DOE Researchers Await Budget Decision

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Oak Ridge, Anderson County (WVLT) - Thousands of East Tennessee government workers are hoping they'll still have a job once congress approves DOE's budget.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spoke with local Doe officials about the budget still looming over employees heads.

About 12,000 people work for department of energy operations in oak ridge, whether it's ORNL, Y-12, or the Bechtel Jacobs Corporation.

The director of public affairs tells WVLT the $1.9 billion budget they're waiting for congress to approve is on everyone's minds there.

"Federal tax dollars are shrinking, budget requests are going up across the government," says DOE Director of Public Affairs John Shewairy.

And the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge is competing with every other agency out there for more money for their projects.

"You don't have the ability to spend more money on those because you are locked in at a previous year's spending rate, and that has the potential to pose some problems for us."

Shewairy says they're trying to wait patiently for Congress to approve their $1.9 billion flat budget. "Congress could act this week and do something about the rest of fiscal year 2007, or they might act at some point down the road in three, four weeks. We just don't know."

Shewairy says there's also no telling exactly how much money Congress will approve, meaning thousands of DOE employees aren't sure what their future holds. "We certainly don't want to see a worst-case scenerio, and that is people actually losing their jobs."

Shewairy says their focus is to keep as many people employed as possible. "We'll do all we can to minimize the impact, any affects, that the continuum resolution for the rest of the year might have on the workforce."

With world-leading research facilities throughout Oak Ridge, Shewairy says the $1.9 billion is vital. "We've made some very good progress very recently with some major milestone activities."

And Shewairy wants DOE employees to focus on their progress and not the unknown. "It's something that's certainly going to loom over the heads of employees."

But it's out of their hands, "Congress holds the key to the Oak Ridge future for FY '07."

The department of energy says they're hoping a decision is made by February 15th, that's when their temporary spending resolution expires, but no one really knows for sure.

Along with jobs, there's a lot of new national research and technology riding on this budget.