Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Comments on the LANL Bid

Hi -

Comments and criticism (favorable and unfavorable) welcome.

Rick Sterling, rsterling@ssl.berkeley.edu


Los Alamos, Lockheed Martin and US Militarism

"The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience ?...we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." (Pres. D. Eisenhower, farewell address, 17 Jan 1961)

This warning by General Eisenhower seems very prophetic today. It is highly likely that the world's largest military contractor will soon take over management of the legendary nuclear weapons facility at Los Alamos. It's a sign of how much things have changed that there is barely a mention of concern. The corporate media, which made missing disks at Los Alamos Lab national news, is quiet. Politicians who created an opportunistic witch-hunt of Wen Ho Lee are silent. Meanwhile a hand-picked panel comprised entirely from a single agency goes through the motions of evaluating whether the University of California team or Lockheed Martin (LM) team should be the future manager for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). They are scheduled to announce the contract winner by December 1.

First a little background on Los Alamos:
During the height of WWII President Roosevelt authorized urgent work to build an atomic bomb. Professor Robert Oppenheimer of UC Berkeley was selected to lead and manage the effort. In a truly remarkable effort the "Manhattan Project" completed the design and successful test of an atomic bomb in just 27 months. It was an amazing achievement yet many leading scientists expressed concern when the bomb was dropped on two Japanese cities killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Even more scientists expressed opposition as Los Alamos and Livermore Labs continued to design and produce nuclear weaponry over the decades since then. More recently the work at the labs has included pure science, stewardship of the stockpile, and the development of means to test the weaponry without a physical test. Through the ups and downs the laboratories have been dutifully managed by the University of California.

But times are changing. A new breed of military hawks has assumed full power in the US. They argue that the the 21st Century should be the "new American century" with US interests prevailing around the globe. Domination of space and usable nuclear weapons are priorities. They also have a strong preference for privatizing government and public service sectors.

Beginning with the Wen Ho Lee affair, there have been a series of highly publicized `scandals' at Los Alamos. In parallel with the intense publicity, much of it overblown, there has risen the call to privatize the management of the nuclear weapons labs. Thus we see the University of California team now competing against Lockheed Martin team. Both teams have corporate and university elements. Does it matter who manages Los Alamos National Laboratory? I think it does. The outcome may influence US foreign policy, international relations and the likelihood of nuclear war in the coming years. It will affect the character of the lab, percentage of pure science research and prospects for the lab to evolve and tackle other issues.

In 1946 General Eisenhower said, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity." His experience made him hate war and be wary of war proponents and profiteers. Lockheed Martin is just such a war proponent and profiteer. Sometimes called 'the company that runs the empire', Lockheed Martin has an incestuous relationship with the Bush Administration. The Republican Party foreign policy platform was written by LM Vice Pres Bruce Jackson. The document "Rebuilding America's Defenses" which guides current US military strategy was principally written by former LM Communications Director, Thomas Donnelly. The current National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley comes from the law firm which represents Lockheed Martin. Lynn Cheney is a former member of the LM Board of Directors.

Eisenhower was concerned that military corporations would use their influence to profit through conflict and warfare. Intelligence, reports and policies could be influenced by the corporation's profit motive.

L-M influence and consequences can be seen in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As we now know, intelligence was grossly distorted. The result is the current military - political situation which even most conservatives acknowledge is a disaster. Lockheed Martin, on the other hand, has done very well. Business is booming. Prior to the war their stock was selling for about $40 per share. Now its value is over $60 - a 50% increase in just two years while most stocks went down.

Lockheed Martin's influence extends from the White House to Congress. Heather Wilson is the New Mexico Representative covering Los Alamos. According to www.opensecrets.org , LM is her largest donor, giving twice as much as the next contributor. Is it any surprise that she has pushed resolutions calling for more nuclear weapons funding? Would anyone be surprised if she was favorable to the LM bid to take over Los Alamos National Laboratory? Lockheed Martin donates strategically to both Senators from New Mexico. Only the most naive person could think these donations do not influence the politicians.

