Sep 26, 2007

Richardson calls on Congress to fund LANL/Sandia

CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor

Gov. Bill Richardson got serious in a letter to members of the Congressional Appropriation Committees Tuesday with regard to the looming funding crisis facing New Mexico's two national labs. FY 2007 ends Sunday and many jobs may depend on the budget's outcome.

"As governor of New Mexico, I am writing to you to express my deep concern over the proposed appropriation for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which would signify cuts to these most important national security resources," Richardson stated in his letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd, D-Nev., House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey, D-WI, and six other Congressional Committee chairmen and ranking members.

"I urge you, while working on the FY08 Energy and Water Appropriations bills, to take up the Senate funding levels that will allow the labs to continue their vital scientific work. In addition, as the end of the funding year nears, I respectfully request that you fund the Continuing Resolution at FY07 levels to allow (LANL and SNL) to continue their mission without interruption until Congress completes its work on the FY08 funding bill."

LANL spokesman Kevin Roark addressed Richardson's letter during an interview this morning.

"We greatly appreciate the strong support from Gov. Richardson," Roark said. "He has clearly been a champion of the national security capabilities at both laboratories for a long time. The letter very succinctly describes the capabilities of both labs and we greatly appreciate the kind words."

Richardson stated in his letter that LANL and SNL are a key part of America's national defense and vital to New Mexico's economy. He added that while both laboratories have had a traditional responsibility to assure the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent, they have evolved to add new areas of innovation from assessing border and transportation security to improving health, energy and infrastructure security, and from countering nuclear and biological threats to supporting the physical security of first responders and America's armed forces at home and abroad.

"While the U.S. Congress continues to deliberate on the future needs for nuclear weaponry and nuclear power, I believe all parties recognize the threat posed by loose nuclear material in a post 9/11 world, and the ongoing need to be able to assess the national security threat presented by countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons," Richardson said in his letter. "With over six decades of experience, (LANL) is consistently called upon to access and analyze nuclear tests, such as those recently conducted by North Korea."

The governor told committee members that LANL also plays a critical role in recovering sealed radio-active sources and keeping the materials used in the nuclear "dirty bombs" out of the hands of terrorists and has retrieved more than 15,000 sources of radioactive material from medical and educational facilities.

The governor added that the labs' security research is also developing techniques to defeat roadside bombs and countermeasures to nuclear and biological terrorist threats.

"The 12,488 LANL employees and the 8,600 SNL employees include some of the best and most highly awarded scientists in the world," Richardson stated. "LANL scientists have produced over 16,000 peer reviewed technical articles in the last 10 years, the highest of any Department of Energy national lab."

Richardson mentioned that the labs are expanding the borders and limits of science and engineering. He said while America's leadership in math and science has slipped, SNL has two of the 10 fastest computers in the world - Red Storm and Thunderbird - adding that LANL is developing the world's first computer capable of processing one million billion calculations per second.

Richardson told committee leaders that LANL scientists have helped complete the 100th genomic sequence and helped discover how hepatitis-C virus replicates itself in human liver cells. He explained that LANL operates the world HIV database that more than 10,000 researchers draw on in their efforts to find a cure for HIV.

"But perhaps the area that holds the greatest promise for (the labs) is in the development of renewable energy." Richardson said. "LANL is currently using cutting-edge nanotechnology to develop highly efficient solar cells. This breakthrough could revolutionize the solar energy field by making solar cells economically competitive with fossil fuels in producing electricity."

He added that LANL is an international leader in fuel cell research critical to developing a hydrogen economy and is working with companies to improve technologies for enhanced and clean use of fossil fuels and expanding energy conservation efforts - reducing dependence on foreign oil.

Richardson called LANL and SNL "international leaders in nanotechnology" and said they are developing light, "super-strong" materials to make more efficient use of energy resources for automobiles and aircraft.

"LANL and SNL each have unparalleled facilities, whose loss or reduction would impede scientific progress across our nation," Richardson said. "The current appropriation would mean a dramatic cut for (both labs), and a significant step backwards in assessing global nuclear threats and reducing loose nuclear material. The current appropriation would also lose an opportunity to reassign the best scientists in the country onto the toughest scientific problem of our time - moving our nation to a renewable energy future."

As Congress continues its transition to a post-Cold War and post-9/11 strategy, Richardson urged committee leaders not to "shortsightedly curtail innovation and scientific advance at America's leading national labs."

He called on them to maintain the labs' national security missions and to challenge its scientists to help build America's renewable energy future.

"They've faced tough challenges before and have risen to meet them," Richardson said. "I urge you to call on these scientists to take on this new mission."


Anonymous said...

I guess Mikey and Bill aren't on the same page. Mikey is probably pretty pissed at Bill right now since LANS would be a lot better off if they were paid $79 million to manage a LANL that's half the size of today's. I see that Bill had nothing to say about all the limited term, students, and contractors that were already shown the door. He never did understand that students are important because they are LANL's future.

Anonymous said...

So I still wonder why the "layoff" of ~600 subcontractors (non-LANS staff) that occurred early in FY07 was not considered "workforce restructuring" and subject to the law in Section 3161 of the 1993 NDAA.

It seems to me that there should have been 120 days notice. But I heard of one-day notice to KSL contractors. Perhaps it was 120 dog-days?

Anonymous said...

