management at all levels affects the quality of the science and engineering (S&E) at the three laboratories. The study’s second phase will evaluate the quality of S&E in key subject areas.
To conduct the first phase, the NRC formed a study committee whose membership was carefully chosen to provide broad and deep applicable expertise and experience in the management of S&E at major research and development laboratories. The study committee members include former directors of major government and industry laboratories, current and former laboratory executives, and others with relevant experience and expertise.
Each of these NNSA national security laboratories is a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) operated for NNSA under a government-owned/contractor-operated (GOCO) relationship. This contracting mechanism allows the government access to the capabilities and knowledge of industry and universities to manage these technically complex institutions. Contracting relationships for some FFRDCs—in particular, LLNL and LANL—have endured for many decades. In 2004, Congress mandated that the long-standing contracts with the University of California to manage LLNL and LANL be re-competed.3 As a result, these two management and operations (M&O) contracts were awarded to two independent LLCs that both include Bechtel Corporation and the University of California.4 Subsequently, a number of current and former employees of these laboratories have expressed concerns about deterioration of morale at the laboratories along with ongoing or potential declines in the quality of science and engineering. Many of those employees attributed those inferred trends to the new M&O contracts and contractors.
To investigate these concerns, the study committee met with congressional staffers, senior leadership of NNSA and DOE, staff from the NNSA site offices that serve as a vital link between NNSA and day-to-day laboratory management, and a wide variety of former and current employees of the three laboratories. It held site visits at each of the laboratories, centered on panel discussions with a large number of employees at different levels, from bench scientists to senior management. At LANL and LLNL, the study committee also held well-advertised public sessions at which anyone was invited to speak with management voluntarily absent. A complete list of those who made presentations or provided testimony to the study committee and/or held discussions with the study committee during open sessions of three study committee meetings and the laboratory visits is contained in Appendix B.
At the SNL site visit, the study committee engaged in extensive discussions with 20 SNL employees. At LANL, the study committee benefited from input from 38 employees, and at LLNL, 42 employees. The public comment sessions did not draw a large number of speakers: only 4 at LANL, and 6 at LLNL. The tone of the public comment sessions was, like that of the interactions with laboratory staff, constructive. The laboratory staff members, raised many points of concern, but on several occasions also offered statements of satisfaction and pride. Appendix 8 lists the questions that were sent ahead of time to each of the panels for these site visits.
As context for its evaluation of the laboratories’ management, the study committee identified the high-level ways in which management of any laboratory affects the quality of the S&E. First, the S&E can only be as good as the people employed. Thus, ensuring that high-quality people are attracted to the NNSA national security laboratories, and that they are retained, is a necessary condition for the laboratories to carry out high-quality S&E. Assuming that foundation is available, high-quality S&E then
3 U.S. Congress, H. Rpt. 108-292, Division C-Energy and Water Appropriations Act, 2005, Sec. 301, p.151, November 2004. The new M&O contractor for LANL took over in 2006, and the new contractor for LLNL began work in 2007.
4 The parent organizations of Los Alamos National Security (LANS) are the University of California, Bechtel, Babcock and Wilcox, and URS. For Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), the parent organizations consist of the same four plus Battelle.