The process of selecting the future management shows a very "LM friendly" approach. After the management contract was first offered by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Lockheed Martin announced that it would not be bidding. This sent shock waves through NNSA and LM's friends in Congress. NNSA consulted with LM then revised the rules and contract to LM's liking. The cost of managing Los Alamos will go from about $8M/yr under UC to about $79M/yr in the future, a truly amazing increase especially since one of the goals is `efficiency'.

Currently there is a panel called the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) which is evaluating the bids of the UC and LM teams. The composition of the SEB suggests there will be little independence or debate. NNSA Director Brooks appointed NNSA attorney Przybylek to head the evaluation committee. He in turn appointed all the committee members who are all from NNSA. Why are there not representatives from the LANL science and technical staff on the evaluation board? Why are there not independent representatives from the military, academia and industry? On a decision of this significance it would be appropriate. Instead, the entire committee is comprised of NNSA staff members, people with ultimately the same boss, working in an Administration known to prize 'loyalty' above all else. Instead of an objective evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the management teams, it seems guaranteed that the pre-selected favorite will 'win'. If so, it will be a milestone on the road of misplaced power, making conflict and war more likely.

President Eisenhower also said, "This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." (April 16, 1953.)


You can criticize Lockheed Martin all you like. However, your criticisms do not address the fact that The University of California has done an abysmal job of running LANL, especially over the past 20 years. UC lost the contract through their incompetence. Some entity much better at running a facility like Los Alamos is now required to clean up the mess that UC has left us with.

You should probably consider leaving your sheltered surroundings and come to Los Alamos to gather a few facts before attempting to write your next article about it. Your naivete and inexperience keeps showing in those blind criticisms of LM that seem to be the focus of everything you write. What you need to do is come here, find staff who have been around for a while and listen to what they have to say. Hear their fist-hand stories of how UC has damaged this institution.

Then you might consider writing another piece about our place again.
Finknottle is correct.

Rick Sterling should confine his postings to things that he has first-hand knowledge about. LBL is a pure scientific laboratory, sufficiently small so as to be below the radar screen of scumbag congressmen.

Rick Sterling has not experienced what it is to work in a classified environment, live in a company town, and be quite far away from the niceties of a major metropolitan area.

DOE did not put the LBL contract out for bid for three reasons:
1. LBL is on UC property.
2. LBL is located in the Peoples Republic of Berkeley.
2. No organization of significant size would bid on such a small contract.
Your headline didn't fool me. As soon as I saw the phrase, "US Militarism," I knew what to expect in the article. First we bash our nation's defenses by calling it "militarism", then we bash a private corporation that supports that "militarism."

Evil Corporations! They're ALL evil, because they make money! Millions and Billions of dollars! And especially evil are the corporations that feed off the "militarism" of the country, er, ah I mean "administration."

Yawn... I'm just glad we're sufficiently "militarized" to protect ourselves. Or are we?
Tshirege van Otowi,

Cool name you've got there.

Rick Sterling has every right to post here, but there is one "fact" that hit me upside the head like a dead fish out of Monty Python. Republican U.S. Representative Heather Wilson does NOT represent Los Alamos, but rather, Albuquerque, where Sandia National Laboratories, run by Lockheed Martin, reside. Democrat Tom Udall is Los Alamos' Representative, and probably quietly (at best) supports the UC/Bechtel team.

I doubt that Bechtel is any less a corporate giant in the military-industrial complex than Lockheed Martin. After Halliburton, Bechtel is the next-largest junkyard dog at the corporate trough located in the quagmire of Iraq. (Oops, sorry--scratch the word "quagmire" and replace it with "morass.")

Whichever team "wins" the contract to run LANL, the place will change. And UC will have even less influence over the neo-geopolitics lately coming out of Washington, DC. Rick Sterling is right to be worried about the LANL contract, but I fear there are much bigger calamities headed our way.
In my talking to people, the main reason people are supporting L-M is because we are sick of all the impediments that prevent us from doing our work. UC has a proven record of failure, so we choose unknown rather than proven bad. As far as the attacks on Rick Sterling, maybe he is better off than we are to be at LBL instead of LANL. I check the LBL job site frequently....
OK! Well maybe you might be better off at LBL. BUT, you will have to live in the People's Republic of Berkeley!
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