It is a momentous change at the top that reverberates throughout Sandia and the entire DOE laboratory complex. Paul Robinson is leaving and Tom Hunter is succeeding him.
The announcement, a subject of internal rumors for some days, came Monday morning: The Sandia Corporation Board of Directors has named Tom Hunter President of Sandia Corporation and Director of Sandia National Laboratories, effective April 29. He will be Sandia’s 12th president.
Tom is Sandia’s senior vice president for Defense Programs, with oversight of the Labs’ nuclear weapons programs. He’s the only person holding the senior VP rank.
He will succeed Paul, who came to Sandia in 1990 and has served as President and Labs Director since August 1995, ushering in a decade of relative stability and growth after the turbulent period of the early 1990s.
Paul will leave Sandia April 29 to assist Lockheed Martin Corporation in preparing its bid to DOE for the management and operating contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Paul said Monday the bid will list him as the LANL director and he will serve as director if Lockheed Martin wins the bid.
Lockheed Martin announced its intention to make that bid just two weeks ago (Lab News, April 1). The current M&O contract for LANL, now held by the University of California, expires at the end of September.
More changes expected later
Tom said Executive VP Joan Woodard will take over Tom’s duties as head of Sandia’s Nuclear Weapons Program. She will also remain Executive VP and Deputy Director during the transition.
Additional management changes are expected later.
“We are thrilled Tom Hunter has agreed to accept the position of director of Sandia National Laboratories,” said Mike Camardo, Sandia Corporation Board Chairman and executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Information and Technology Services. “Tom is a man of great intelligence and extremely high integrity. He has a deep and thorough understanding of the national security needs of the nation, the complex missions of the laboratory, and he cares about the people who work at Sandia.”
Camardo praised Paul for demonstrating great vision during his 10-year tenure as Sandia’s director. “Paul kept Sandia on a steady course toward excellence, ethical behavior, and a better quality of life for its employees and the local community. Sandia consistently received high ratings from our customer, the Department of Energy. This record reflects well upon Paul and the leadership team he put together to manage Sandia,” he said.
DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman had praise for Paul. “While director of Sandia, Paul has overseen important contributions to our national security and defense. He has provided strong stewardship of the nuclear weapons complex and has helped Sandia build its technology base to respond to emerging threats. Paul has a strong science and management background that has served this country well and I thank him for his service.”
NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks likewise had kind words: “Paul has helped Sandia become one of America’s premier laboratories as the lab has been instrumental in NNSA’s efforts to maintain a nuclear weapons stockpile that is safe, secure, and reliable. His leadership and vision will be missed.”
Tom said the core mission of Sandia will continue to focus on maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. As a premier national security laboratory, it also will continue to develop technology solutions for the challenging problems that threaten peace and freedom at home and abroad.
Tom said his vision for the laboratory is based on the principles that national security is Sandia’s first and primary business, that Sandia’s employees are its most important asset, and that Sandia will always be a good corporate citizen in that it values strong, positive relationships with its communities and partners.
A unique heritage and capabilities
“Sandia has a unique heritage and capabilities, from advanced failsafe technologies, processes, and systems to ensure the safety and security of our nuclear arsenal, to our growing efforts in microsystems, simulation and modeling, homeland security technologies, materials development, energy, and water,” he said. “I have great confidence that, with the continued support of our outstanding employees, Sandia will continue to be a laboratory that provides exceptional service in the national interest.”
During an early morning meeting on Monday with Large Staff (VPs and Directors), Tom talked about what he calls “our quest for operational excellence in all the Labs does,” adding, “We have some serious challenges to deal with, particularly with employee safety.” At the same time, he said, the Labs has made notable strides in areas such as security.
“Our actions over the next several weeks,” he added, “will be fairly deliberate with some short-term and long-term goals.” Some of those short-term goals, he explained, will be defining some principles about organizational structure. “Based on those principles we’ll name a set of roles and functions for the Labs and a set of individuals to carry them out.”
New Mexico’s two US senators issued statements Monday on the management changes at Sandia.
