Santa Fe New Mexican
Let’s hope Udall got labs’ attention
What’s this? A member of New Mexico’s congressional delegation casting a
vote that’s not blindly in support of Los Alamos and Sandia national
Yup. And LANL’s in the guy’s House district.
Democratic Rep. Tom Udall earlier this summer fought unsuccessfully to
save “ basic science” money he hoped scientists on “the Hill” would use on
alternative energy research. On Tuesday, he voted for an energy and
water appropriations bill that would cut $400 million from LANL and Sandia
during the fiscal year that starts in October.
Republican reaction was predictable: Udall’s threatening national
security, and his vote could lead to thousands of layoffs in Los Alamos and
Funny — we didn’t hear any of the latter moan from that party when LANL’s
private contractors pulled last year’s holiday-time, bottom-line-boosting
layoffs of Northern New Mexicans who do so much of the real work up there.
But now, comes the cry, some of the científicos involved in the arcane
research into purely destructive stuff might be looking over their
And through it all, we’re being fed the ancient line about these
brilliances’ inability to aim their expertise toward improving today’s
alternative-energy sources, or to take a strategic approach to entirely new
The scientific talent at both our state’s labs is enormous. To say those
people lack the flexibility and creativity to step back, then study ways to
give the world sustainable energy is to cast them as mad-scientist
The House cuts, most likely, will be restored in the Senate anyway — and
that’s both good and bad news: New Mexico’s economy won’t be dented — but
neither will the thick skulls of the hydrogen-bomber bent on churning out
even more Cold War weaponry.
To the extent that our national laboratories are secretly engaged in ways
to wipe out terrorism without killing off its hostages, or less-secretly
working to fulfill our country’s commitment to a reduced stockpile of
nuclear bombs, good for its administration and faculty.
But merely reinventing the wheel of destruction is a notion Congress isn’t
going to support forever.
From the House of Representatives have come several warnings to LANL
since last year’s election shook up Capitol Hill. Udall’s is only the latest
— but the most courageous; other representatives challenging our labs’
budgets don’t have bomb-promoting constituencies to coddle.
Did Udall, who used to lead the Democratic ticket statewide as Attorney
General, damage his chances for a senatorial run? Some Republicans are
Udall remains unlikely to run against Pete Domenici, even with the
senator’s presently fading popularity, which has him dancing like a
gunfire-prompted dude from a Hollywood Western when it comes to the war in
But if he did challenge the 75-year-old Domenici’s bid for a seventh term,
he’d likely find many New Mexicans between Rodeo and Ratón who respect his
honesty and forthrightness toward the labs — and who prefer his stand on
President Bush’s war to Domenici’s early-and-often support.
Add to that our state’s, and the rest of the country’s, weariness with a
corrupt administration, and Udall has little to fear. But Republicans ought
to be quaking in their boots.
Our district’s congressman, meanwhile, is feeling his way into the
responsibilities — and opportunities — of sitting on the Appropriations
Committee. Could it be that he’s seen the futility of handing LANL a blank
check, and that he’ll be back with bills spelling out exactly what the lab
should be doing on the energy/ global warming front?
From such proposals could come a resurgent LANL.
Los Alamos has the resources — and, we think, the adaptability — to serve
the Department of Energy in a mission bearing its name.