Nuke Watch assails lab salary increase

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Activists: Claims pay hikes exceed public or private sector

By John Severance

Nuclear Watch New Mexico is claiming that the salary of the Los Alamos National Laboratory director has tripled in the past six years in a report it released Wednesday.

According to federal reporting on economic stimulus funding, Charlie McMillan, the LANL director, had a salary of $1,081,059 in 2011. In 2009, the salary was $800,348 and in 2005, the year before the management of the lab was awarded to Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a corporation including the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, URS and B&W, the salary was $348,000.

Based on Nuclear Watch’s tabulations, the director at Sandia makes $1.72 million and the director at Livermore makes $500,522.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director said, “In today’s political and economic climate citizens need to remain vigilant that for-profit corporate interests don’t corrupt serious national issues. This very much applies to how our nuclear weapons labs are run as well. We specifically call upon Los Alamos Lab to fully explain to northern New Mexicans why it needs to cut some 600 jobs while at the same time the for-profit management corporation is enjoying record profits and the Director’s salary has nearly tripled in six years.”

The Los Alamos National Laboratory issued a statement this morning regarding the director’s salary.

“The majority of the figure reported under DOE stimulus funding guidelines is an increase in pension value.  Also included are salary, life insurance, health benefits, and other total compensation,” lab spokesman Fred DeSousa said.

“The portion of the director’s annual salary reimbursable by the government is about 35 percent of the reported figure and is comparable to previous director salaries, adjusted for inflation.”

Coghlan said the privatization of the nuclear weapons labs’ management contracts has resulted in directors’ salaries far above average in both the federal government and the private sector.

For instance Coghlan pointed out the NNSA Administrator makes $179,700, the Energy Secretary makes $199,700, the President of the United States makes $400,000, the governor of New Mexico makes $110,000 and the average CEO in Albuquerque makes $110,000.

What lab directors make, however, do not even come close to what some of the highest-paid private college presidents make.

According to 2009 data from Chronicle.com,  the top ten university presidents all make more than $1.5 million. On top of the list is Constantine Papdakis of Drexel University, who makes in the neighborhood of $4.9 million.

“Because of the complexity of our missions, LANL salaries and benefits are established to allow us to remain competitive with the world’s leading institutions in science, engineering, and technology,” DeSousa said. “Under the LANS contract, competitiveness is verified yearly through salary and benefits benchmarking surveys. Any amount above the federal maximum comes from LANS performance fees and is not reimbursable by the government. This allows us to remain competitive beyond federal compensation limitations.

“Although our survey information is confidential, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the LANL director makes significantly less in total compensation than the presidents of Yale, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Drexel, Vanderbilt, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, among many others.”

“In 2011, LANL performed more than $2.6 billion in work for the nation, the most ever, and with a leaner permanent workforce than in 2006.”

Coghlan also cited the Performance Evaluation Reports that rate contractors’ performance and determines the amount of taxpayers’ money awarded to them.

Those reports were publicly available until 2009 when the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began to withhold them, and became recently available again only after Nuclear Watch sued for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

NNSA awarded LANS, LLC $74.2 million for FY 2010, followed by $83.7 million in profit for FY 2011, a 13 percent increase in one year, and 10 times more than what the University of California (UC) used to be awarded when it was LANL’s sole nonprofit manager.