$8.8M security facility

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Lab security, police and military to be trained

By Garrison Wells

Los Alamos National Laboratory is on the verge of getting an $8.8 million facility to help train its security force.

The facility will also be used to train military and law enforcement.

Described as a warehouse type of structure – it will have “modular walls that can be reconfigured to allow the guard force to do force-on-force exercises,” said Damien LaVera, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington, D.C.

Plans for the Tactical Training Facility were revealed during a media briefing Thursday on the NNSA’s Security Reform Initiative. The initiative, designed to improve and provide efficiencies in the nation’s nuclear security arena, is the result of a study since June of 2009.

Brad Peterson, NNSA chief of defense nuclear security who led the briefing, described the facility as “a major investment.”

“Los Alamos has lagged a little bit behind so we are investing in that kind of infrastructure to make sure we can adequately train our people,” Peterson said.

LaVera said after the briefing that Peterson did not mean to imply that Los Alamos security force lags behind others, but that the lab could use additional infrastructure to better train its force.

“We believe Los Alamos has an outstanding security force and we want to make sure that they have all the assets to be one of the safest and most secure facilities in the country,” he said.

“This is a facility that we can build that will help them with their program.”

Laboratory spokesman Kevin Roark said the facility is part of a plan that is being developed with the Site Office and NNSA to improve training facilities.

A pair of examples of the fruits of that plan at the lab is a Protective Force physical fitness track and indoor weapons training simulator facility, he said.

“These, along with other planned training facility projects that includes an $8.8 million Tactical Training Facility, will replace older training facilities and provide the Protective Force with improved training infrastructure,” Roark said.

The facility is expected to be completed by August 2011 with the first class set for September 2011.

The structure will be modeled after a similar training facility at Y12 National Security Complex in the Bear Creek Valley in east Tennessee, near Oak Ridge and 15 miles from Knoxville.

Y12’s Nuclear and Radiological Field Training Center provides “scenario-driven training,” according to the complex’s Web site. It has developed training for scenarios such as:

• Dirty bomb laboratory

• Dirty bomb detonation in an office

• Vehicles smuggling material

• Nuclear storage facility

• Sea and land shipping containers

• Nuclear materials processing laboratory

• Warehouse storage area

“The Yee'12 facility serves as a training venue where commanders can execute their own training plans. Trainees use their own equipment and receive hands-on experience in areas such as search and identification of nuclear and radiological materials, package and transport of materials, consequence management, casualty extraction, site characterization and decontamination,” according to the Web site.

Glenn Walp, former office leader of the Office of Security Inquiries and critic of security issues at the lab, called the facility “a positive step.”

“If it’s special forces training, if it’s the same as the military, it’s fantastic,” Walp said.

However, the facility does not address his main concern, which is that security at the lab needs to be independent.

“There has to be total independence by the security force and those who would do inquiries at the lab as it deals with classified information,” he said.

LANL terminated Walp a few months after he was hired in 2002, and was later rehired by the University of California, which ran the lab at the time. He became a consultant for the university and recently wrote a book on security issues at the lab.