June 26, 2015

Jill Hruby named Labs director

Jill Hruby, who this week was announced as Paul Hommert’s successor as Sandia president and Laboratories director, greets Sandians during her first Labs-wide all-hands meeting. She officially assumes her new role on July 17.  (Photo by Randy Montoya)

by Jim Danneskiold

Jill M. Hruby has been named the next president and director of Sandia National Laboratories, the country’s largest national lab. She will be the first  woman to lead a national security laboratory when she steps into her new role July 17.

A Sandia staff member and manager for the past 32 years, Jill most recently served as VP of Energy, Nonproliferation, and High-Consequence Security Div. 6000 and head of Sandia’s International, Homeland, and Nuclear Security Program Management Unit. She will be the first woman to lead any of the three DOE/NNSA national security labs — Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. She succeeds Paul Hommert, who is retiring July 16 after serving as Sandia president and Laboratories director since 2010.

Jill’s appointment was announced to the Sandia workforce Monday morning by Rick Ambrose, who chairs the Sandia Corp. board of directors and is executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Sandia Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia for the NNSA.

Right combination of qualities

“The board looked at a number of outstanding candidates,” Ambrose said. “We saw right away that Jill has the right combination of technical expertise and strategic vision to lead Sandia into the future. With more than three decades of experience at Sandia, she understands the core national security missions and scientific foundations that are fundamental to the Labs’ success.”

Jill said she was at the same time honored and humbled by her selection.

“Leading Sandia is a tremendous responsibility because of its importance to the security of our nation and the phenomenal engineering and scientific talent here,” Jill said. “I embrace the opportunity to maintain the US nuclear deterrent and lead Sandia in solving the difficult security challenges we face as a nation. I’m proud to be the first woman to lead an NNSA laboratory, but mostly I’m proud to represent the people and work of this great lab.

“Paul is leaving Sandia with the necessary fundamental elements in place, and it’s personally gratifying to follow such a dedicated, visionary leader. I’ve assured him, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Department of Energy that we will continue to deliver on our weapons Life Extension Programs on schedule and on budget. We also will build on Paul’s recent efforts to strategically advance our broad national security contributions, strengthen our basic research, and expand the transfer of Sandia innovations to the US economy.”

Ambrose echoed Jill’s appreciation of Paul’s service to Sandia.

“During Paul’s five-year tenure, he strengthened the development of Sandia’s people, expanded its partnerships with universities and small businesses, and continued its longstanding focus on safety, security, and exceptional performance,” Ambrose said. “We’re grateful for his leadership and his contributions to Sandia and the nation.”

‘The ideal national lab director’

Paul called Jill the “ideal national lab director” and praised the board for selecting her.

“Jill is a person of tremendous talent, someone who will make sure Sandia is ready for expanded roles with a wide variety of new strategic customers. We have a tradition of delivering with excellence on our national security commitments, and there is no one more qualified than Jill to lead those efforts,” Paul said.

In an all-hands meeting on Monday morning shortly after Jill was announced as Paul’s successor, she laid out her immediate priorities:

  • Talent development:  “We have to make sure that we provide the environment for everybody to bring to their job every day their talent and the opportunity to learn from others.”
  • Mission delivery:  “The highest priority mission [is] our nuclear weapons mission. We have to ensure a safe, secure, and effective stockpile. . . . The new way that we think about this is that we can’t deliver on the nuclear weapons program unless we have a broader set of missions to attract, retain, and challenge our workforce.”
  • Maturing of the mission areas: “We’re not just a multi-program laboratory; we’re a multi-mission laboratory. We deliver on many missions and over the long term we make very significant contributions in mission space. And I want to continue that. It exercises our strategic muscle; it makes us think; gets us ready; [helps us] anticipate, so we can be leaders in the nation and not just wait for sponsors to ask. We’ll be ready.”

‘It’ll be fun’

Recognizing that many members of the workforce don’t yet know her well, Jill offered a few comments about her personal style: “I’m a very direct person,” she said. “I am not afraid to share my opinions and I love listening to your opinions, so please share your opinions freely with me. I’m looking for that. I’ve been told I ask a lot of questions — is that true? — and I really enjoy humor. In fact, my husband and my daughters tell me every time I get a new job, ‘You better warn them about your awful sense of humor the first thing you do.’ So I’m warning you. You’ll get used to it. It’ll be fun.”

During a news conference for local media following the all-hands meeting, Ambrose said replacing Paul Hommert was “no small feat.”

“This is a unique job with a unique set of skills in such diverse areas as nuclear weapons, national security, technology development, and scientific research,” he said. “We believe Jill is the right person for the job.”

Regarding her appointment as the first woman to lead a large national security laboratory, Jill told reporters, “Sandia started on this path a long time ago. The Laboratory has long welcomed diversity and inclusion and has been a leader in hiring and developing diverse talent. That paid off for Sandia being the first to hire a female director. I am thankful to the leaders who gave me a chance.

“Isn’t it great? In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this. Throughout my career I have worked hard and learned new things. Science and engineering are not dominated by women, so this sends a good message.”

Joined Sandia in 1983

Jill joined the technical staff at Sandia’s California laboratory in January 1983, working in thermal and fluid sciences, solar energy research, and nuclear weapon component research and development. During her career, she also has done research in nanoscience, hydrogen storage, mechanical-component design, and microfluidics.

She earned her first management appointment in 1989, and held technical leadership positions at the California laboratory in polymer and electrochemical technologies, materials synthesis, and inorganic and physical chemistry.

