Jan 24, 2008

Energy Department cancels competition for new lab contract

Hi, it would seem that the Washington State delegation beat the DOE and saved PNNL's WFO efforts. I wonder why all national lab contracts don't have a similar "Use Permit" clause in them.


This story was published Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

By SHANNON DININNY, Associated Press Writer

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Energy canceled its bidding competition Wednesday for the contract to manage Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, citing a provision in a recent spending bill that would allow the current and subsequent contractors to conduct research for private companies.

In 2006, the department announced that for the first time in 41 years it would seek competitive bids for the contract to manage the national science laboratory in Richland. Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit group based in Columbus, Ohio, has managed and operated the south-central Washington laboratory since its inception in 1965.

Then in a draft request for proposals last fall, the Energy Department said it would eliminate from the contract a "special-use permit" that has allowed Battelle to use government-owned facilities to conduct outside work. At the time, the department said the decision would foster competition through a "level playing field" and better align the new laboratory contract with other contracts in the Energy Department's complex.

However, an omnibus spending bill signed by President Bush on Dec. 26 provided that the special-use permit at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shall continue during the existing contract and any extensions or renewals of the contract, and shall be incorporated into any future contract.

The Energy Department has not yet decided how to proceed toward a new laboratory contract, the department said Wednesday in a statement.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican whose district includes the laboratory, welcomed the news, saying the Energy Department's proposal to abruptly end the special-use permit was "simply wrong." The pair had fought the proposal, noting that the use permit is responsible for 300-400 jobs at the laboratory alone.

"Our goal has always been to ensure that any contract competition resulted in a strong lab that would help our region create jobs and opportunities well into the future," their statement said. "The 'use permit' was a critical tool in helping the lab to grow and to create new jobs and business in the Tri-Cities and across our state."

PNNL's research areas include science and environment, energy, defense and national security. Nearly 60 percent of the laboratory's research is conducted for the Energy Department, with about 25 percent for the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.

The laboratory employs about 4,300 people and has a payroll of $327 million.

Battelle's current contract, which expired Sept. 30, has been extended while the government sought new bids.

In 2007, PNNL had a business volume of $765 million. An estimated 10 percent of that work was for private companies under the special-use permit, which was approved by the Energy Department under each contract since 1965.

Last month, Battelle announced that it would partner in its bid with the University of Washington, Washington State University and Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Group Inc., an engineering company formerly known as BWXT Services Inc.

Battelle also is a partner in operating Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the Idaho National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.


Eric said...

Clever way to protect PNNL.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Senator Udall could do this for LANL.

Anonymous said...

A DOE national lab with real leadership and an associated Congressional delegation that actually has BALLS!!!

Bravo, PNNL. Way to go!!!

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant tactic! The PNNL delegation, with bi-partisan support, inserted a "poison pill" into the latest budget to derail the DOE's privatization plans.

Now PNNL will remain under the operation of a non-profit entity with all the advantages this brings for both the lab and their staff.

Smart move. Where do I send my resume?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

We chose UCs arrogance over common sense. So PNNL ends up with Battelle while we end up with LANS/UC. And we're supposed to be suprised?

Anonymous said...

These things can come back and bite you, though. LANL has had its protectors in congress but they aren't there forever.

Actually, congressional support of PNNL has been historically weak compared to the support for the (much larger) cleanup effort.

And before you submit a resume, look at the PNNL budget. LDRD kings and queens need not apply.

Anonymous said...

5:20 pm: "We chose UCs arrogance over common sense."

"UCs arrogance" is resulting in my receipt of a very handsome UC pension check each month, and they are doing a pretty terrific job with my 403b as well, enough so that I transferred all my LANS 401k money (including the employer match) over to my UC 403b when I left.

Bye bye, LANS. I have chosen UC to be in my future, not you.

Anonymous said...

"Bye bye, LANS. I have chosen UC to be in my future, not you." 1/24/08 8:15 PM

Bechtel and BWXT are such wonderful managers. How could you possible want to leave? Come back and they might be willing to fix the toilets and take out your trash once a month. Heck, they might even be willing to throw in a very generous 2% raise if you bring in some extra funding.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should be asking a simple question, and that is how can PNNL have a staff that is about 1/3 the size of ours in numbers have a budget that is 1/5 the size of ours? And since I know that the salaries are almost as comparable to ours, could the only answer be our huge and inefficient management and other broken systems?

Anonymous said...

1/30/08 9:11 PM

Well, for one thing, their benefits are nowhere near as generous as ours.