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LANL partners speak out on draft RFP

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By Tris DeRoma

Local non-profits, business organizations and representatives of Los Alamos County expressed concern this week about the National Nuclear Security Administration’s initial draft management and operations contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

To those that have seen it, the contract seemed to provide little support to the region or the county, a sharp contrast to the contract held by Los Alamos National Security since 2006.

The RFP was posted on the NNSA website July 13. Those interested in making suggestions to modify the draft RFP have until July 26 to respond to NNSA.

Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess said he was concerned that the 50-page draft RFP only mentions the county twice.
With the extensive partnerships the county has enjoyed with the lab through the years,  he said he would have liked to seen more.

“We feel that given our formal relationship with the operator through fire, utilities, transit and dispatch, it warrants fleshing that out a little bit,” Burgess said.

The Department of Energy announced in 2015 it was putting LANS’ contract out to bid after LANS failed to meet certain performance criteria. A new contractor is expected to be in control of LANL by 2018. The NNSA oversees LANL.  

One partnership that probably won’t be affected by the new contract is the Los Alamos County Fire Department. The department receives direct financial support from the DOE in support of its mission to protect the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The DOE funds most of the department’s vehicle purchases and training in support of that mission.

“At this point in time, I don’t foresee any changes to the LAFD due to a new contractor managing the lab,” said LAFD Deputy Chief Steve Dewald. “LAFD has a cooperative agreement with the NNSA to provide emergency/support services to LANL. This agreement runs through fiscal year 2023, and is reviewed yearly and revised as needed. We will definitely be working with some new people from the (NNSA’s Los Alamos) Field Office, but we are confident that we will work well with the new contractor and that our services will continue to be requested for years to come.”

The performance fee for the next contractor in the initial RFP has been lowered to 1 percent, which, according to Executive Director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Andrea Romero, may cost the region and Los Alamos County millions in gross receipts tax generated through the lab’s economic activities.

In the existing contract, that fee is 3 percent.

“...With the 1 percent threshold, we already know that state and local governments will have less GRT (gross receipts tax) among them,” Romero said Friday at the coalition’s meeting in Los Alamos.

The Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation would like to see the new contract make a strong commitment to LANL’s use of local businesses, perhaps even including a certain percentage of local businesses LANL must use in support of the labs operations, according to the corporation’s executive director.

“We strongly encourage the NNSA to require bidders to include a community commitment plan in their bid,” said LACDC Executive Director Patrick Sullivan. “We’d like for the community commitment plan to focus on promotion of regional purchasing for regional businesses.”

Romero and others said they were also concerned that there was almost no mention of the financial or community commitment that they have seen under the existing contract.

“It’s definitely different than what we saw in 2005,” Romero said. “The key takeaway that we’ve seen so far is that the local communities are definitely not at all involved in the process of the next activities at the laboratory in the way the contract currently reads. This is something that we will absolutely respond to, and want to take ideas.”

The current contract has been in place since 2006. Under the contract with LANS, the county and the region has seen robust support through various partnerships and financial support,  including an annual $3 million-plus Community Development Fund through LANL’s Community Partnerships Office. That  comes directly from the 3-percent performance fee in the current contract.

United Way of Northern New Mexico, is also lending its support to the regional coalition. If the community development fund and other support funding is removed, the region will suffer, UWNNM Executive Director Kristy Ortega said.

“What we’d like to showcase is these are the things we are able to do because of these funds. If these funds were to go away, these are the things that would not get done and the impact that would have,” Ortega said. “The LANL Foundation, The United Way, the Regional Development Corporation, these people are really working as experts in the field to meet the needs and identify them. But we can only do that with proper funding. With LANS and LANL being the largest employer in northern New Mexico, it seems that it’s the right thing to do to support your communities in that way. Because those are your employees, that’s their families, that’s their friends, that’s their neighbors. We all live here.”