Bill the panderer Richardson. What else is new? Money means campaign contributions. So why not make a strong statement in support of the nation's wealthiest community? For an ambitious politician lacking a conscience or a principaled bone in his body (other than the principal of never turning down a campaign contribution), that's a no brainer. Better late than never I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know this is way off topic, but does anyone else get "certificate errors" when trying to access the pension website?

Pinky and The Brain said...

Try leaving off the "www", that should make your browser happy. Just use:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! You are princes among mice!

Anonymous said...

Richardson is arrogant, lazy, and stupid (really, really stupid). He has shown since before his stint as Secretary of DOE that he is no friend of LANL. Does anyone remember when he held Udall's job as third district US Representative, and would give a speech to Los Alamos and one to Santa Fe in the same day on the same subject, and take two exactly opposite positions, secure in the knowledge that the news would report only the Santa Fe speech? What a jerk!

Pinky and The Brain said...

De nada.

Anonymous said...

Poster 8:15 PM, the whole reason that contractors are utilized at LANL is because they can be quickly hired and fired. It goes with the territory. No 120 day notice is required and you'll make no progress in arguing that point.

On the positive side, when LANS does get back into hiring mode, it will likely be contractors who are the first to be put back on the job.

Anonymous said...

"They've faced tough challenges before and have risen to meet them," Richardson said. "I urge you to call on these scientists to take on this new mission."

LANS has no desire to tackle these tough new missions. They appear to be planning on riding their nuclear weapons "pony" in the same manner as Sam Pikens of "Dr. Strangelove" fame... straight into the ground, oblivious to the budgetary dangers, while yelling "Yippy Ki Yeah!" all the way down.

Changing the lab's mission is such hard work. Why bother, says Mike? He'll let someone else do the heavy lifting after he's left LANL and retired on his rich pension.

Anonymous said...

10:46 pm: "Changing the lab's mission is such hard work. Why bother, says Mike?"

You think Mike can "change the Lab's mission"? Yuk, yuk. Mike knows, as do you, you jerk, that only congress can change the Lab's mission, by changing what programs are funded. Yep that same congress that funds the nuclear weapons program in preference to other work at LANL. Get the facts straight, yahoo. Or at least, be a little more subtle in your disingenuousness.

Anonymous said...

OK, here's the REAL Bill Richardson. In case you haven't yet figured it out, the Democrats hate the nuclear weapons labs and are working overtime to shut them down. Bill and Tom Udall must be best buddies.

Read carefully, my Democratic friends at LANL. Your jobs are about to be tossed on the political pyre by your own party.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gov.'s Plan Would Slash N.M. Weapons - Albuquerque Journal

By Jeff Jones And John Fleck

Slashing the number of nuclear warheads by 90 percent. Cutting the nuclear weapons budget by more than half. Eliminating the nation's newest warhead.

Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential campaign Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to "modernize the military" and save more than $57 billion a year in the process.

Among the collateral damage would be several projects with major ties to New Mexico. In addition to cuts in nuclear programs— the lifeblood of New Mexico's national labs— Richardson's plan would reduce the number of F-22 Raptor fighter jets the U.S. plans to buy, cancel the CV-22 Osprey and scrub the Airborne Laser Program.

The effect of the proposed cuts on New Mexico is not clear, but they would be substantial. Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, which employ 22,000 New Mexicans, get the bulk of their funding from the nuclear weapons program.

Concerning some of the cuts, campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds said, "The governor is aware this may have an impact in New Mexico. ... We're looking beyond parochial politics with an emphasis on the greater good for the country."

His plan also proposes reducing the number of warheads from 10,000 to 1,000; slowing the Army's development of unproven future combat systems; and canceling a class of submarines.

The campaign released a two-page sketch of Richardson's defense reorganization plan Wednesday, promising more details when Richardson gives a "major" policy speech on the matter next week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Reynolds said Richardson envisions using some of the estimated savings of $57.14 billion a year to beef up U.S. military special forces and intelligence agencies and re-equip National Guard troops in need of new gear due to the ongoing war in Iraq.

Reynolds said some of the savings also would go to improve health care and education at home.

Anonymous said...

9/26/07 11:07 PM, there's some truth to both statements, so quit piking each other. The NW budget comes from a stroke of the Congressional pen, because we are by mission an NNSA nuclear weapons lab. But most of the WFO at LANL is funded not by Congressional line item but by grantsmanship or other legwork on the part of LANL staff. That's what makes the Director's comments about "sitting back and waiting to see what Congress tells us to do" so heartbreakingly laughable.

Anonymous said...

11:07 asks, You think Mike can "change the Lab's mission"?

You know what's sad about this comment? The CEO of any other corporation besides LANS would be expected to *lead* the corporation into new directions when its existing "product line" began losing "sales."

Instead Mikey is content to watch the the good ship LANL slowly sink under the waves.

Anonymous said...

"Instead Mikey is content to watch the the good ship LANL slowly sink under the waves." (6:56 AM)

And why not? Mike gets a big, fat paycheck either way. Might as well make it as easy money.

By the time LANL has gone under, Mike will be enjoying his cushy retirement at a 5-star resort on the Riveria. In fact, Mike is probably making plans as we speak to leave LANL and start taking retirement in the next year, two at most.

And our next Director? Why, Terry Wallace, of course. Don't be gullible about all that is occuring at LANL right before your eyes.

Anonymous said...

"Instead Mikey is content to watch the the good ship LANL slowly sink under the waves." - 9/27/07 6:56 AM

That's because Mike and his buddies at the top aren't planning to go down with this ship. They have golden lifeboats waiting from them at the end.