scientific and technological frontiers, particularly for exploration at Terascale energies, are extraordinarily exciting. The opportunities now accessible to particle physics include moving beyond the limitations of the Standard Model, exploring further the unification of forces, probing the origin of mass, uncovering the dynamic nature of the vacuum, deepening the understanding of stellar and nuclear processes, and investigating the nature of dark energy and dark matter. These possibilities suggest that a great deal of new physics may be discovered in the next generation of experiments.
Despite an extraordinary tradition of U.S. leadership in this area of science, the intellectual center of gravity in most areas of particle physics will move abroad with the termination in the next few years of the B-factory experiment at SLAC, the CLEO experiment at Cornell, and the CDF and D0 experiments at Fermilab. Moreover, this will occur just at the moment when especially exciting and important scientific opportunities have appeared on the horizon.
The U.S. program in elementary particle physics is therefore at a crossroads. On the one hand, there is an opportunity to reallocate substantial resources to begin exploiting new opportunities as existing experimental programs are completed over the next 2 to 4 years. Further, the United States has the necessary human capital, technology, and industrial expertise to be a leader in the pursuit of the scientific challenges of elementary particle physics. Indeed, it has a large pool of particle physicists, accelerator scientists, advanced students, and other talented researchers who can identify and pursue the most important and challenging questions in the field.
On the other hand, if the United States is to exploit these opportunities—and in the process fire the imagination and creativity of the next generation of students and scientists—decisive actions must be taken now. These actions will require a new strategic framework that establishes priorities designed to ensure a leadership role for the United States in the decades ahead and points to the difficult decisions required to act on those priorities. Moreover, regaining the long-term momentum of the program in elementary particle physics and reestablishing a position of leadership require a willingness to take scientific and technological risks and to consider important institutional transformations. While this effort will be a demanding one, the failure to take up the challenges might lead some of the best U.S. scientists and students to disperse abroad or to other fields of endeavor, undermining the nation’s opportunity to continue to play a leadership role in this fundamental scientific area.