Friday, April 08, 2005

Senator: Sandia could be model for Los Alamos Lab

Senator: Sandia could be model for Los Alamos Lab

By James W. Brosnan
Scripps Howard News Service
April 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - A Texas Republican senator says an agreement between Lockheed Corp., which manages Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of Texas could be a template for operating Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison made the comment after University of Texas officials and Sandia President C. Paul Robinson signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday.

Under that agreement, the laboratories will reimburse the University of Texas for independent peer review studies to assess Sandia's science and engineering programs.

"I think we are looking at the model at Sandia that I hope can be replicated at Los Alamos, where you have a corporate business organization in partnership with a university," Hutchison said.

She said Lockheed has shown at Sandia that you "have much better results, more efficiency and more innovation" when you put a business organization in charge of a lab.

Robinson said of the agreement, "We think it will become the strongest model for academic-industrial partnerships and a new positioning of all the national labs to move forward in this century." He also noted that Lockheed is the largest employer of University of Texas engineering graduates.

University of Texas officials are in talks with Lockheed about joining the corporation's planned bid against the University of California and possibly others to manage Los Alamos. The university's Board of Regents is scheduled to discuss the bid in a special session April 28.

Texas Chancellor Mark Yudof said they also consider the Sandia agreement to be a "national model" but said speculation on their decision about Los Alamos is "premature."

Sen. Pete Domenici also was present for the signing of the agreement in Hutchison's office.

The Albuquerque Republican said the Sandia-Texas agreement "will not cause ripples, but will be accepted and will end up being good for our country, good for the state of Texas and good for Sandia." Domenici left before Hutchison made her comments to reporters about the Los Alamos contract.

This piece is a powerful endorsement of the role the University of Texas could play in the future of Los Alamos, certainly by Senator Hutchison and, while not directly mentioning Los Alamos, by Senator Domenici as well.
Gee, you don't suppose UC has fallen out of favor, do you? I mean, they've done such a stellar job of managing LANL for the past 63 years. This last year alone was a pretty special demonstration of UC's premier managment skills. The way they took control of the situation when Nanos starting running amuck was awsome!
Comments from the just previous article are apropos:

"With this article and the prior post about Sandia being a potential model for LANL, I think it's rather obvious that if a Texas university bids for the contract it will win it. The retirement plan is as good as gone, especially with a Lockheed Martin that is adept at borrowing against pension funds. The Bush administration is 100% about rewarding its allies and cronies. Texas, home of the Bushes, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tom DeLay, and a red state will beat any California institution hands down. And no, it's not just about LANL mismanagement, it's really about Bush rewarding his buddies. Bummer."

"Done deal.
Look at the Morale-O-Meter (i.e., visits to The Blog).
Everyone who is capable has come to The Only Conclusion about The Contract--it will be LockMart+UT (even the Office of the President of UC/Bechtel knows it).
Nanos is here to the bitter end.
Read 'em and weep: aces over eights."
What is up with Pete talking about good for the state of Texas? Is he that scared of the UT Mafia? Last time I checked, he was a Senator from New Mexico...or has Texas decided to reclaim some territory? Does he know it is a done deal already?
A lot of people still don't seem to recognize how badly UC has blown their chances to win the next contract. Do you really think UC's complete inaction regarding Director Nanos' mismanagement of LANL has gone unnoticed?

UC, by leaving Nanos in charge of LANL long after it became apparent that he was not capable of making appropriate management decisions, in particular with regards to last July's shutdown, has pretty much proven that the next contract belongs to another organization.
One does have to wonder why our own Senator Dominici is not supporting us in our desire to stay with UC. Of course UC has done a lousy job, but why would we think UT/ LockMart would do a better job?
The fact is that LANL is way too much the center of attention for it to get much of anything done. We went from Star Wars to Nuclear Weapons to Homeland Defense to whatever we are doing now. Any of these tasks was enough to take years and years of work, but the country changes so quickly that nothing gets finished.
Stockpile stewardship may be vital but it isn't sexy. The politicians all want to use our "expertise" for the clamity du jour. Constant change of direction doesn't produce good work.
Unfortunately for those of us at LANL, Dominici sees us as a stone around his neck and not a resource. After all, he does have to line up behind the head of his party or face loss of pork for New Mexico. He would be out or office on his ear if the money quit coming in to the state.
Sadly, this all makes political sense, just not scientific sense.
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