Tuesday, April 12, 2005

More on Robinson

Sandia chief steps down to aid Lockheed’s LANL bid The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — C. Paul Robinson had a successful decade with little controversy at the helm of Sandia National Laboratories. But he says he knew his expertise was needed elsewhere when the company that runs Sandia announced plans to seek the federal contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Robinson will step down as Sandia’s director April 29 to assist Lockheed Martin Corp. prepare its bid to manage Los Alamos.

“Somebody asked me to do it, and I looked at the pros and cons and thought, ‘If I don’t do it, who will they get to do it?’ ” Robinson said Monday of the decision to leave Sandia and to help with the bid.

Robinson spent 18 years at Los Alamos after college, including six years running the nuclear weapons programs, he said. His experience at both labs is beneficial, but he knows better than to get confident in a bid process.

“It will be hard fought, regardless

of what happens,” Robinson said.

The University of California has held the contract to operate Los Alamos since the lab was established in 1943. But a series of security, safety and financial problems in recent years led the Department of Energy to decide in 2003 to put the management contract up for bid.

The UC Board of Regents hasn’t voted on whether to bid for the Los Alamos job but has told staff to prepare as though it will bid.

The University of Texas, which had previously voted to withdraw from the bidding, also may reconsider.

Since UT’s February decision to withdraw, the DOE has doubled the potential performance-based management fee to $60 million annually.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, RN.M., praised Robinson for his “terrific” work at Sandia. “I’m sad he’s leaving Sandia, but his departure and new role certainly tells me that Lockheed Martin is intent on putting together a competitive bid.”

But a lab critic thinks the Los Alamos contract might be better left in the hands of a university. “On one hand, those things shouldn’t have gone on at Los Alamos. It should have been managed in a more efficient way. On the other hand, I’ve always felt that with the university running those two laboratories (LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), there’s been some semblance of academic freedom,” said Robert S. Norris, a senior research associate for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington.

Norris was also concerned about the idea of Lockheed Martin operating more than one lab.

“I’m not sure that monopoly is beneficial,” he said.

But Robinson said “there’s very little threat” of that because of his key instructions by Lockheed Martin when he took over as Sandia director. “Don’t ever let anybody try to put corporate interests before what you and your people think are the national interests,” Robinson says he was told.

At Sandia, Robinson will be replaced by Thomas O. Hunter, who has been with Sandia since 1967, most recently as senior vice president of defense programs overseeing nuclear weapons work.

Sandia’s core mission will continue to focus on maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, Hunter said.

While Sandia celebrated numerous successes in weapons development and chemical weapon detection tools, it has faced some problems, such as the 2003 discovery that computers had been stolen and security officers had been sleeping on the job. Hunter said management systems at the lab will be re-evaluated.

“We want to spend more time focusing on how to become as effective and efficient as possible,” Hunter said.

Robinson said Hunter’s work with the nuclear weapons program has been a success. “One of the reasons Tom is selected is he’s done just a fabulous job of building strong teams to pursue our nuclear weapons program,” Robinson said.

Michael F. Camardo, Sandia Corp. board chairman and executive vice president of Lockheed Martin information and technology services, said Hunter brings intelligence and integrity to his new role.

“He has a deep and thorough understanding of the national security needs of the nation, the complex missions of the laboratory, and he cares about the people who work at Sandia,” Camardo said.

C. Paul Robinson

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