* Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Pete Nanos presented his 2004 State of LANL address this week to LANL employees, Los Alamos community members and the public. Nanos again stressed the importance of the upcoming bidding process for the management contract for LANL, saying, "We're getting ready for the fight of our lives."
Spencer Abraham, Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), announced last year that the management contract for LANL will soon be open for bid for the first time since 1943 when the University of California (UC) assumed management. However, allegations of gross mismanagement by UC, including the misuse of LANL credit cards and misplacement of sensitive nuclear information, prompted DOE to open bidding.
Nanos defended LANL against those allegations, saying that sound business operations and management practices are one of LANL's top priorities. He noted LANL's recent wall-to-wall inventory, which accounted for 95% of LANL property. He also pointed out that LANL is currently developing methods for eliminating the use of removable electronic media, so as to avoid scandal such as that of the recent missing hard drives.
Despite these efforts, Nanos claims that, due to the upcoming contract bidding, "[DOE] is building the gallows in the front courtyard of Los Alamos." According to Nanos, the bidding has created a tense atmosphere around LANL that has forced administration to reconsider LANL's mission. Nanos said, "[We are] thinking through what [LANL is]. What does it mean to the country and what do we have to deliver to the American taxpayer?"
Nanos compared LANL's mission after the September 11th terrorist attacks to that of the Manhattan Project during World War II. Nanos said, "[In World War II] we finally convinced the Japanese to change their culture. [Now] we are the poster children for a war between two cultures. I hope that one of these days we can convince the other culture that murdering people is not polite behavior."
Many audience members asked Nanos how LANL intends to work towards greater community building and tourism in the community of Los Alamos. In response, Nanos questioned why LANL was not creating more capital in northern New Mexico, considering the amount of money that it brings to the area. He also posed ideas for bringing more visitors to Los Alamos, including building a performing arts center.
Nanos, however, illustrated disdain for his neighbors south of Los Alamos following a question by Los Alamos community member Bev Keenan. Keenan asked, "Has [LANL] considered doing anything with the nuts in Santa Fe who are so negative towards [it]?" Nanos responded by saying, "If those crazies down there want to swelter in the heat and the dust, that's their problem."
When one audience member posed the idea that communication between Nanos and LANL's opponents might enhance LANL's image and increase tourism in the area, Nanos refused again to open such a dialogue, saying that it is not his responsibility to discuss national policy with community members. Nanos said, "I am not involved in national policy; I execute the policy."