UC wins management contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory

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The management and operating contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory was awarded to the UC Board of Regents, the Battelle Memorial Institute and the Texas A&M University System last month by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The UC will take a leading role in the management partnership among the three institutions, which will operate as Triad National Security, LLC, or Triad, according to UC President Janet Napolitano. The contract will transition to Triad on Nov. 1, 2018. The contract is for a five-year period, with yearly options to extend for up to five more years.

“We have been involved in the management of Los Alamos for 75 years and I am pleased to say that we will continue that involvement,” Napolitano said at the Wednesday regents meeting. “I think the award further solidifies the UC status as a national, scientific and research leader and a critical partner in protecting national security.”

The UC is estimated to earn a net fee of $24.6 million for the calendar year 2018 under its existing contracts for management of both the Los Alamos lab and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. According to Kimberly S. Budil, UC vice president for national laboratories, the fee that the UC will earn from the new Triad contract is slightly smaller than that earned from the previous contract and will impact the 2019-20 budget.

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley asked if there had been a review of the challenges in the previous partnership to help inform the new partnership.

“We did a very extensive one,” Budil said at the meeting. “The first year after we knew that we had lost the contract and that it would be competed, we took a deep introspective look at what had worked and what had not worked.”

Budil suggested that the improvements going forward are returning to a partnership of nonprofits with shared values, urgency in supporting the labs’ success, and an organizational structure in which lines of accountability are very clear.

In terms of the partners in the contract, Budil said that the Battelle Memorial Institute, known for development and exercise of lab leadership, manages seven national labs while the UC manages three.

Regent Ellen Tauscher said she was enthusiastic about the partnership and praised the work that was done to win the new contract. She added that government contracts are tricky and that there is an “anti-incumbency bias” in Washington, D.C.

“One of the things that surprised me was how many UC graduates actually work at Los Alamos National Lab,” said Alumni Regent Jason Morimoto. “I think those are some of the stories that we can bring up in public engagement or in academic areas, because it’s that symbiotic relationship where we are training the future leaders for the security of our nation.”

Contact Ryan Geller at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @rashadgeller.