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NNSA releases evaluation reports

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Lab: Watchdog group had filed suit seeking details

By John Severance

In the face of impending litigation, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released the Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons sites including Los Alamos Wednesday.

On March 28, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in federal court in Albuquerque.

“These reports are the government’s scorecard for awarding tens of millions of dollars to nuclear weapons contractors, and were previously available to the public until 2009,” Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan said. “However, since that time the NNSA has withheld them in a general move toward less contractor accountability. We sought to help reverse that wrong direction through our litigation.”

The NNSA awarded $76 million in bonuses for FY 2011, according to the reports.

This month however, the lab conducted a voluntary separation program for its employees and 557 of them took the package. The lab said it was dealing with a $300 million shortfall and it was looking to reduce its workforce by 400-800 workers.

The report found that LANS was deficient in its management of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility, which was deferred five years by the Obama administration.

“We are of course pleased these reports have been released, but they never should been withheld to begin with,” Coghlan said. “We are still reviewing them, and have some initial concerns that they may not be full and complete. If that’s the case, we will continue to fight for the full information that American taxpayers are entitled to. We need far greater contractor accountability for the millions of taxpayers’ dollars that corporations receive in profits from nuclear weapons research and production.”

According to the report, “LANS has had another strong performance year building on past successes and delivering on multiple fronts. An effective transition of the Laboratory Director occurred in FY 2011 and LANL continues to deliver outstanding contributions to science and technology and demonstrate leadership within the Nuclear Weapons Complex in direct support of the Stockpile Management Program.

“LANS achieved completion of the W88 Type 125 Pit Production Program of Record and met all application contributions to NNSA’s Getting the Job Done in 2011 List.

They also achieved a world-record for non-destructive magnetic pulses, led the DOE enterprise in peer-reviewed publications and received over 56 external awards, including three R&D 100 Awards.

“Operationally, LANS aggressively and effectively implemented upgrades to the Plutonium Facility at TA-55 to address newly identified seismic vulnerabilities and continuously improved the overall safety posture of the facility through materials consolidation, repackaging and other facility-related upgrades.

“A new record for TRU Waste Shipments to WIPP was achieved and D&D of legacy Plutonium facilities at TA-21 was completed utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. LANS’ response to major unplanned operational emergencies including a natural gas service interruption and the Las Conchas Wildland Fires were exceptional.

“LANS executed over $185M more in programmatic work as compared to FY10 executing over $2.6B in total budget authority while working through seven continuing resolutions. LANS’ performance in FY 2011 reflects another step in the multi-year effort to improve overall performance and efficiencies at LANL.  

“LANS has earned the fixed fee pool of $26,009,570 as specified in Section B-2 (C) (4) of the contract. The Fee Determining Official (FDO) has awarded $54,140,626.04 of performance fee, which is 83% of the LANS FY 2011 incentive fee pool of $60,688,999. Furthermore, in recognition of LANS overall performance and satisfaction of the Award Term objectives and gateways, the FDO has awarded a one-year term extension to LANS for the LANL contract.”
NNSA officials were unavailable for comment on the report.

Back in January, lab director Charlie McMillan said, “The award is a tribute to our employees’ dedication to delivering on our commitments. 2011 was an outstanding year for science and mission execution at the laboratory.”
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group weighed in however.

 “A small group of site-specific and relatively specialized contractors run the nuclear weapons complex, control most of its crucial information, and hold its skills.  They report directly to the President each year, certifying the reliability and operational safety of the nuclear stockpile,” Mello said.

“NNSA employees and congressional staff can enjoy large salary increases by switching their employment to the contractors they oversee.  The site contractors make decisive political contributions and enjoy nearly unquestioned political power in the states where they operate. “