Friday, June 23, 2006

Off-Budget Nuclear Weapons Lab Financing Scheme Disclosed

Please post this press release anonymously. At the bottom is an article stating a rebuttal from LANL. Contact Nuke Watch to get more details of this fascinating story for the blog. thanks.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 21, 2006
Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 505.989.7342, jay@nukewatch.org
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 505.989.7352, scott@nukewatch.org
Bob Civiak, Independent Consultant, 603.448.5327, theciv@erols.com

Off-Budget Nuclear Weapons Lab Financing Scheme Disclosed:
U.S. Postal Service to Fund Construction of New Los Alamos Science Complex;
Legally Mandated Federal Environmental Review Not Conducted

Santa Fe, New Mexico –Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is implementing a previously hidden plan to spend U.S. Postal Service (USPS) funds to build a new 400,000 square foot “Science Complex.” According to Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, the group that discovered the proposal, construction is slated to begin in early 2007, even though the Lab has not prepared a federally required environmental impact analysis for the project.

Documents made public by Nuclear Watch show that approximately ten percent of the Lab’s total work force is to be relocated to the new facility. The purpose of the Science Complex is to “Support [nuclear weapons] Stockpile Stewardship’s related and applied scientific research.” The cost of the project is unknown because it is not included in Los Alamos’ U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) budget.

The hidden USPS funded project was disclosed after Nuclear Watch filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking release of Los Alamos’ “Ten Year Comprehensive Site Plans” for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006. Previously, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency and owner of LANL, had made public a Ten Year Plan with more than 40% of its contents blacked out. In response to Nuclear Watch’s litigation, NNSA released the Plans without redaction.

The full Plans revealed that the NNSA has developed “alternative financing (e.g., third party) methods” for new facilities that were not included in the DOE’s $6.4 billion annual budget for its nuclear weapons activities. To fund the Los Alamos Science Complex, the NNSA executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Postal Service in February 2004 that “authorized the USPS, as a third party, to assist in the development of the two buildings and parking [for the Science Complex] to meet the needs of the DOE/NNSA.” As justification, NNSA cited a vaguely worded federal law that authorizes the USPS to furnish property and services to executive branch agencies and vice versa.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch, commented, “Los Alamos’s greed for new facilities seems insatiable. The Lab’s budget for nuclear weapons programs has almost doubled since the end of the Cold War, yet it wants the Postal Service to subsidize a new Science Complex to support expanding nuclear weapons research and production. Two major questions must be addressed before this project can be built. What is Congress, which has the sole constitutional power to authorize and fund major federal projects, going to do about this “back door” financing gimmick? And, two, how can the project proceed without the public environmental review required by the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?” An exhaustive search by Nuclear Watch has found no existing NEPA process underway for the Los Alamos Science Complex.

Bob Civiak is a former budget examiner of DOE programs at the federal Office of Management and Budget and consultant to Nuclear Watch. He noted, “During my ten years at OMB, DOE sites regularly proposed similar third party financing schemes. They were universally rejected, because such schemes reduce financial accountability, create an obligation for future spending without congressionally appropriated budget authority, and increase the cost of the project.”

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch Program Director, added, “Ironically, USPS customer service has been bitterly criticized by New Mexicans during the last half-year. The Postal Service’s general excuse has been that it can’t afford to hire more employees. How can USPS then justify subsidizing major new facilities at a nuclear weapons lab that will cost unknown hundreds of millions of dollars?”

###

Relevant excerpts from the LANL Ten Year Comprehensive Site Plans are available at
http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/LANL_ScienceCenter.pdf (700 KB)


URL: http://www.abqjournal.com/north/470325north_news06-22-06.htm

Thursday, June 22, 2006
LANL Wants New Science Complex
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
Los Alamos National Laboratory wants a new 400,000-square-foot science complex, and it's reaching out to another federal agency to help make the three new buildings a reality, the lab confirmed Wednesday.
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said the lab is close to signing a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Postal Service. Under the agreement, the Postal Service would help LANL find a third party to build the complex that could house about 1,300 scientists­ roughly 10 percent of the lab's workforce, he added. The new complex, which would be built on lab property, would then be leased by LANL, Roark said.
But any allegations that the Postal Service would fund the project itself or that LANL is going through the back door to get the facility are absolutely false, said Roark, referring to a news release about the project issued Wednesday afternoon by Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.
"Los Alamos's greed for new facilities seems insatiable," Nuclear Watch director Jay Coghlan stated in the release. "The lab's budget for nuclear weapons programs has almost doubled since the end of the Cold War, yet it wants the Postal Service to subsidize a new science complex to support expanding nuclear weapons research and production."
Citing documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the watchdog organization alleges that the lab was implementing a plan to spend Postal Service funds to build the new complex. Nuclear Watch also alleged that Congress was improperly bypassed and that a federally required public environmental review wasn't conducted.
"We have been pursuing this idea of a science complex since about 2002," Roark said. "Everything about it has been public. Everything about it has been above board and in full compliance with federal regulations.
"But absolutely no Postal Service money is involved in any way. We are simply seeking a memorandum of understanding with the Postal Service to work with us to find a third party to help us with this facility issue."
Coghlan said Roark's explanation seemed disingenuous to him, noting that the documents obtained by his organization were explicit about the Postal Service's role in the project.
"We're not buying the argument of the lab's public relations hack," he said.
Roark said the project is an effort to upgrade lab infrastructure, not increase it. In fact, he said, the lab has made a commitment to take almost 2 million square feet of lab space off-line because the facilities are old or no longer needed.
The lab wants to partner with the Postal Service on finding a third party to build the facility because the Postal Service has lots of experience doing that, Roark said. He said the memorandum of understanding could be signed soon, and construction could conceivably begin in 2007 if everything were to fall into place.
Roark said Congress doesn't need to sign off on a project like this since a third party would be paying to build it. He added that the money to lease the complex would come out of the lab's operating budget.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has already signed off on the project, Roark said. He also said that contrary to what Nuclear Watch contends, the project was included in the 2004 sitewide environmental impact statement.
Leasing space is routine, Roark said.



Comments:
This funding negotiation with the USPS was initiated pre-shutdown, pre-contract change over. I strongly suspect that LANL will not be needing all that additional floor space now, although I bet LANS would love to get some shiny new buildings to house all the Bechtel, BWXT, and WG people who will soon be directing pit production activities.
 
Heck I remember hearing about this during John Browne's time. Nothing secret about it.. just not talked about a lot becuase a lot of other hassles. This is a very standard way for buildings to be built for government agencies.

The FBI and Border Patrol use this sort of construction all the time because the Postal Office does not have to deal with the 2.9 million dollar limit everyone else does. [This seems to be the limit on any building that does not require a specific line item by Congress.]

I don't know why Nuke Watch put this out as a 24 point headline. It does them very little service because

A) Anyone who knows how the government builds offices would have known this is the common way for large offices to be built.

B) Trying to spray this out as a "Nuke" problem.. does a big dis-service to who was going to be housed in that building.. all the people who do NON-NUKE science! This shows that the article was not well researched or sadly specifically biased to try and get press when they had nothing else to say.
 
This is typical of the half-truths (and often blatant lies) that come out of Nuclear Watch.
 
Well, NukeWatch, I was thinking of working on peaceful technology in that new S&T building for turning cow chips into a potent source of electrical power. Now that you've gone and mucked up this whole S&T building deal, I guess I'll just have to bid my time designing bigger nuclear weapons. Thanks a lot for a job well done. Your mis-guided efforts should help to turn LANL into one giant pit factory before too long. You can feel really proud about that.
 


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