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Lamar Alexander says The Best-Kept Secret in Washington is Record Funding for National Laboratories, Supercomputing, Biomedical Research

U.S. SenateOak Ridge, TN – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Friday, December 6th, 2019, told members of the East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) that “the best-kept secret in Washington is record funding for our national laboratories, supercomputing and biomedical research.”

“Last year, Congress sent a total of $4.6 billion to the Oak Ridge complex – which funds the nation’s largest science and engineering laboratory, Y-12, which is building the largest federal construction project in Tennessee since World War II, and the best federal environmental cleanup program in the country,” Senator Alexander said.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

“It is hard to think of a major technological advancement since the Manhattan Project that hasn’t drawn some support from government-sponsored research. This is why, as chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I am working to provide record-funding for the Office of Science – which provides most of the funding for our 17 national laboratories – for the 5th consecutive year. National laboratories are our secret weapon. And funding for our national laboratories is on track to increase by 42 percent over the last 5 years,” stated Senator Alexander/

Alexander discussed how Oak Ridge has the most advanced facilities for materials, 3-D printing, and houses the world’s fastest supercomputer: “Each year, federal taxpayers spend $2 billion at the laboratory to keep America first in supercomputing – and over the last 5 years funding for supercomputing is set to increase by 64 percent.

Supercomputers can help solve problems in every area of scientific research – improve advanced manufacturing, simulate advanced reactors and weapons before they are built, find terrorists, protect against cyberattacks, more accurately predict the weather, and simulate the electric grid in a natural disaster.”

The senator also mentioned how the Senate is on track to provide the 5th consecutive year of increased funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health – which is a 40 percent increase over the last five years. 

Alexander concluded his remarks by talking about the “Oak Ridge Corridor” and Oak Ridge Institute:

“As president of the University of Tennessee in the late 1980s, I would tout the concentration of brainpower in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area and compare the Oak Ridge Corridor to Massachusetts’ Route 128, North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and even California’s Silicon Valley. Some people thought this was a little far-fetched. But, 35 years later, the idea of an Oak Ridge Corridor doesn’t seem far-fetched at all. The Knoxville airport now has a new sign that says: ‘Welcome to Knoxville: Gateway to the Smokies and The Oak Ridge Corridor.’ And it’s about time we celebrate it. …I have come to think of the Oak Ridge Corridor not as something that requires renaming a highway, but as a concept—a regional brand that can include Maryville and Morristown, Kingston and Sevierville, and any other East Tennessee community that wants to claim it.

“The University of Tennessee, which, with the Battelle Memorial Institute, now manages the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is taking the next step to make the Oak Ridge Corridor a reality. This will put the joint programs between the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory and a major research university under the same umbrella. It will be a pipeline for a new supply of American-trained scientists and engineers, which our country sorely needs in this competitive world. With such a strong foundation and such strong current leadership, I am betting that during the next 80 years the brand Oak Ridge Corridor and the UT-Oak Ridge partnership will be clearly recognized as one of the most important science and engineering alliances in the world.

“Americans invented the Internet. And the personal computer. We invented nuclear power. And the polio vaccine. Government sponsored research has helped make America the greatest country in the world. And much of that is happening right here in the Oak Ridge Corridor.”


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