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After 70 years of service, taking action for the future

April 1, 2013
Director Charlie McMillan

Lab Director Charlie McMillan.

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Welcome, everyone, to the latest edition of Connections. As we at the Laboratory commemorate 70 years of service to the nation, I think it’s appropriate to talk a little about the next 70 years as well.

But first, allow me to extend an invitation. On Friday, April 5, the Los Alamos Historical Society will unveil the official military portrait of the man who oversaw construction of the Laboratory—Gen. Leslie Groves. (See here for details.) I hope to see you there as we officially kick off our anniversary events.

The Bradbury Science Museum has begun a series of lectures looking at our shared history. We’re launching a special logo for our 70th anniversary. We will award 70 scholarships thanks to the generosity of Laboratory employees and our parent organizations, and we have a number of other events in the planning stages. It has been our honor to serve the nation for these seven decades, and we’re proud to call Northern New Mexico home.

Now to the future: both near-term and looking farther ahead.

I can report several updates on the Laboratory’s budget status.

Both houses of Congress have passed a Continuing Resolution that essentially funds the government at the fiscal year 2012 level. It is subject to reductions due to “sequestration,” which refers to automatic federal budget cuts aimed at reducing the country’s debt over the next 10 years.

For the Laboratory, we estimate that will mean a reduction of between $100 million and $110 million in 2013. Final numbers may vary based on the allocations for each Department of Energy site. And just around the corner, the Administration is expected to make its budget request for 2014 in early April.

We have planned for this

If there is any good news in this number, it’s that we have taken steps that prepared us for this.

Since November of 2011, a council of senior Lab leaders has closely monitored all hiring and major purchases. That, combined with the voluntary employee separation plan last year, has given us the ability to better cope with this year’s uncertainty.

Nonetheless, we expect impacts to the Lab’s purchasing power and are closely watching our subcontract workforce. We are working with NNSA to assess the impacts on a handful of Lab programs. In my view, the key is to manage short-term impacts with an eye toward long-term results.

For example, I have not frozen hiring. Our student and postdoctoral researcher programs remain steady. This is important as we look to the Lab’s talent pipeline and future leaders.

We continue to spend about $30 million per year on infrastructure and facility improvements. We all know that the Lab’s buildings are not getting any younger. It’s my goal to maintain an environment that attracts the best and brightest employees and allows science and innovation to flourish.

Our mission is as important as ever

It’s important to remember the President’s words during a speech in Prague in 2009. He spoke of his goal of a world without nuclear weapons—but he also said this might take decades or a lifetime. As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective deterrent. Los Alamos will continue to play its key role.

On behalf of the men and women of Los Alamos National Laboratory, I thank you for being our partners and neighbors for the past 70 years. I look forward to 70 more.


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