DOE picks the University of California to head Los Alamos team

The Department of Energy announced in December its decision to award the contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory to Los Alamos National Security, LLC. (LANS), a partnership led by the University of California, partnered with Bechtel Corporation, a huge engineering, construction and project management company.

The University of California has run Los Alamos National Lab since the lab was created in 1943. But a series of safety, security, and financial problems in the past two years cast doubt on the university's ability to manage the lab, and the DOE decided to put the contract out for a competitive bid.

The LANS partnership that will take over the management of the lab includes the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International. They were competing for the contract against a team led by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas.

"Both proposals were strong and of exceptionally high caliber," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman at a press conference in December announcing the decision to award the contract to the UC/Bechtel team.

Bodman stressed that the new contract would not be a continuation of the previous contract. "This is a new contract, with a new team, marking a new approach to management at Los Alamos." That new approach includes a new attitude towards monetary compensation.

The new contract, which begins June 1, has an initial term of seven years, with a provision to extend it to 20 years. Under the new contract, the LANS team will receive up to $79 million per year, depending on performance. Previously, the University of California had received about $9 million per year to manage the lab.

The new contract "begins a new era for Los Alamos," University of California President Robert Dynes said in a statement after the announcement. Details on how operations at the lab will change under the new management have not been announced.

The new director at Los Alamos will be Michael Anastasio, who is the current director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Lawrence Livermore Lab will seek a new director. Livermore is currently managed by the University of California, but the contract expires in 2007, and the DOE is planning to put that management contract out to a competitive bid.