The Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows
April 3, 1997
The future of the Los Alamos National Laboratory at the end of the Cold War is tied to a new central mission of reducing the global nuclear danger, which includes maintaining a safe and reliable nuclear-weapons stockpile as a continuing nuclear deterrent. This primary mission provides a common focus and also requires that the Laboratory support a number of broadly-based programs that strengthen our basic competencies and advance science and technology in service of the country. A new science-based approach to stockpile stewardship is the main program through which the laboratory fulfills its responsibility to provide proper management of the nuclear-weapons stockpile. Other principal components of the mission include non-proliferation activities and cleanup resulting from the legacy of the nuclear-weapons production from the Cold War. It is important to recognize the central role of science at the Laboratory in carrying out its primary mission. Science has become even more important now in maintaining the nations nuclear deterrent due to the cessation of nuclear testing. The new mission, together with the present economic forces in the country, has placed the Laboratory in the midst of a period of greater change than at any time since its founding. The resulting challenges placed on the Laboratory require a Director who possesses integrity, vision, and leadership to effectively carry out the Laboratorys mission. We believe that the new director must fulfill several important roles:
1) The Director must be a strong advocate for the full range of science carried out at the Laboratory, and must be an active proponent of adequate funding for research.
2) The Director must work vigorously to obtain the funding to improve the physical facilities, infrastructure, and capabilities within the Laboratory, which are required to maintain the scientific productivity at a world-class level.
3) The Director must lead the effort to ensure that all activities are designed to protect the employees, the public, and the environment, while continuing to improve the cost-effectiveness required to carry out the overall mission.
4) The Director must possess a number of personal qualities.
The Director must have a considerable reputation in science and technology, based on a record of leadership and accomplishment in these areas.
As the critical person responsible for annually certifying to the President the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons without nuclear testing, the Director must be fully qualified to provide sound scientific and technical judgment concerning the effectiveness of the stockpile and of the core mission of the Laboratory.
The Director must set a high standard of personal integrity, particularly when certifying the reliability of the stockpile.
In recognition of today's increased public participation, the Director must be an effective communicator and must be willing and able to work openly, honestly, and productively with the DOE, Congress, the University of California, the New Mexico Congressional delegation, local communities, and within the Laboratory.
The culture of the Los Alamos National Laboratory was established during the Manhattan Project; it is a tradition that places more emphasis on the role of science and research than the other weapons laboratories. The research carried out at the Laboratory provides a base from which the nation can sustain its world leadership in the military, economic, and scientific arenas. We must continue the tradition of having a Director with an enlightened view of the importance of research, and the scientific excellence and integrity of the Laboratory must be maintained as a first priority.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory is made up of a large interdisciplinary work force that benefits from unique facilities such as the neutron facility LANSCE, the plutonium facility, and DAHRT. Outstanding capabilities also exist in other areas related to the Laboratory's central mission, including advanced computing and space technologies. Facilities and capabilities such as these provide the foundations necessary to carry out a broad-based program of science at the Laboratory. We believe that the Laboratory must continue to develop and enhance these unique facilities in such core areas as neutron, plutonium, and advanced computational sciences. Thus, the Director must have an understanding of the importance of maintaining selected scientific capabilities of the Laboratory at a world-class level.
Funding for science in the United States has suffered substantial reductions during the last five years. It is a generally held view that basic research accounts for as much as 50 percent of the nation's economic growth. The Laboratory is working to provide higher return on the nation's investment in many ways, including its efforts to stimulate industrial partnerships. Maintaining world-class facilities and reasonable funding levels for research are the keys to sustaining the intellectual environment that attracts and retains the best people. The new Director must be willing and able to work effectively in obtaining the resources required to assure a strong future for the Laboratory and the country. We believe that for continued vitality of the Laboratory, the Director must recognize and take the lead in developing new scientific and technical opportunities.
In recent years, the Laboratory has increased the emphasis that is placed on safe, reliable, and cost-effective operations. This change is essential as the Laboratory carries out its mission. However, the level of effort required for accountability must be balanced against the necessity of making effective use of the tax payers' investment. The new Director must lead the effort to ensure that operations at the Laboratory protect the employees, the public, and the environment, in a reasonable and cost-effective manner, while simultaneously maintaining our scientific capabilities at the highest level.
Finally, to enable the Laboratory to continue to attract the best people, there are a number of important local issues, such as health care, education, and regional economic development that the new Director must address. The Director must bridge the economic gap, the educational gap, and the cultural gap in Northern New Mexico. The Director must be active concerning these issues, which affect not only all the employees at the Laboratory, but also the citizens in the neighboring communities.
In our view, the Director's job is more challenging now than at any time during the past 50 years. We do not believe that the new Director must necessarily come from the weapons field, but he or she must be fully qualified to exercise sound scientific and technical judgment about the effectiveness of the stockpile and the core programs associated with the primary Laboratory mission of reducing the global nuclear danger. This most important quality of scientific judgment means knowing when to rely on the expertise of others, and when to think independently. The Fellows firmly believe that the necessary scientific judgment at the Director's level requires someone with a significant record of technical accomplishment. It is important that the selection process be as broad as possible to obtain the best possible candidate pool. We believe the future health of the Laboratory and, to an appreciable extent, the technical vitality of the nation are dependent on obtaining the strongest Director possible who possesses the attributes and qualifications we have listed.
Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows Organization
The LANL Fellows are certain Technical Staff Members who have been appointed by the Director to the rank of Fellow in recognition of sustained outstanding contributions and exceptional promise for continued professional achievement. The Fellows are limited to 2 percent of the technical staff, who, by charter, may not be members of the Laboratory management. The Fellows advise the management on technical issues of importance to the Laboratory. To promote technical achievements the Fellows organize symposia and have established the LANL Fellows Prize to recognize and reward outstanding research accomplishments of staff members. The Fellows share a deep commitment and concern about the future of the Laboratory. Thus, the Fellows formulate, from time to time, statements concerning issues that can have a large impact on the scientific health of the Laboratory; the selection of the new Director is such an issue. In presenting this paper, we have attempted to reflect accurately the primary attributes that the majority of the Fellows would like to see in the new Director.