Sunday, December 11, 2005

Editorial from the Albuquerque Journal

Publication:Jnl Final Edition 8/2005-today; Date:Dec 9, 2005; Section:Editorials; Page Number:16

Senator’s Claims May Nuke Lab Reputation

It seems inconceivable that employees at a federal nuclear weapons facility who were disciplined for security breaches would be rewarded with raises, bonuses and cash awards by the same managers who sanctioned them.

That’s precisely what occurred at Sandia National Laboratories two years ago, according to Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Sandia has yet to fully respond to Grassley’s well-documented accusations, but considerable damage to Sandia’s reputation has already been done.

Sandia disciplined a number of employees amid a rash of security breaches that included stolen computers, a missing set of keys to a high-security lab and guards caught sleeping on the job.

Grassley, a vocal critic of lax security at national nuclear facilities, claims:

Nine of Sandia’s 14 disciplined employees were immediately given cash bonuses.

Some disciplined employees received pay raises.

One employee who was suspended for five days received an $18,500 bonus three months later.

While on disciplinary leave, one employee was given a $3,000 “recognition award.”

Grassley blames former Sandia president C. Paul Robinson, who now heads up a Lockheed Martin Corp./University of Texas team competing with the University of California/Bechtel Corp. to run Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The long-term, multimillion-dollar Los Alamos management contract was supposed to have been announced Dec. 1, but the National Nuclear Security Administration announced an indefinite postponement just days before the deadline.

Grassley’s charges may end up affecting Los Alamos management contract deliberations, which would be unfortunate. On balance Lockheed Martin’s record at managing Sandia has been good. Arguably, it has been better than the University of California’s track record at Los Alamos.

Los Alamos, perhaps the world’s best known nuclear weapons facility, has been through its own high-profile security problems in recent years.

Grassley’s allegations warrant a full explanation from Sandia administrators and Lockheed executives who hope to manage another lab whose ability to keep secrets is synonymous with national security.

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