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For a brief moment last week, the Department of Energy pulled back the curtain – ever so slightly – on a clandestine team that’s used to operating under the radar inside Los Alamos National Laboratory and across the globe.
“We can’t tell you quite what they did, or exactly when they did it – but some people at the laboratory have earned the appreciation of DOE’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence,” LANL spokesperson Nancy Ambrosiano said late Monday.
The team is known as the “LANL Field Intelligence Element” and was honored with DOE’s first-ever Exceptional Service Award for its contributions to the intelligence community mission in support of the national security of the United States. The team was cited for its “vital role in providing critical information to the nation’s most senior national security policymakers and makes possible informed judgments on matters of necessary secrecy and urgent consequence.”
Director Bruce Held of DOE’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence presented the award during a ceremony at the laboratory Wednesday.
Ambrosiano said that when asked if more information would be forthcoming on the team’s efforts, Principal Associate Laboratory Director for Global Security William S. Rees, Jr., to whom the members of the Field Intelligence Element report, succinctly stated, “No, but thanks for asking.”
Rees received the award Wednesday on behalf of the laboratory and spoke as much as he could about his team’s mission during an interview Monday.
“This team isn’t anything new, it’s been around since the very first mission of the Manhattan Project era, it’s just had different names,” Rees said. “In fact, its second mission during WWII was to ship out and access the status of the Nazis’ nuclear weapons program. The team’s been around for 56 years and basically continues that mission today of accessing nuclear weapons around the world.”
Today’s honored team is a mix of male and female scientists and engineers from across the breadth of the laboratory, Rees said. It serves as a national resource across all 16 intelligence agencies, as well as for the Department of Defense and other government agencies. Despite the fact that their work directly impacts America’s national security needs on a daily basis, it is rare and uncommon for them to be recognized for anything whatsoever related to the work that they do, he said.
“Receiving the very first award of this kind is an honor beyond measure,” Rees said.
LANL Director Michael Anastasio said in a statement that the unique science and technology expertise of the laboratory staff allows them to answer difficult questions for the intelligence community. When called upon, the scientists use special laboratory facilities, information and computing capabilities to address complex national security questions.