The guard is changing at one of the United States’ premier research centers for national security.

Bruce Tarter, the director of the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, announced on Dec. 7 that he would step down as the lab’s chief. The announcement came seven years to the day after his appointment to the position. Tarter will serve as the interim director until another director is found. He has served the second-longest term as LLNL lab director, after Roger Batzel, who served 17 years.

LLNL was originally founded to develop the hydrogen bomb and was first directed by Edward Teller. In addition to conducting research in genetics, theoretical physics and other esoteric fields, the laboratory has continued as one of the nation’s primary centers for national security research.

Tarter declined to an interview but said in a press release that he had planned to retire two years earlier, but problems with the National Ignition Facility – one of the lab’s major projects – and increased security at all of the national laboratories prevented him from doing so.

His career as lab director has not been without criticism. In 2000, NIF developed cost overruns in excess of $1 billion and was referred to by energy secretary Bill Richardson as “a management nightmare.” The UC refused to give Tarter and similar directors a pay raise the same year.

NIF has become a successful project and Tarter has been generally lauded by colleagues as being one of the driving factors behind the laboratory’s success during his tenure there. LLNL received an “outstanding” grade in reviews by the UC and the Department of Energy last year.

– Nexus Staff Report