Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lab Foundation Deserves Credit



The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation caught some grief recently because the lab's manager, the University of California, has been billing the federal government (read taxpayers) for its contributions to the foundation— the lion's share of the organization's budget. That problem was that the reimbursement wasn't strictly provided for in the contract between UC and the Department of Energy, according to federal auditors.

Foundation officials say the wording of the contract, through some oversight, doesn't reflect the actual terms of the funding agreement between the DOE and UC that was put in place when the foundation was established in 1997. At that time, foundation officials say, DOE agreed that as lab manager, the university could pass the costs of funding the foundation's scholarship and education programs along to the taxpayer. To satisfy the auditors, the contract language will have to be changed, and foundation officials are confident that will soon happen.

Critics have made much of what appears to be a technicality. What they want to imply is that while UC and the lab are reaping the public relations benefits of the foundation's largess— it subsidizes math, science, tutoring, mentoring and other programs in area secondary schools and doles out almost half a million bucks a year in college scholarships to area youth— it costs them nothing because the taxpayers ultimately foot the bill.

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