“I believe Paul Robinson’s decision is significant because of the expertise he will bring to the Lockheed Martin bid,” Sen. Pete Domenici said. “Paul has worked at Los Alamos, and he has been a terrific director at Sandia. I’m sad he’s leaving Sandia, but his departure and new role certainly tells me that Lockheed Martin is intent on putting together a competitive bid. I think he will play a formidable role, and I think he helps the Lockheed Martin proposal immensely.
“The bidding for the Los Alamos contract will be competitive. My ultimate interest is in having the new contract end up being the best for the lab workers, pensioners, and, of course, the lab in its totality. I think the University of California and Lockheed Martin, and possibly other interested parties, are working toward this goal.
“I look forward to working with Tom Hunter as the new director at Sandia. This is a superb choice, and I think his experience in heading the weapons program at Sandia puts him in a good position to do well as director.”
Sen. Jeff Bingaman acknowledged the outstanding work that Paul Robinson has done at Sandia, and he expressed confidence in Paul’s successor, Tom Hunter.
“Paul Robinson has been a dynamic and highly effective director of Sandia National Laboratories,” Bingaman said. “Given his depth of experience at Sandia and Los Alamos, it comes as no surprise that Lockheed Martin would tap him to prepare its proposal for the management of the LANL contract. We are fortunate that a strong and capable team, led by Tom Hunter, will be in place to manage Sandia as Paul takes on his new assignment.” -- Chris Miller
Tom Hunter, who joined Sandia in 1967 as a member of the technical staff working in advanced weapons systems concepts, has served in a number of leadership capacities closely related to the Labs’ core missions.
60 percent of Sandia’s $2.2 billion annual budget.
As head of the NWSMU and VP of Division 9000, Tom’s responsibilities have included oversight of research programs in microelectronics, materials science, engineering science, computer science, and pulsed power; nuclear weapons engineering; information systems and technology; production and manufacturing; advanced computing, computational engineering science, environmental testing, corporate information systems, and systems integration.
From October 1995 to March 1999 he was VP at Sandia’s California site. His responsibilities there included managing programs in nuclear weapons R&D, nonproliferation, advanced manufacturing technology, information systems, environmental technology, and energy research. As site manager in California, Tom was responsible for community and government outreach. He also served as corporate leader of development for nonproliferation, arms control, and materials management programs.
Tom also served as Director of Nuclear Waste Management and Transportation, Manager of the Yucca Mountain Project, and leader of the R&D Program for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, respectively. He was responsible for developing advanced technology for underground nuclear weapons testing, reactor safety programs, and fusion engineering.
A time to dream big
Four months ago in the Dec. 10, 2004, Lab News, Tom recalled his early days at Sandia. “It was a time . . . when you were only limited by your imagination. It was a time in which you were able to dream big and think of things that had thought to be impossible and how one might do them . . . .”
In that same story, Tom recalled how tackling the large, complex engineering challenges of the weapons program immersed him in the Sandia culture: “As a formative thing for a staff member, it allows you to face the depths of apparent failure and the heights of apparent success, all in a period of a matter of months. We taxed the entire laboratory, including the procurement organization — they had to do things in unprecedented timeframes. The experience, more than any other, probably formed my impression of what it means to work at Sandia.”
In a Lab News Q&A in October 2003, Tom talked about the things he finds most satisfying about his job: “The most rewarding part of the job is clearly teamwork that has an impact. The ability for the laboratory to team together, particularly across the Nuclear Weapons Leadership Council, to achieve a common goal with the other laboratories for example, is very rewarding. The other thing that’s rewarding is to be able to represent Sandia in numerous outside forums. Being engaged in the national debate, representing Sandia, is extremely rewarding because we have an excellent reputation and we’re viewed as people who deliver and who think deeply.”
New staff and powerful vision for MESA
“Another [satisfying aspect of the job] is the new staff. We’ve made a deliberate effort to bring new staff into the weapons program. We’ve seen significant new blood in the Laboratory and they bring ideas and energy that we really need.”
Under Tom’s stewardship as head of the NWSMU, Sandia’s largest construction project ever, MESA — the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications complex — moved from vision to reality. During the MESA groundbreaking ceremony, Tom spoke about the MESA vision:
“The [MESA] vision was simple! It was based on three ideas:
“Imagine then how revolutionary the best of these three ideas would be if brought together in one place. That is the vision of MESA. Today we celebrate that vision and dedicate this place and ourselves to making it real.”
