Thursday, January 13, 2005

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: Letter

Several people sent in this bit of news about the cost of the shutdown. Could it be that high level people in Washington are now beginning to question, if not the rational for the shutdown, the way it has been handled?

Barton Requests Cost Review Associated With Suspension of Operations at Los Alamos

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, asking him to review the costs associated with the ongoing suspension of classified and high-hazard operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The full text of the letter follows:

January 10, 2005
The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. General Accounting Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

I am writing to you regarding the ongoing suspension of classified and high hazard operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) due to severe safety and security incidents at LANL last year. LANL Director Peter Nanos ordered the suspension of operations in response to mismanagement of classified removable electronic media (CREM), and a severe safety incident involving a research laser that permanently damaged the eye of a graduate student. These incidents are the latest examples of a historical and cultural lack of focus and attention to safety and security management by the University of California (UC), the site contractor for the National Nuclear Security Administration at LANL.

During an October briefing of Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Director Nanos informed us that he believed the work suspension at LANL would cost the taxpayers approximately $100 million as funds are shifted out of program activities to pay for safety and security improvements. According to a November 22, 2004 letter from Director Nanos, this figure had grown to $134 million. However, this revised estimate only covers the period up to November 10, 2004, and therefore the final cost of this work suspension will likely be much higher.

In addition to the rising costs of this work suspension, several major research programs have been disrupted, and will experience cost increases and schedule delays. According to Director Nanos, suspended research programs have been disrupted, and “will likely require more time to accomplish results than if the suspension had not taken place.”

I would like you to review the stand down at LANL to determine (1) the total costs to the taxpayers related to the stand down; (2) the status of major research projects that have been disrupted, and how these programs recover; and (3) whether the costs associated with work suspension are reimbursable to UC under its contract.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact me directly or have a member of your staff contact Mr. Dwight Cates of the Committee staff at (202) 226-2424.


Joe Barton

For 60 years the University of California did exactly as it was directed: it provided intellectual/academic support and great benefits for the workforce while staying out of the way of AEC/ERDA/DOE which micromanaged programs and facilities down to the staff member level. But as soon as bad news hit the press, DOE points at UC and the congressmen representing constituents with monetary interests in LANL jump all over UC. It is not in the interest of the nation's security nor the workforce to allow UC to take the blame for decades of poor management by both DOE and Congress.
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