CAROL A. CLARK Monitor Senior Reporter
Circulating rumors of massive Los Alamos National Laboratory employee layoffs slated for June were contradicted by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Monday.
He said he had not been informed by LANL that the laboratory planned to lay anyone off. After consulting with LANL Director Michael Anastasio, Bingaman stated at a luncheon at the Research Park that Anastasio said there were no layoffs planned.
During his morning talk to lab employees, titled "Perspectives on Science and National Security from Washington, D.C." Bingaman got right to his basic message: The country needs to get its focus back on major long-term challenges and the laboratory plays an important role in those challenges.
Bingaman detailed three top challenges, including the following:
- determining the future needs of the nuclear stockpile;
- reducing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used; and
- refining the way the way energy is produced and transmitted.
"If you concentrate on the job at hand, whether it's maintaining our nuclear deterrence, stopping the flow of weapons of mass destruction or performing the most fundamental science on climate change, your work and the laboratory strength will prevail," Bingaman said.
"The NNSA has invested heavily to develop world-class science in such areas as nuclear physics, materials science, computational modeling and chemistry," he said.
One area where NNSA and the Office of Science have collaborated is the Center for Integrated Nanoscience Technologies. He said he believes LANL will continue to be one of the nation's premier national laboratories for performing science in the national interest.
"And one way to ensure that will happen is to strengthen the Department of Energy's Office of Science budget," Bingaman said. "For fiscal year 2008, that budget is projected to increase by 15 percent."
The technologies developed from this center, he said, should give Los Alamos a unique position in the NNSA for integrating nanoscience into its national security mission, whether it is for making nuclear weapons safe or in areas of non-proliferation to detect the flow of nuclear materials.
Speaking from the National Security Sciences Building Auditorium, Bingaman also told employees that LANL is making key contributions to genomics and helping address climate change through its carbon sequestration research.
Bingaman closed his talk by emphasizing what he called "the important work LANL employees do for the entire country."
"You work on missions of national importance across a wide range of problems," he said. "You have demonstrated to the country for more than 60 years your diverse capability and I believe you will continue to do so. More importantly, the management here at the laboratory believes you can do so in the future and I stand willing to help you, as well."
Following his talk at the laboratory, Bingaman spoke to community members at a luncheon in the Research Park, adding to his comments on the laboratory with a few key issues on the national agenda.
Immigration will be a priority before Congress recesses, he said, noting that there were three parts to the problem that needed work, how to better secure the borders, how to modernize immigration laws so that they are more realistic, and what to do about the 12 million illegal immigrants here today.
In education, he said the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, still needed to be reauthorized and the No Child Left Behind Act would need "substantial improvements" to get it into a "more workable form."
Asked about the war in Iraq, Bingaman said there is a "tug of war between congress and the President on a responsible way forward."
He said that congress was searching for a way to bring the troops home, but in "a responsible way that doesn't lead to violence and instability."
Monitor Assistant Editor Roger Snodgrass contributed to this story.