UT Touts Sizable Alliance As Bid to Run LANL Starts

By Adam Rankin
Albuquerque Journal
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The first-ever competition to run Los Alamos National Laboratory formally began Tuesday, with one of the bidding teams making a last-minute announcement it had formed an alliance with more than 30 universities.

The team headed by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas said the alliance would improve the team's strength in science and technology research.

It is going up against the University of California the only manager the lab has ever had and Bechtel National in a federal Department of Energy competition to capture the $2.2 billion-a-year LANL contract.

The winner will run the nation's first nuclear weapons research lab for a seven-year term, with a chance to extend the contract to a total of 20 years.

Both teams refused to disclose how much they proposed to charge the government for running LANL. The government has put a ceiling of $79 million on the fee, nearly 10 times the fee DOE now pays the University of California to run the lab.

UC has managed LANL for the government since 1943 and Lockheed has run DOE's Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque since 1993 and also runs Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishment.

"If you have a national laboratory, you need a national community of scientists and engineers to support it," said Mark Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas System, in announcing the alliance during a telephone news conference on Tuesday, the deadline for submitting bids.

"It is very important that this national laboratory not be insular," he said.

Winner by November

DOE is expected to name the winner in late November. Whoever is selected is expected to begin managing LANL by Dec. 1 and assume full operational control by June 1.

Also included in the competition is a longtime LANL watchdog, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, which submitted a joint bid to run the lab with California's Tri-Valley CARES, or Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

"We carried through with our threat to submit a bid," said Nuclear Watch executive director Jay Coghlan.

In their proposal, the watchdog groups propose to elevate basic science research and environmental remediation, while subordinating nuclear weapons work under a proposed nuclear non-proliferation directorate.

The University of California's management of LANL has faced criticism in recent years after a series of security and fiscal problems, prompting DOE to put the contract out to bid for the first time.

The competition for the lab has worried lab employees and others in the Los Alamos community, and there are fears of a major departure of lab personnel if UC with a lucrative pension plan and other benefits doesn't hold onto the contract.

The University of California's team submitted its bid, contained in 22 cartons, to DOE a day early on Monday afternoon, just to be sure it was in on time, said Michael Anastasio, the team's leader and proposed director of LANL.

Anastasio said the UC-Bechtel limited liability corporation, which includes Washington Group International and BWX Technologies, will be called Los Alamos National Security.

'Best of the best'

"A great team, a great proposal," Anastasio said, but he wouldn't divulge details on the team's bid, citing the highly competitive environment.

"Members of the team are already working at six of eight (DOE) sites that we manage," he said. "All of the issues that we have to face are ones that we are already facing."

C. Paul Robinson, former head of Sandia, said the Lockheed-UT team, which also includes Fluor Corp. and CH2M Hill, will be a fully integrated limited liability corporation called the Los Alamos Alliance.

Of his team's members, Robinson said: "They were chosen for their strengths and, as they proved to us during the proposal, they really are the best of the best."

Robinson will be director of LANL if the Lockheed-UT team wins.

The University of Texas and Lockheed's proposed university alliance, called the Network for Science and Technology Education and Research, will be a limited liability corporation, independent of LANL oversight and run by the University of Texas System.

UT's Yudof said the goal of the network will be to provide LANL with a broad base of scientific skills for research collaboration, peer review and recruiting sources for future lab scientists and engineers.

The network of universities which includes the University of Colorado, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, the universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona, the Colorado School of Mines, Johns Hopkins and Arizona State University have more than 51,000 faculty and 58,000 graduate students in science, engineering and health and oversee more than $7 billion in research.

New Mexico's three universities University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech and New Mexico State University were invited to join the network, but had already signed an exclusive agreement with UC, Yudof said.

Still, he said, the New Mexico schools will be included if the University of Texas team is successful in winning the contract.

"We made a determination in the range of what was the best value we thought we brought to the table," said Lockheed's Robinson.