Date: May 17, 2004 Contacts: Patrice Pages, Media Relations Officer Megan Petty, Media Relations Assistant Office of News and Public Information 202-334-2138; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Coordination of Science Programs Should Be a Priority When Deciding Who Should Run Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Labs
WASHINGTON -- The competitions for contractors bidding to run either Los Alamos or Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, or both, should occur at the same time, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. Simultaneous competition should enable the agency that oversees the selection -- the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) -- to consider which contractors are most likely to maintain the coordination between the labs that is vital to their mission, said the committee that wrote the report. Using a single review board to evaluate the contract proposals, with the assistance of experts in science and technology management, also should help ensure that the coordination of science and engineering at both labs is thoroughly considered, the report adds.
The report says there is a strong opinion at the labs that the important interplay between them is facilitated by their being managed by the same contractor. While the committee did not conclude that a single contractor should necessarily manage both labs, it did emphasize that this interplay of science needs to be preserved under any contract arrangement.
Management of the labs was opened to competition following congressional concerns about security and operations management under the current contractor, the University of California. The report notes, however, that the quality of the science and technology programs at the laboratories was not in question. Any attempt to address security and management concerns should be balanced and integrated with actions to preserve and improve what is working well -- namely the scientific programs.
NNSA should select contractors that have experience running a large science and technology organization; that are able to plan, construct, and operate major facilities; and whose management team members have credentials comparable to individuals in similar positions at other national laboratories, the report says.
The contractors chosen to run the labs in the future should ensure that they continue to attract, retain, and nurture world-class science and technology staffs, the committee said. Also, the contractors should foster interactions with the outside technical community as well as reward innovations by the laboratories' staffs, the committee added.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.