Obama: Argonne Sequester Cuts Could Hinder U.S. Economy, Advancement
President Barack Obama underscored the importance of investing in scientific research during a speech on American energy at Argonne National Laboratory on Friday.
During a visit to Argonne National Laboratory on Friday, President Barack Obama said federal budgets cuts would have harmful effects on scientific research and economic development in the United States.
Obama visited Argonne, located just outside of Lemont, to tour its state-of-the-art research facilities and promote his proposed Energy Security Trust, which would set aside $2 billion over 10 years to research alternatives for oil and gasoline.
While pledging his commitment to scientific research, Obama also acknowledged the looming budget cuts facing federal facilities like Argonne as a result of the sequester.
"One of the reasons I was opposed to these cuts is because they don’t distinguish between wasteful programs and vital investments," Obama said. "They don’t trim the fat; they cut into muscle and into bone—like research and development being done right here that not only gives a great place for young researchers to come and ply their trade, but also ends up creating all kinds of spinoffs that create good jobs and good wages."
Argonne National Laboratory, managed by the University of Chicago, is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's largest hubs of scientific and engineering research. The facility is responsible for groundbeaking battery technology used in high-tech vehicles.
Argonne Communications Director Matthew Howard told reporters that the laboratory is anticipating at least 5 percent in spending cuts, which amounts to about $30 to $35 million. Officials have yet to determine the impact on jobs or research.
"We don't have specifics on how that's going to play out," Howard said. "We just don't know what the short-term effects will be from the Department of Energy, but our main concern is the freezing of new ideas and the slowing down of new projects while the rest of the world is racing ahead. There is a long-term effect that could really damage science in this country and innovation."
During his speech, Obama referenced an article in The Atlantic written by the directors of the Department of Energy's National Laboratories, including Eric Isaacs of Argonne. The article claimed the sequester cuts will force them to cancel all new programs and research initiatives for at least two years.
“This sudden halt on new starts will freeze American science in place while the rest of the world races forward, and it will knock a generation of young scientists off their stride, ultimately costing billions of dollars in missed future opportunities," the article stated.
Obama said the cuts will harm, not help the economy by preventing the country from creating American jobs and maintaining its technological lead.
"We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races forward," Obama said.
The president said he is reaching out to Republicans and Democrats to come together around a "balanced, smart, phased-in" approach to deficit reduction that includes smart spending cuts and new revenue, and that won't hurt the middle class or slow economic growth.
"If we do that, then we can move beyond governing from crisis to crisis to crisis, and we keep our focus on policies that actually create jobs and grow our economy, and move forward to face all of the other challenges we face, from fixing our broken immigration system to educating our kids to keeping them safe from gun violence," Obama said.
Obama's trip marks the first time a president has appeared at Argonne since former President George H. Bush visited in 1992, officials said.