The University of California Regents decided to bid on the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) management contract Thursday, citing the importance of national security and the two institutions’ historic relationship.
The 11-1 vote granted UC President Robert Dynes permission to submit a proposal to the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by the July 19 deadline, a University press release said. The UC stands to earn between $53 million and $79 million annually if it secures the contract, which is nearly nine times the amount it currently earns for managing the laboratory. If the UC wins its bid for the laboratory contract, it would extend the nearly 60 years of the University’s stewardship of the LANL.
“I believe we should compete for the Los Alamos contract for three essential reasons: the excellence in science that we bring to the table, the strength of the management team we have put together and the contribution this unique combination of players can make to the nation,” Dynes said in the press release.
This is the first time the UC has had to compete to maintain control of the laboratory. In 2003, the Dept. of Energy announced it would put the LANL contract up for competitive bids because of alleged mismanagement by the University.
The UC — partnered with private nuclear facilities manager Bechtel National — will compete against a partnership between the University of Texas and private defense contractor Lockheed Martin for management of the laboratory, which has a $2.1 billion yearly budget. Global defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which had previously announced plans to bid for the contract, said Thursday in a press release that it had decided not to submit a proposal to the NNSA.
At Wednesday’s regents meeting, members of two committees that oversee operations of the LANL recommended competing for the contract. Regents listed various reasons for continued control of the laboratory, including the UC’s ability to ensure national security by effectively managing the facility’s supply of nuclear material. Members also said the UC would protect the academic freedom of the laboratory’s scientists, something other competitors might not be able to do.
However, protesters — including some UC students — said the UC would be contributing to global violence and nuclear proliferation if it were to win the contract.
According to the NNSA’s final request for proposals, the contract has the potential to be renewed after seven years for an additional 13 years, depending on the effectiveness of the management.