8. The "Tribble Report"
and Its Relevance to HRIBF
(J. R. Beene)
In March 2005 DOE and NSF requested that NSAC produce a strategic plan updating the priorities of the 2002 Long Range Plan in light of continuing pressure on the funding available to the field.The charge letter to NSAC from the agencies noted that "Since the issuance of the Long Range Plan, resources needed to implement the recommended program have not been identified by the agencies." It further noted that the essentially constant effort funding of 2002-2005, compounded by the FY2006 President's Budget Request for Nuclear Physics (8.4% below the FY2005 level), would leave existing user facilities operating at ~65% of optimum level, and result in a ~10% reduction in the number of researchers supported. This funding level, projected into the outyears, left no room for continued operation of the program's major user facilities, as presently conducted, and clearly could not accommodate new initiatives such as RIA. NSAC formed a subcommittee under the chairmanship of Bob Tribble, including ORNL staff members Michael Smith and Witek Nazarewicz, to "examine the existing research capabilities and scientific efforts, asses their role and potential for advancements in the context of international efforts and determine the time and resources...needed to achieve the planned program." The report of that subcommittee, titled "Guidance for Implementing the 2002 Long Range Plan" was delivered to NSAC on June 23, 2005, and is now available online at the NSAC website. It is a critically important document, that will have a significant impact on the future development of our field. I assume all HRIBF staff and users have read the document. The purpose of this article is entirely parochial. I will not attempt to review the conclusions and recommendations of the report, except those relevant to the future of HRIBF, except to note that among the seven findings of the subcommittee is the reaffirmation that "RIA remains the highest priority of our field for new construction."
The report does an excellent job of summarizing the intellectual content and scientific relevance of "The Physics of Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics" which form the primary basis of the research program at HRIBF. Work carried out at HRIBF was explicitly recognized in one of seven highlighted achievements of the field since the 2002 Long Range Plan was crafted: "Measurements at HRIBF and NSCL of nuclei far from stability that have properties deviating sharply from predictions, which have forced major changes in our understanding of nuclear structure." In agreement with several reviews of science in the low-energy program over the last several years, the report endorses the economic and scientific worth of the upgrade programs at existing low energy facilities, and their potential impact in the near term, while reiterating the importance of RIA: e.g. "Current facilities with modest upgrades will have a 5-10 year window to continue forefront science. While our existing first-generation radioactive-beam facilities and stable-beam facilities will provide exceptional targeted opportunities, the future of the program lies with RIA."
A critical aspect of the report is the recommendations it makes for dealing with the three budget scenarios laid down in the DOE charge to NSAC. These three scenarios concerned the The five year period FY 2007-2011, and were based on the $370.4M President's Budget Request for FY 2006:
1) Flat-flat funding at $370.4 million, actual dollars
2) Constant effort funding (starting with $370.4 million in FY 2006), inflated dollars
3)Funding levels needed to restore research capabilities and scientific programs to mount an optimized program and to address the scientific opportunities identified in the 2002 Long Range Plan in order of their priority.
The basic conclusion of the report is that any scenario that falls significantly below constant effort funding built on a FY 2007 base of $430M would have "disastrous consequences for our field". The first two of DOE's scenarios both fall in this category (the base funding in FY 2007 for the second scenario is almost $50M or ~12% below the $430M figure). The report details some of the dire consequences, including the inevitable closure of one of the field's two major accelerator facilities (CEBAF or RHIC). For the third and rosiest of DOE's scenarios, the subcommittee identified a constant effort budget starting from a FY 2007 base of $475M (i.e. a 28% increase above the FY 2006 President's Budget Request) as being necessary to restore capabilities and mount an optimized program. In this scenario, timely initiation of RIA construction is possible, and support for carrying out upgrades at the HRIBF and ATLAS is explicitly noted. Because the impact of the first two scenarios is so dire the subcommittee considered two additional scenarios involving constant effort budgets but with FY 2007 base levels between those of scenarios 2 and 3. A budget based on $450M in FY 2007 would "slow considerably the execution of the basic program outlined in the LRP", but would still support the program of upgrades at HRIBF and ATLAS. A budget based on $430M in FY 2007 "seriously impacts the program. But basic priorities remain the same." In particular upgrades of HRIBF and ATLAS would proceed, but at a slower pace.
Thus, on the whole both the flavor and content of this report are extremely favorable to nuclear science with radioactive beams and to HRIBF. However, it is important to realize that it will take a significant effort by our community to get funding levels for the nuclear physics program even up to the minimum level identified in the Tribble Report ($430M in FY 2007). Both the House and Senate have passed Energy and Water appropriations bills larger than the $370.4M President's Request for FY 2006 ($408.3M for the House and $419.7M for the Senate). If the larger of these is enacted intact, a further 13% increase will be needed to reach the level required for the "optimized program" scenario.