Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Benefits Plan Added to Proposed LANL Contract

Albuquerque Journal North
Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Benefits Plan Added to Proposed LANL Contract
The Associated Press

LOS ALAMOSĀ­ Federal officials have amended a draft request for proposals regarding contract competition for Los Alamos National Laboratory, ensuring that the winner of the contract would have to provide a total compensation package for employees that is "substantially equivalent" to the benefits and pensions provided by the current contract with the University of California.

The impact of a potential switch in lab managers on employee benefits has been a source of concern within the lab and among state leaders and the congressional delegation.

Workers would be able to transfer their accrued service credit and leave balances with the new lab manager, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration's Source Evaluation Board.

The board said it will ask the NNSA to seek approval from the Energy Department to negotiate an extension of UC's contract to provide enough time during the transition period for the winning bidder to submit a "well thought out pension and benefits package."

The changes came after members of Congress, watchdog groups, employees and others sent their questions and comments to the NNSA to improve the proposed contract for managing the lab.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Tuesday he was evaluating the board's changes. "Right off the bat," he said, "one significant change that raises a red flag is the call for a stand-alone benefits plan at Los Alamos. That needs to be fully reviewed."

The board also extended the base term of the proposed contract from five years to seven years and doubled to 3 percent the fee awarded to the contractor for DOE and NNSA work.

The board will accept comments from potential bidders through March 4. Bidders also can meet with the board via teleconference this week or schedule a meeting next week in Washington, D.C.

The government plans to select a contractor this summer to begin work Oct. 1. The new contract includes possible extensions up to 20 years.

The contract is going out to bid for the first time in the lab's 60-year-plus history.

Los Alamos has been managed by the University of California since the lab's inception as a top-secret World War II project to develop the atomic bomb. However, the Energy Department decided to put the contract up for bid before its September expiration after a series of management failures and security problems.

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