UT System won't get to manage Sandia labs

By Sharon Jayson
Saturday, December 14, 2002

A yearlong effort by the University of Texas System to win the right to manage Sandia National Laboratories, a nuclear weapons and bioterrorism research complex, ended abruptly Friday.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abrahams dashed UT's hopes when he announced that current manager Lockheed Martin Corp. would get a five-year extension on its contract. That means UT is shelving its work.

"In some respects, some of that effort isn't of great value at this point," said Charles Sorber, an environmental engineer and UT-Austin faculty member assigned to coordinate the system's proposal.

Last November, UT System officials announced they would spend up to $4 million to persuade the federal agency to let it manage the complex, one of nine U.S. Department of Energy labs, if the contract was put up for bid. In January, UT announced it had hired an outside consulting firm to help develop its proposal and assigned Sorber to the Sandia effort. UT had budgeted $1 million for the effort over the past year.

But Sorber said there were inklings that the contract would be extended. The federal department's announcement had been expected months ago.

"When we began the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1 and nothing had been decided, then all of a sudden some of the options seemed to have disappeared," he said.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620