hart Senate Office Building, and they got some low-ball figure back in 1973, really not based on anything very solid, and we spent the next-oh, 16 or 14 years trying to answer the press on these huge cost overruns based on a figure which was really not a realistic figure to begin with and was not meant to be a real budget figure to begin with.
We should not make that mistake here. Whatever it is going to cost, let us state what it is, flatly and honestly, if we know. If we do not know, let us say so. But it seems to me that this business of coming out with a first figure and saying it has got to be exactly that amount, that it cannot exceed that, if it does, you have got to get it from such and such country, is not the way to run basic science.
If this thing is worth doing, it is worth doing, and it should not hinge on some artificially created dollar amount. Unless we cannot afford it to begin with-if we cannot afford it to begin with, then let us not do it. But I have just seen too much of trying to make unrealistic estimates to begin with and then trying to make the dollars fit later on when you cannot do it.
The second budgetary concern I have is really a general concern with science and this Government in that we do not have a science budget. Science is not considered in any Committee as a whole, where we justify one thing against the other, where we look at what we have got to spend on science and determine whether or not we ought to spend it on fusion, or on space telescopes, or on orbiting space labs, or on dozens of other endeavors in science. We just do them one at a time, and this one we are doing one at a time without reference to other endeavors in science.
I am not saying that this does not pass muster compared to other things, but I think the Government--the administration particularly-needs to start thinking about prioritizing science spending, because some things we are neglecting too much. I think the overall field of science is being neglected by this Administration in our pell-mell rush to try to satisfy Gramm-Rudman.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I am concerned about the technology, about giving away our technology in order to try to squeeze this budget into this artificially created envelope. I met with the Deputy Secretary of Energy the other day, and he said look, the House may put a limit on this thing, so we may have to go make a contract with the Japanese or the Germans or whoever in order to give them some of the magnet business. So the highest technology, the building of the magnets, which can be a very important technology for the country to learn, really a manufacturing technology rather than an R&D technology, but a very important manufacturing technology, would go to foreign firms. I would hate to see us, for half a billion dollars, or $1 billion, or 10 or 12 percent of this thing, give away that which may be the most valuable thing the country can learn, and that is how to be the world leader in superconducting magnets.
I would like to hear some of the experts today talk about how valuable that manufacturing technology is, what the future of magnetically levitated trains and other uses to which we could put those superconducting magnets, whether it is worth really trying to keep that technology in this country. If so, then it looks to me like when we ask for participation we ought to ask for participation in digging the ditch or in stringing the wires or whatever else you do, rather than the cream of the technology.
So those are my concerns, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to today's hearing.
[The prepared statement of Senator Johnston follows: