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N.M. congressional delegation pushes for protection of LANL employees

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By Tris DeRoma

New Mexico’s congressional delegation delivered a letter to the undersecretary for Nuclear Security Wednesday, imploring him to do right by the employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and to “protect or strengthen” the final request for proposals before it is released.

The National Nuclear Security Administration released the draft RFP in July. Many northern New Mexico non-profit organizations and Los Alamos County government officials were concerned about the lack of language in the RFP pertaining to community and financial support.

In their letter, which was signed by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The delegation made workforce recruitment and retention its top priority and forging partnerships with the community second out of six priorities.

“We believe it is critical that the contract protect the jobs of the existing workforce, including right of first refusal, hiring preference and protection of benefits and pensions,” the delegation said in the letter.

The delegation also said highlighted priorities that should prove reassuring to the county government and other partners with LANL.

“Because the geographic proximity of the community to the lab presents unique interdependence, the contractor should continue to support all existing contracts, agreements and MOUs (memorandums of understanding) with state and local governments.

The delegation also made sure to include the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in the letter also, a park features many historic details of the Manhattan Project and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park represents an opportunity to promote regional economic development and the contract should reflect any necessary support needed to continue this ongoing collaboration between the Department of Energy and the National Park Service,” the letter said.

County Council Chairman David Izraelevitz was pleased with the thought and support for the northern New Mexico community.

“I think they’ve taken all the major points they wanted to make and included them in their letter, so this is very encouraging,” Izraelevitz said.

After the draft RFP’s, the NNSA invited organizations to submit criticisms and comments by the end of July. County Council and the county government submitted our concerns.

“The fact that there was such a strong emphasis on community programs and a budget commitment for a community commitment plan, that’s a very strong message,” Izraelevitz said. “We see the community services that the county provides as part of that approach to attract the best and the brightest, by providing them the schools and amenities that serve as recruitment tools by the laboratory.”

Officials from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities also liked the contents of the letter.

“We’re really thrilled about the letter itself,” RCLC Executive Director Andrea Romero said. “They targeted all the key points that was in our letter. We were thrilled to see that kind of support come from the delegation.”

The RCLC was created to look after the interests and needs of the northern New Mexico region, and Romero was glad to see the letter covered not only community interests, but economic interests too.

“For us there’s no one thing that’s the key issue. It’s all of the above. That’s the challenge we have right now. We followed all these issue so closely, that we cannot take anyone of them lightly,” Romero said.