Source: The Oak Ridger | Darrell Richardson | December 7, 2019

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the keynote speaker at the East Tennessee Economic Council’s 2019 Annual Meeting & Awards Celebration, which was held Friday, Dec. 6, in the DoubleTree by Hilton, says the best-kept secret in Washington, D.C, is “record funding” for 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,” the U.S. senator told a sold-out crowd at Friday’s annual event — where the Muddy Boot Awards and the Postma Young Professional Medal are presented.

“It is hard to think of a major technological advancement since the Manhattan Project that hasn’t drawn some support from government-sponsored research,” said Alexander. “That 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 fifth consecutive year.

“National laboratories are our secret weapon,” Alexander said. “And funding for our national laboratories is on track to increase by 42 percent over the last five years.”

During Friday’s ETEC event, which included a visit from U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, 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 five years, funding for supercomputing is set to increase by 64 percent,” Alexander said. “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.”

Alexander also shared with his Oak Ridge audience that the U.S. Senate is on track to provide the fifth consecutive year of increased funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health — which reportedly is a 40 percent increase over the last five years.

The U.S. senator is a seventh-generation Tennessean born and raised in nearby Maryville. Twice elected governor of Tennessee, Alexander concluded his Dec. 6 remarks by once again discussing “the Oak Ridge Corridor” (a favorite subject) and the 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,” Alexander said. “Some people thought this was a little far-fetched.