Aug 12, 2008

Legislators check their (economic) engine

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

Española, N.M. – The co-chairman of a state legislative committee said he was interested in how the committee could help continue the “vibrant existence” and “vital economic force” of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Sen. Phil Griego, D-Los Alamos, Mora, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos, is co-chair of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Legislative Oversight Committee. Last year, he found himself and others on the committee taken by surprise by the news that LANL’s funding appeared to be facing deep cuts in Congress. The prediction turned out to be false – funding remained flat under a continuing resolution – but the budget and diversified mission discussions that emerged from last year were still on committee members’ minds.

The panel expected Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. to provide his view of LANL’s future at their first meeting of the year on Friday, as they prepared for the upcoming regular legislative session in early 2009.

Bingaman, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Committee, is traveling this week in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but he sent his state director, Terry Brunner, to read a brief statement on the Senator’s behalf and answer questions.

The statement emphasized the “multi-purpose” aspects of the laboratory, which has long been involved in a spectrum of scientific work, “from environmental remediation to fuel cells and from military reconnaissance to oil exploration technology.”

The senator pointed out that New Mexico is the largest recipient of funds from the Department of Energy budget and that the income from DOE is comparable to the state’s own budget.

Breaking down the current funding, the statement calculated LANL’s appropriation at about $2.2 billion for fiscal year 2008, level with recent years. Of that, he wrote, $1.8 billion came from DOE, with $1.5 billion pertaining to the maintenance of the nuclear stockpile. Another $300 million was attributed to “work for others,” meaning work for non-DOE entities, whether governmental like the departments of defense and homeland security, or private.

Bingaman’s statement noted that Congress once again “has had a difficult time getting to an agreement,” on an appropriation bill, particularly on issues about “how many weapons and what type” they should be.

Bingaman expressed bottom-line confidence that for the long-term the nation needed to maintain a strong science workforce. He saw new opportunities in technology that would lessen the nation’s dependence on oil and greenhouse gasses. He specifically mentioned the need for energy storage for hybrid cars and maintaining competitiveness with the Chinese in computer chips and biotechnology.

He called for the laboratory to put its best talents forward to compete for funds that have been added to DOE's Office of Science budget, and noted that both presidential candidates have advocated non-proliferation programs, in which LANL is well-positioned to continue its prominent role.

On the controversial matter of expanded nuclear pit production - manufacturing the triggers for nuclear weapons - at the laboratory, Bingaman’s position remains that he supports maintaining “a limited capability” at the laboratory, but is concerned about a “major pit manufacturing capability,” as the administration has proposed. Such a shift, he believes, would alter the fundamental character of the laboratory from science to manufacturing.

Sen. Carlos Sisneros, D-Taos, was among the members of the committee looking for the possibility of new funds, programs and educational opportunities for constituents.

“Is there no increase anticipated? No new developments?” he asked.

Brunner said that a continuing resolution remains the most likely outcome of the current political situation. That would keep funding at the same level again for next year, but would have some consequences.

House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, asked about funding for environmental cleanup. Brunner replied that he thought the funding was up to $250 million in the Senate bill, but Brunner warned that under a continuing resolution, there might not be additional funds.

On that point, Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval, Santa Fe, made a statement objecting to a situation she described as the Department of Energy providing funding to the New Mexico Environment Department “to oversee us, but doesn’t provide funds to the lab for cleanup.” Then, she said, the environment department fines the lab for not accomplishing its cleanup.

The meeting took place in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation’s facility, the Center for Education and Non-profit Leadership in Española’s Plaza Del Norte.

The committee was given a tour of the new building by LANL Foundation Executive Director Susan Herrera, who also briefed the committee on developments at the foundation in the afternoon.

Loretta Valerio, Director of the Nuclear Workers Advocacy, a state-sponsored service for nuclear workers who have suffered illnesses, rounded out the committee’s agenda for the day. The office is now located in the New Mexico Environmented Department.

The next meeting September 17, will be held in Los Alamos. LANL Director Michael Anastasio has been invited to attend. The meeting is expected to focus on technology commercialization and transfer.


Anonymous said...

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Legislative Oversight Committee is a joke and as the members of this committee are!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Speaker Ben Lujan won't read the comments on this blog because he can't read much less speak.

Anonymous said...

How will these local politicians be able to continuing the practice of getting high paying jobs for all their unqualified wives, sons, daughters, and cousins at LANL if the lab suffers a funding drought?

Red Alert! Red Alert! We have a crisis brewing! Northern New Mexico cronyism is at risk!

Anonymous said...

Below is an article that might sound familiar...

