WASHINGTON, D.C.--A House panel wants to delay or defer U.S. plans to participate in Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and upgrade the Internet. The moves are part of a raft of bills to authorize 1998 funds for programs in most civilian, nonmedical research agencies that are slated for a Wednesday vote in the House Science Committee.
The most controversial provision would deny the Department of Energy (DOE) the $35 million it wants next year to help build the LHC, a powerful new accelerator at CERN, Europe's high-energy physics laboratory. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who chairs the panel and intends to meet Friday with CERN officials in Geneva, is skeptical of the deal that DOE has struck with the Europeans and bitter about Europe's failure to come to the rescue of the failed U.S. Superconducting Super Collider, congressional sources say.
Lawmakers also worry that funding for the oval-shaped LHC, to be completed in 2005, will hurt U.S. facilities, such as the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California, which focuses on electron collisions. While denying funds for the collider, which smashes together protons, the House measure would add $10 million to SLAC's budget, now $131 million. The boost follows a recent visit to SLAC by Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA), who believes that money for the LHC would be better spent on domestic programs.
DOE officials and many physicists oppose such a shift. "It would be a bad thing for the U.S. to abandon this piece of physics entirely to the Europeans," says James Strait, a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, who works on the LHC accelerator. In addition, there is no indication that the House and Senate panels that will appropriate funds share the science panel's concerns.
Another committee target is a $100 million proposal to design a successor to today's Internet that would offer researchers faster and better connections. The panel wants the Administration to draw up a more detailed plan for the interagency program, announced during last fall's election campaign, and to discuss it at a hearing before authorizing any funding. "We would be happy to work with the committee," says White House aide Thomas Kalil, "and we hope that when we're done, they'll be as excited about the initiative as we are."