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Not sure moving labs good idea

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By Ralph Damiani

There is an old idea being refloated recently that raises the idea of moving the responsibility of – at least parts of – the national laboratories to the Pentagon.

 

As it was when this was talked about before, it is still a bad idea.

 

We guess there is nothing wrong with the new Obama administration taking a look at the concept and in asking the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to talk with stakeholders to see what this would entail.

 

If those talks do occur, it would be best for everyone if they went nowhere.

 

Even New Mexico’s congressional delegation agree that the Obama administration plans in considering a transferring of pieces of laboratories to the Pentagon is not a good plan.

 

There has been much talk of having the labs move from a weapons format to one of energy research. It is hard to see any way that this would proceed better if the labs were run by the military.

 

While the new administration reports that as assessment group is to be identified and up and running by next month and deliver a final report by the end of September, they will have to face opposition from the only real power New Mexico still has – Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

 

The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee stated in no uncertain terms that this is something he will fight.

 

Those who want to argue for greater science at the labs have a point to make, a point which we would have thought the Obama people would have been supportive of.

 

It is very hard to see how a Pentagon run lab would do better at this than the Department of Energy.

 

There are real problems facing this nation. To be sure, one of them is nuclear safety and development – sadly this includes weapons work.

 

But that must only be a part of what the national labs do, it must only be a part of their mission. Research on energy alternatives, scientific work and the like are of at least equal importance.

 

And there is a coordination between all of this that would be harder to facilitate if the labs are splintered up.

 

Improve the labs, make them more accountable, make them more efficient. These are all laudable goals.

 

But it is hard to see how this is accomplished by breaking it up and handing a good portion of its management over to the military.