Sep 20, 2007

'Save Our Science' rally set for Friday

CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor

SANTA FE - Concerned citizens of New Mexico have organized a non-partisan "Save Our Science" rally to take place at noon Friday on the steps of the Capitol.

"We seek to impress our political leadership on the importance of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to both the world's science and our state's economy," said LANL scientists Ron Dolin and Srinivasan Srivilliputhur.

In a letter to elected officials throughout New Mexico, Dolin and Srivilliputhur ask for support of LANL and Sandia.

"We, a non-partisan group of concerned citizens including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, are dismayed by the projected cuts in the Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories' budgets proposed for FY2008 by the United States House of Representative Committee on Appropriations," their letter stated.

"This Committee's disappointing budget proposal undermines our national and homeland security during a crucial time in our nation's history when we are locked in a global struggle against extremism, terror, and nuclear weapons proliferation. Effective defense against aggression requires continued investment in the world class science and technology being developed at Los Alamos and Sandia."

The scientists praised those members of New Mexico's federal congressional delegation who have joined in a bipartisan effort to help preserve national and homeland security. They have circulated a petition locally and to the rest of the federal delegation to unequivocally support the continued mission of the nation's premier national laboratories.

"We thank those members of the New Mexico state congressional delegation who support the science, mission, and people at Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories and petition you to draft a bipartisan resolution supporting our state's premier national laboratories," the scientists said.

They thanked elected officials in northern New Mexico who support Los Alamos and Sandia and who appreciate "the intellectual, cultural, and economic impact the laboratories have within area communities."

"We petition you to draft bipartisan resolutions in your councils supporting our laboratories and the people who provide so much pride, prestige and promise to our communities," the scientists said in the letter.

Dolin said Santa Fe County and the City of Espanola have issued resolutions supporting LANL and he has approached members of the Los Alamos County Council requesting they do the same.

It has been somewhat difficult for the scientists to gain nonpartisan momentum for Friday's rally because Dolin is chairman of the Republican Party of Los Alamos and ran against Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in the last election and Srivilliputhur is on the board of the Republican Party of Los Alamos.

Dolin said this morning that one city councilor and one county councilor from Santa Fe, both Democrats, have agreed to speak at the rally, adding the he also has received many e-mails from LANL employees expressing their support for the rally.

"As young officers of the Republican Party, we are learning a lot about grassroots politics and party politics," Dolin said. "The citizens of Albuquerque all come together every time there is a threat of closing Kirtland AFB. We chose the Capitol as a symbol of our great Democracy and naively thought Democrats and Independents would join us in this effort - how could they not support the lab?"

Srivilliputhur explained that what they hope to accomplish at the rally is to raise awareness.

"We want people in decision making positions to know we care," he said. "This is a great laboratory to work for and I just want to raise my voice."

Dolin agreed, adding, "If you feel powerless, here is something you can do. Scientists aren't generally known for rallies and this is a little outside our comfort zone but it's something we can do."

The scientists are still accepting sponsors and encourage individuals and groups of any political persuasion to participate in the rally.

The rally will be held on the Old Santa Fe Trail side of the Capitol, with free parking across the street. For information, call 695-0149 or 695-0677 or e-mail


Anonymous said...

"As young officers of the Republican Party, we are quite interested in retaining LANL's pit production money," Dolin said.

Greg said...

I calculate the portion of the difference between the House and Senate markup for LANL due entirely to policy differences concerning pit production as $251.4 M. This is composed of a $106.3 M difference in pit manufacturing and certification operating funds at LANL, a $95.6 M difference in CMRR (Chemistry and Metallurgy Research and Replacement) funds, and a $49.5 M difference in NMSSUP (Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrades Project) funds. I do not believe there is any justification for these capital projects apart from pit production mission and indeed apart from the RRW (Reliable Replacement Warhead) program, which would design the pits to be made at TA-55.

Thus it appears that more than half the difference between the House bill as passed and the proposed (but not yet passed) Senate bill can be attributed to the House's efforts to keep LANL from rushing into becoming this nation's new "right-sized" Rocky Flats.

This is obviously much more than a “jobs” issue. It is serious policy choice that needs to be explored and it has serious implications for the economy, society, and culture of the entire region, not to mention Los Alamos County and the laboratory itself.

Ron Dolin, the co-organizer of Friday’s rally, spoke out against pit production during his campaign. In "Reactions to LANS' projected belt-tightening roll in," by Carol Clark (LA Monitor, September 28, 2006), we find:

[begin quote] Ron Dolin, a New Mexico congressional candidate who works at LANL, expressed his concern with the situation in a news release this morning... "...unfortunately [the announced LANL contractor layoff] represents just the first of many shoes to drop."

Dolin said an equally large issue looming on the horizon is whether or not Los Alamos will remain a research institute or become a Rocky Flats-like bomb factory.

This issue has implications not only to residents of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and Santa Fe Counties, but to all of New Mexico," he said. "The reason our government runs enormous deficits and unimaginable national debt is the same reason Los Alamos is now in crisis. Will Los Alamos continue to be the world's premier research institute or will it become a bomb-making factory on a slow march toward closure? Will we retain and recruit top scientist and engineers, or will we diminish in stature?" [end quote]

Republican County Councilwoman Nona Bowman has said the same thing on more than one occasion.

There are many ironies here. The first is that most of the LANL jobs Dolin says he wants to save are part of a mission he previously said he does not support.

The second is that this is a Republican-led initiative. The only congressperson in the House that concretely tried to restore funding for those jobs was Tom Udall, Dolin's Democratic primary opponent. Dolin has criticized Udall for his final vote on passage, earmarks included, but this only reflects Dolin's ignorance about floor votes on appropriations bills that contain members' earmarks.

The third irony is that nothing creates overhead like plutonium, with its intense security, safety, waste management, and management superstructure. What’s more, $145.1 M of these plutonium-related jobs are in construction projects. This is not science, and for that matter neither are the $106.3 M in plutonium operations jobs. These priorities will eat science jobs, not make them.

So far the argument here has concerned FY2008 only. These plutonium-related construction projects will continue and grow in the out-years, however, and they are to be joined by other big plutonium-related construction projects. The CMRR and NMSSUP will together cost about $2 billion – as of past May, the cost of the CMRR nuclear facility had already doubled over the February 2007 estimate. The TA-55 Reinvestment Project will also be very expensive; add to that the pit radiography facility, the various waste management capital projects (in part driven by the pit mission), and the pervasive, cryptic overhead it all requires and it adds up to a lot of money. Does Mr. Dolin really think these gigabuck projects will be added ON TOP OF a robust LANL “science” budget?

The final irony is that this is a rally to continue the preferments of a very well-off group of people. “More hand-outs, please!” This is a kind of “socialism” the conservative Mr. Dolin would, I assume, rather not talk about. Perhaps he does not see the irony. David Hobson (R-OH), ranking member of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, would:

"I spent much of my time…traveling to many DOE facilities…I saw hundreds of staff dedicating their professional lives to our national defense…I also saw a weapons complex that could be viewed as a jobs program for Ph.Ds – the ultimate in white-collar welfare…where business practices were two decades behind the times." (April 11, 2004).

Greg Mello

Anonymous said...

It's too late for rah-rah rallies to save LANL at this point. LANL is looking more and more like a lame horse which our LANS jockies have run straight into the ground. Maybe we can be salvaged for dog food and some glue, but not much else.

Anonymous said...

My guess is the people at this Santa Fe rally can probably all fit in the same car. That way they'll save on gas.