I would like to take this opportunity to again wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous 2008. The start of a year is a very special period. It is a time to reflect on the achievements of the previous year and to look forward to the challenges of the year to come. 2008 will be a remarkable year for ITER: a year that will be very different from any other in the history of the project as we now move from planning to construction. I encourage you all to take a moment to reflect on the year ahead and consider how each of us can best contribute to the gathering momentum of our project I would like to explain an important development that arose over the holiday period. 2008 will be a very difficult year for science funding in the United States. The final budget, signed by the President just before the end of 2007, removed $400 million from the 2008 budget of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science, the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. This very large and completely unexpected cut has had an enormous impact on Office of Science programs. Congress' most dramatic decision was to provide no funding for the U.S. contribution for ITER. Since the news, the Chairman of the ITER Council, Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith and I have been in constant contact with Raymond L. Orbach, undersecretary for science at the DOE, to understand the reasons and the practical implications of the decision. Dr Orbach is unequivocal that the U.S. will remain a Member of ITER and that the U.S. is fully committed to meeting its obligations under the ITER Agreement. I appreciate Dr Orbach's support for ITER in the long term and know that he and his staff are working hard to identify any possibilities of rectifying the budget situation later in the financial year. However, in the short term, the U.S. will go into arrears and we will wait to hear how the 2009 budget will address this challenge. This cut in funding is an issue for us but it will by no means jeopardize the success of the project and with rearranging some activities, we will be able to minimize the inevitable delay. The U.S. ITER Project Office at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will continue to operate and all direct employees as well as secondees from the U.S. are funded to continue to work on the project. The U.S. will participate actively in Council, STAC and MAC meetings as well as in many of the most urgent activities to finalize designs and prepare procurements. There will inevitably be delays in some U.S. design and R&D activities and some long-lead hardware procurements will not be started before the next fiscal year. The details will be known better to us soon and we will keep everybody informed. The experience, intellectual brilliance and energy of the U.S fusion community are great benefits to the ITER project and I know all the other Members will join me in wishing our American colleagues a speedy resolution to their budget difficulties.
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