February 5, 2003

Senior Los Alamos and University of California staff speak in support of continuing relationship

Present and past senior staff of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the University of California (UC) have spoken in support of retaining UC oversight of the national lab in the upcoming March issue of APS News, the member publication of the American Physical Society. Their comments come in the wake of the resignation of the LANL director and his top deputy as the Department of Energy reviews the role of the University of California in overseeing the lab.

Dr Harold Agnew and Dr Siegfried S. Hecker, past directors of LANL join Dr William R. Frazer, Senior Vice President, Emeritus, of the University of California in giving their personal opinions on the relationship between UC and LANL. Also providing personal comments are Dr William H. Press, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, LANL and Dr Jill Trewhella, Bioscience Division Leader, LANL.

Some excerpts from their comments follow. Full text of the article is available to journalists on request.

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Dr Jill Trewhella, Bioscience Division Leader, LANL:

"It was no quirk of history that brought the greatest academic leaders together in 1943, under the direction of a UC professor, to achieve what seemed impossible; a nuclear bomb that would end a bloody, global conflict. They achieved their goal."

" Today we are asked to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile without testing, to provide technology for treaty verification and non-proliferation, and to urgently address the terrorist threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It is perilous to think that this mission can be supported without the ability to attract and retain the highest quality scientists from academia, and to partner them with the best of the engineering laboratories and industry for what are some of the greatest science and technology challenges we face."

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Harold M. Agnew, Director of LANL, 1970-1979:

"If Washington makes the move to place our nation’s only nuclear weapons laboratories under separate contract managers, our nuclear deterrent may suffer a very serious setback."

"The recent few stupid actions and lack of integrity by a few individuals at the LANL should not be allowed to cripple the activities of these two laboratories which have to date so well served our nation in their role of maintaining our nuclear deterrent."

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William R. Frazer, Senior Vice President, Emeritus, University of California:

"Staff members at LANL and LLNL (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) assure me that being a part of the UC strongly enhances their ability to recruit talented scientists."

"Meeting future challenges requires the strengthened—rather than weakened—science base which UC management is, I believe, best qualified to foster."

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William H. Press, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, LANL:

"Attempting to describe abstractly the kind of institution that can best manage Los Alamos, we quickly see that we are describing, in essence, UC."

"Yes, Los Alamos must (and will) improve its business and operational practices. But better to do this under revitalized UC management, by 'gently jacking up and then setting down the science,' than by bringing in the management equivalent of the bulldozer and wrecking ball."

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Siegfried S. Hecker, Senior Fellow, LANL, and Director, LANL, 1986-1997:

"The university’s tradition of freedom of expression has enriched the national debate about nuclear weapons over the years. Its clout has in the past helped to buffer the labs from the vagaries of political pressures, regardless of what political party was in power at the federal or the state level."

"The very basis of the partnership between the DOE and its laboratory contractors must be restructured to provide effective nuclear weapons stewardship."


About APS

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.