Tom has been active in leadership roles outside the Labs, as well. He served as a panel member for the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, as well as the chair for the Board of Visitors for the Dean of the College of Engineering, University of California at Davis. He serves on the Engineering Advisory Board for the University of Florida, and is the author of numerous technical papers and presentations. He has served on various review groups with other DOE laboratories. Earlier, he was an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico.
Tom earned a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida, an MS in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico, and an MS and PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Tom was recognized as a distinguished alumnus by the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin. -- Bill Murphy
By Bill Murphy
When Paul Robinson came to Sandia, the Berlin Wall had just come down, the Soviet Union was reeling, careening toward history’s dustbin, and the nuclear weapons establishment was beginning — beginning — to think about the challenges of a post-Cold War world.
Paul, who had worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1967-1985, became head of its primary weapons programs by 1980. After a brief stint in the private sector, he was appointed by President Reagan in 1988 as the US Ambassador to nuclear testing talks with the Soviets in Geneva, Switzerland.
And then to Sandia.
His technical fluency, his ambassadorial cachet, and his reputation for deep thoughts about issues regarding nuclear weapons, made him a perfect fit for the new post-Cold War thinking and leadership the Labs sought.
Upon joining Sandia as director of the newly created Systems Analysis Center in October 1990, Paul said, “I’m particularly excited to be able to work with Sandia systems analysts to think through, in considerable depth, new directions in defense and other areas that would make the most sense for the US.”
A new VP for a new division
Paul advanced quickly from his director position to a newly created VP slot: Vice President of Laboratory Development. The new Division 4000 was part of a major organizational shuffle that took effect Aug. 1, 1991. That new group, said Labs President Al Narath, would have major responsibilities in quality, change management, strategic planning, tech transfer, coordination with political and military leaders, and development of new Labs-wide information systems. It was, in short, the organization that would play a key role in defining and shaping a Sandia Labs for the 21st century.
Between the time he became VP and when he was appointed to the top Labs position in August 1995, Sandia was in the midst of dramatic readjustments. Just a few high points of those eventful years: The Tiger Team reviews had just been completed and their impact was being felt throughout the Labs. CRADAs — cooperative research and development agreements — and technology transfer efforts in general — encouraged by 1989 legislation sponsored by Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman — were assuming a larger role in the Labs’ strategic planning. Quality process management became much more formalized. AT&T, the Labs’ steward for 44 years, announced it wouldn’t seek to renew its no-fee contract to manage the Labs after Sept. 30, 1993. After a complex, competitive, DOE-managed bid process, Martin Marietta was awarded the contract to manage Sandia, bringing its own distinctive culture and managerial style to the Labs. Shortly thereafter, Martin Marietta merged with fellow defense contractor Lockheed Aircraft to form Lockheed Martin.
While this was going on, the post-Cold War role of the nation’s weapons labs and their operation also came under scrutiny from the so-called Galvin Commission. The outcome of that commission report was a wake-up call that the national labs needed to become much more efficient and businesslike in their operations. The long-term impact of the commission findings still affect, at least indirectly, the ways Sandia conducts business.
Meanwhile, technical strides continued to be made in a wide range of emerging technologies — microelectronics, computing, materials, sensors, across the entire spectrum of the labs portfolio, really. And a first-ever visit by Sandia scientists and engineers to a secret science city in the former Soviet Union marked the beginning of cooperative relationship that continues to this day.
‘I am delighted’
Against this background — only the broadest-brush picture of the Labs’ state at the time — came a momentous announcement, momentous especially for Paul: Al Narath would step down (or step up, as he moved to a key management position with Lockheed Martin) and Paul Robinson, the former ambassador, the PhD physicist, and former Los Alamos weapons chief, would become Sandia Labs Director and President of Sandia Corporation. The date was Aug. 4, 1995.
“There is no question in my mind that what Al [Narath] is passing to me is the world’s number one laboratory,” Paul told the Lab News the day of his confirmation by the Sandia Corp. Board of Directors. “I am delighted. And I am challenged to try and see how we can make it better.” Joining Paul as Executive VP was John Crawford, who was serving as VP of the Sandia/California site. Later, when John retired, Paul tapped Joan Woodard as his Executive VP, a position she still holds today.
