Friday, April 29, 2005

Texas Takes 2nd Look at Lab Contract; University, Lockheed Martin Might Team Up

Albuquerque Journal North
Friday, April 29, 2005

Texas Takes 2nd Look at Lab Contract; University, Lockheed Martin Might Team Up


By Brandi Grissom
The Associated Press

AUSTIN— The University of Texas System has renewed interest in managing the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In February, UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof recommended the system drop pursuit of a management contract for the nation's largest nuclear lab after a series of security breaches and after UT officials failed to find a corporate management partner.

Since then, Lockheed Martin, a likely management partner, has revived its intent to bid.

"Lockheed Martin's withdrawal as a potential partner in the bidding process for Los Alamos was a factor that weighed heavily in my earlier recommendation to forgo a potential bid," Yudof told regents at a meeting Thursday.

The system already has partnerships with Lockheed in research at Sandia National Laboratories, which Lockheed Martin manages for the Department of Energy.

UT regents heard testimony Thursday from those who support and oppose the system's possible involvement with the lab where the first nuclear bomb was developed more than a half century ago.

UT System spokesman Michael Warden said regents may opt to make a decision about whether to compete for the contract at their next regularly scheduled meeting in May or wait for DOE to issue a final request for proposals, expected May 15.

In the meantime, he said UT System officials are discussing a potential partnership with Lockheed Martin.

Supporters of a UT bid, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry's deputy chief of staff, Phil Wilson, say the research and economic opportunities the lab could provide would be invaluable to the UT System and Texas.

Opponents, including state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, want the system to back away from a partnership they say is tantamount to promotion of nuclear armament.

In July, UT officials formally expressed interest in a contract to manage Los Alamos. The federal nuclear weapons lab has been operated by the University of California System since it was established in 1943. The Department of Energy opened bidding on the contract after security and management problems.

The original contract with Los Alamos would have required the system to manage the entire workings of the lab where much of the nation's top-security weapons research takes place. The DOE is expected to change the contract, allowing for corporate management with academic oversight of research.

"This model in which industry is the managing partner and academia conducts research is the approach most likely to lead to satisfactory resolution of past problems and, more importantly, generate spectacular success in the future," said Bob Barnhill, UT System vice chancellor for research and technology transfer.

Neal Lane, a Rice University professor who has done work at Los Alamos for the past 30 years, said the UT System could reshape the embattled facility with a quality work force and emphasis on research.

"It's essential that a major university like the University of Texas have a leading role in guiding the laboratory in order to ensure the science remains among the very highest priorities of the laboratory," Lane said.

UT Austin President Larry Faulkner said the focus of officials deciding whether to pursue the Los Alamos bid should not be the opportunities it may provide to UT but rather the system's duty to the country.

"The nation needs a solution at Los Alamos," Faulkner said, "and that solution will involve some linkage to the academic world if it is to be effective."

Karen Hadden, chairwoman for Peace Action Texas, told the regents they should take a stand against nuclear weapons proliferation rather than participating in their development.

"Our role in the world should be to help take these weapons out of existence," she said.

Burnam downplayed the research and job opportunities that might be created, saying the danger of nuclear weapons created there far outweighs any positive results that might come from managing Los Alamos.

He called for more openness in the UT System's decision-making process and requested reports on the fiscal impact a role in management of the lab could have on UT.

"This process is lacking, and the product is dangerous," he said.

Comments:
LANL folks are right to be concerned about the impact of a new LANL contractor. As a former Argonne National Laboratory (University of Chicago) employee, I have seen the types of things that can happen. The Idaho portion of ANL was recently consumed by the Idaho National Laboratory which is now operated by the Battelle Energy Alliance. From an ANL-West perspective it was a very hostile takeover. Strangely enough, our new Lab Director is also a former Admiral. In an almost daily occurrence, former ANL folks are informed that our previous work and procedures are now considered to be unacceptable. Our benefits have changed significantly in the negative direction. Most of our operations are now shut down for “safety reasons.” Be afraid, be very afraid. Call your ANL-West peers for confirmation.
 
I have to laugh whenever I read the complaints from LANL "scientists" about life after UC. Fuck UC. UC's management of the weapons labs is hopelessly corrupt, and it has been for many years.

What would you expect of Nanos or any other appratchik appointed by the scoundrels at UC?

In the end, the only reason "scientists" at LANL don't want UC to go is to because of the pension scheme. OK, so require another contractor to match or better that scheme. End of complaints. End of UC. End of UC's shameless mismanagement of the weapons labs. End of UC's treasonous behaviour at the labs.

I spent 20 years at LLNL. The corruption there was in-your-face corruption. Insider trading. Land deals. Out-and-out lawbreaking; e.g., obstruction of justice, for which a former LLNL employee (Dee Kotla) was just awarded $2M by a jury. UC is going for a THIRD trial in that case, having now lost two jury trials in a row -- all, of course, US taxpayer funded.

As I said, F* UC, oK? It should be called the "University of Can I Forn Ya"? Gov. Schwarzenegger ought to "governate" that relationship, and put all this bullshit to rest. UC is a California state organisation. Just what it's doing managing federal facilities is beyond me; let alone a federal facility in New Mexico! (Incidentally, does anyone know if UC has ever claimed sovereign immunity in N.M. state court against a claim by a LANL employee? I would think UC has no standing whatsoever as a public entity in New Mexico. But then, Bill Richardson has proven himself a reliable UC ass kisser, even after UC destroyed his federal career.)
 
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