'Stop the Slide,' Says New Air Force Chief

Schwartz Is Blunt About Service's Failings

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who began his tenure as the 19th Air Force chief of staff yesterday, has taken a frank view of the service's need to address recent failures concerning the security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and acquisitions practices, telling senior leaders in briefings that they need to "stop the slide."

In two PowerPoint documents used in recent briefings, Schwartz emphasized the need for the Air Force to recapture "top-to-bottom excellence in the nuclear mission," restore "credibility on Capitol Hill one member (and staff) at a time," and instill "a compliance culture in key disciplines" such as nuclear, aircraft and missile maintenance and acquisition. Drafts of the internal documents were obtained by The Washington Post and were verified by the Air Force yesterday.

Schwartz has set his sights on restoring the service's credibility after a series of security and corruption problems that have marred its reputation in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

Anonymous said...

The air force recognizes there is a problem. Do you?

Anonymous said...

from Bingaman: "He called for the laboratory to put its best talents forward to compete for funds that have been added to DOE's Office of Science budget,..."

OK, but LANS is doing everything in its power to run off the best people and turn the place into a "work-free safe and secure place."

LANL ceased making any attempt at being a scientific laboratory when Admiral Butthead was put in charge. However, things under LANS have gotten so bad that we now often speak of the riegn of Admiral Butthead as "the good old days!"

Anonymous said...

"The air force recognizes there is a problem. Do you?

8/13/08 7:00 AM"

Ya, I also recognize that the air force has a problem.

Anonymous said...

There is a previous baseline for Gen. Norton Schwartz´critique of the Air Force:

(1) U.S. Department of Defense

American Forces Press Service
News Articles

U.S. Regains Missile Parts; Gates Orders Investigation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2008 - The U.S. military has regained control of four non-nuclear nose cone assemblies for a Minuteman missile mistakenly sent to Taiwan in 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said during a news conference here today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates learned of the situation on March 21 and immediately ordered that the United States regain "positive control" of the systems, Wynne said. He also notified the president of the situation.

It was the second incident with a strategic weapon in the past year. In August, an Air Force B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La, carrying atomic weapons. The crew did not realize they were carrying nuclear weapons until they landed.

Today, Gates signed a memorandum directing Adm. Kirkland Donald, director of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, to conduct a comprehensive investigation "to determine the facts into how this error occured and who is accountable throughout the chain of command," said Christopher R. "Ryan" Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

The admiral will work with the undersecreatary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. The intelligence community also will help with the investigation.

Henry said the secretary feels very strongly about this error.

"In an organization as large as DoD ... there will be mistakes, but they cannot be tolerated in the arena of strategic systems -- whether nuclear or only associated equipment," he said during the news conference.

DoD has notified the appropriate congressional committees and the Peoples´Republic of China, he said.

The nose cone assemblies and associated electrical parts are proximity fuses for the missiles. While not technically "triggers," a nuclear warhead atop a Minuteman would not detonate without the signal from these devices.

Preliminary information indicates that a shipment took place in response to a foreign military sales order from Taiwan for helicopter batteries, Wynne said. The Defense Logistics Agency depot at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, mistakenly shipped the fuses -- a classified system -- rather than the batteries.

The Taiwanese receiving the shipment placed it in storage upon receipt, Wynne said. "The investigation will determine the integrity of the shipping containers and their contents during the (foreign military sales) process."

The department has initiated a complete physical inventory of all of these devices, Henry said.

"The secretary is further directing the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy to conduct a comprehensive review of all the policies, procedures as well as a physical site inventory of all nuclear and nuclear-associated materiel and equipment across their respective programs," he said.

The original helicopter battery order was consistent with the U.S. "One-China" policy, the three joint U.S.-China communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.

"Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed," Henry said. "This specific incident was an error in process only and is not indicative of our policies, which remain unchanged."

Henry said it´s unclear whether the erroneous shipment violated the Missile Technology Control Regime -- an informal, voluntary association of countries seeking to stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- or other treaties.


(2) The so-called Donald report (classified), by Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, that has its offspring of Secretary Gates orders of investigations of US nukes within the Air Force, March 25, 2008.

(3) Mullen Says Panel Could Recommend Revived Nuclear Command

The U.S. military´s top officer acknowledged this week that an ongoing Pentagon review might mull re-establishing a command to oversee Air Force nuclear weapons, but he avoided endorsing the concept or speculating on its fate.

Story length: 663 words.

(Inside the Pentagon
June 26, 2008 - Vol. 24, No.26)


(4) The forced resignations June 5, 2008 of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael "Buzz" Mosely, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

(Gen. Schwartz can be seen here:

Gen. Norton Schwartz

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz speak with reporters at the Pentagon, August 12; 21:13.


Anonymous said...

Touche 11:13, well played.

signed, 7:00