Problems and controversies
In ensuing years, other controversies — not all Sandia-specific, to be sure, because some involved the entire nuclear weapons complex — involved polygraph testing, security lapses, and diversity challenges (specifically, alleged security profiling of Asian- and Pacific Island heritage-Americans in the wake of the Los Alamos Wen Ho Lee case).
Paul, characteristically, addressed each controversy straight on, openly, and with no-nonsense leadership. In a memorable comment during a diversity standdown mandated by DOE, Paul addressed the issue of less-than-professional treatment of underlings by some Sandia managers. He said, bluntly and very publicly, that rudeness from the top down is not acceptable at Sandia. “That’s bull****,” he said with a fervor that left no doubt he meant it.
First among equals
During his tenure as Sandia President and Labs Director, Paul belonged to a very small fraternity — directors of America’s three nuclear weapons labs. And although his colleagues at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos were highly accomplished and capable leaders, there was a perception — and not just among Sandians — that Paul was the first among equals in that club. His stature, physically as well as in reputation and accomplishment, made him an always-compelling advocate, champion, and representative of the weapons labs during frequent congressional testimony and interactions with the congressional delegation.
Paul had sat across the table from the Soviets during many arms control negotiation sessions in Geneva, so it isn’t surprising that he became a leader in the effort to increase contacts and cooperation between DOE labs and their Russian counterparts in the post-Cold War years. Under his leadership, Sandia established relationships with Russian labs that continue to advance the causes of nonproliferation, nuclear waste management, and, in a recent initiative, major cooperation to advance the vision of a global nuclear future.
The most electrifying event during Paul’s tenure, of course, was the attack on the World Trade Center and the subsequent American response. By interesting coincidence, Paul, during a brief stint in the private sector after leaving Los Alamos, had actually worked in the WTC. The attacks were very personal for him. As he wrote in an invited front page letter to all Sandians in the Sept. 21, 2001, Lab News: “For me, the memories were particularly stark and painful. From late 1985 until early 1988, I sat at the southwest corner of the 93rd floor of Tower Two. Every day since the tragedy, the faces flash through my mind of all the people who were likely there that morning — what has been their fate?”
‘Who will now rise to avenge . . .’
And he concluded, at the end of his thousand-word open letter and meditation: “And with all of the deaths — in Washington, in New York, and with those who perished in the airplane that took a sharp plunge to the ground outside Pittsburgh — our nation faces a great crisis.
“Who will now rise to avenge their deaths? Who will create the means of preventing or blunting such attacks in the future? Who will devise the new means of protecting our air travel systems and restoring our ‘open and trusting’ ways of life? Who will design the buildings of the future to still be just as beautiful as those we lost, but prove even more protective of the lives inside? Further, who will step forward to ‘wage peace’ by grappling with the fundamental problems that divide mankind and succeed in securing a lasting peace with freedom for all? These tasks are not ours alone, but they indeed are our challenges, just as surely as there is any truth in our belief that science and engineering have an enormous power to make the world a better place. This week the trumpet has sounded the call for ‘exceptional service’ louder than at any time in our lives. Let us answer the call.”
That rousing call set the stage for Sandia to become a key partner with the new Department of Homeland Security to find technological answers to pressing national security issues. Indeed, before the week of the attack was out, Sandians were working 24/7 to begin to answer the call.
In the subsequent years, Sandia technology has been brought to bear against America’s enemies in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lives have been saved and millions of Americans’ lives made safer as a result of work that, even now, is still really in its infancy.
The work and the people . . . always the people
MESA, along with major nanotechnology infrastructure investment (represented by the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology), a robust supercomputing initiative (Red Storm, the latest in a long line of blazingly fast Sandia supercomputers, will come on line this year), and a rapidly expanding capability in the biosciences, combined with Sandia’s traditional competencies across a wide spectrum of science and engineering fields, provide compelling evidence that, even in the midst of political storms and foreign wars, under Paul’s leadership, the work came first.
The work — and the people . . . Because Paul, for all his technocratic credentials, ultimately has been a man who leads from the front, who moves and inspires people to do their best and to live up to the Labs’ original challenge: to provide exceptional service in the national interest. -- Bill Murphy