Los Alamos names new weapons leader

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By Roger Snodgrass

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced a change at the top Tuesday.

Charles McMillan becomes principal associate director for Weapons Programs, succeeding Glenn Mara, who has retired.

McMillan advances from his previous role as associate director for weapons physics.

His new responsibilities call for providing oversight and direction for the nuclear weapons program at the lab and its core mission, “ensuring the safety, reliability and performance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

“This is one of the most challenging and most important national Security jobs at Los Alamos,” LANL Director Michael Anastasio said, in making the announcement. “Charlie brings the scientific background, technical innovation and vision to lead the Laboratory’s programs in the areas of sustaining the stockpile and providing a path to a 21st-century stockpile.”  

In a brief interview Tuesday, McMillian talked about change and new opportunities.

“The first priority in my way of thinking has to do with trying to set the direction of the program for the next several years,” he said. “This is a time of opportunity for the program. The new administration is working actively on the Nuclear Posture Review, which is going to be very important for us and the attention it brings is a very good thing for us.”

As next year’s appropriation bills move through Congress, several decisions related to Los Alamos have been deferred, pending completion of the Nuclear Posture Review. The NPR was mandated by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008, to develop long term policies for nuclear deterrence, strategy and force posture in order to clarify nuclear deterrence policies and strategies for the short term.

Included among the elements to be reviewed are a number on items that bear on McMillian’s new portfolio.

McMillan said he would be involved in that process through the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Energy.

“I view the role of the laboratory, not in terms of making policy, but rather in terms of providing technical options for the policy makers,” he said. “Whatever choice the country chooses to take as far as the size or composition of the stockpile, what we have to do is provide the technical support than enables that policy as well as possible.”

McMillan has led the lab’s Weapons Physics organization since 2006, arriving with the new contract management. Before that he was at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he served in a number of research and management positions.

In his capacity, he will oversee not only weapons physics, but also weapons engineering, weapons manufacturing and much of the related infrastructure activity at the laboratory.

McMillan received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Columbia Union College and a doctorate in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.