Beginning in 1997, Jill served as a senior manager in organizations responsible for weapon components, microtechnologies, and materials processing. She was named a technical director in 2003. For the next seven years at Sandia’s California site, Jill led the Materials and Engineering Sciences Center and its work in hydrogen science and engineering and micro- and nanosystem science and fabrication, and then the Homeland Security and Defense Systems Center, fostering Sandia work in systems analysis, applied research, and systems engineering, primarily for homeland security and nuclear weapons missions.

Came to New Mexico site in 2010

Jill came to Sandia’s New Mexico site in 2010 as vice president of Energy, Nonproliferation, and High Consequence Security Div. 6000 and of the International, Homeland Security and Nuclear Security Program Management Unit. In that capacity, she was responsible for more than 1,300 Sandia employees in such diverse areas as nuclear security and nonproliferation technologies; chemical and biological defense and security; homeland security and counterterrorism; and energy technologies.

A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jill earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a master’s from the University of California at Berkeley, both in mechanical engineering. She has authored numerous technical publications, holds three patents in microfabrication, and won an R&D 100 Award in solid-state radiation detection. She serves on DoD’s Threat Reduction Advisory Committee and the Board of Chemical Science and Technology for the National Academy of Sciences. She has served on several university advisory boards, on community boards in Livermore and Albuquerque, and as the campus executive at the Georgia Institute of Technology.



-- Jim Danneskiold

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SecuritySeal: Sandia’s tamper-detecting technology is tough to fool

SEALED UP — Jason Hamlet was on the Sandia team that developed SecuritySeal, a device that attaches to a container and detects tampering. The technology, which is based on physical unclonable functions, or PUFs, is available for licensing. “We are looking for commercialization partners,” Jason says. “We want this to be licensed and moved to the next level.” (Photo by Randy Montoya)

by Nancy Salem

Protecting assets from threats defines the wide-ranging industry of security, running the gamut from a padlock to a surveillance camera to a critical cyber firewall.

“Adversaries continue to advance and technology is readily available, creating a more complex challenge to those of us who try to protect assets and detect unauthorized access to them,” says Dianna Blair, manager of Global Technology Engagement, Research & Analysis Dept. 6832. “One advancement by an adversary can make a security technology obsolete overnight in our world. The key is to stay ahead of the adversaries.”

An important area of security is ensuring that something inside a shipping or storage container stays there. “You might have to guarantee that cargo has not been tampered with or that nuclear materials in storage haven’t been diverted,” says cybersecurity specialist Jason Hamlet (5627).

Sandia has a long history in tamper-detection research and continues to advance the field, providing technologies to users such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. The next generation of technologies has produced SecuritySeal, a patented method of tagging and sealing containers or doors. The seal is placed on a closed container so that any attempt to open it is detected cryptographically. “When you come back in the future you can verify that it had not been opened,” says electronics engineer Todd Bauer (1746), a principal investigator with Jason on the SecuritySeal project.

Moving technology into the marketplace

 SecuritySeal is available for licensing and is in the US Department of Homeland Security’s Transition to Practice program, which helps move cybersecurity technologies developed through federally funded research and development into broader use. The program provides a connection point for researchers, the federal government, and the private sector to drive technology from research labs to the marketplace.

“We are looking for commercialization partners,” Jason says. “We want this to be licensed and moved to the next level.”

The prototype is a little bigger than a credit card and would fit a truck or cargo container. But it could be sized to something larger or as small as a prescription medication bottle. “Seal a truck, seal a pallet, seal a box, or a bottle,” Todd says. “You will know if the container has been opened and that what is in it is what is supposed to be in it.”

Jason and Todd came up with the idea in 2009 and worked on it for several years. The technology is based on physical unclonable functions, or PUFs, the small defects that are part of any manufacturing process, a function of materials properties and tolerances.

Microelectronics is no exception. “Electrical characteristics exist in microelectronics that were not designed, small variations from one device to another that exist due to the manufacturing process,” Jason says. “A PUF is a measurement of those variations, which are uncontrollable, unclonable, and unique to individual devices. It’s a kind of fingerprint.”

Jason, Todd, and team members including Bob Brocato (1751) and Brian Wroblewski (1833) developed a way to use PUFs to authenticate integrated circuits. SecuritySeal has two PUFs, one from a resistor network printed on a thin polymer film, and another from an on-board integrated circuit. The resistor network is adhered to the surface of the container it protects. The two PUFs are then measured and combined to form a system-level signature, leading to a private key that stays with the device and a public key a verifier can use.

 Each SecuritySeal would be enrolled in a database with a serial number with the public key, similar to the Entrust identity management system. The private key is not stored in the device’s memory, but is instead regenerated from a measurement of the PUFs when needed.

Resistance properties of the network change if the film is lifted, slid, or attempted to be removed from the surface it is adhered to, and the PUF response is altered so the tamper is detected. A digital reader interrogates the device remotely and can infer a change in signature if the tag-seal fails to properly respond to a challenge provided by the reader. Knowledge of the private key is needed to generate the right response. If the PUF changes, the private key changes and the tag-seal can’t provide the correct response.

A deterrent to adversaries

“Tamper-indicating seals are a critical part of the regime I work in,” Dianna says. “SecuritySeal might not stop tampering, but it will help us monitor if a protected volume has been accessed. It addresses a key vulnerability. If a seal can be counterfeited, an intruder could take it off and replace it with one that looks just like it. SecuritySeal has a unique signature that cannot be counterfeited. It has a strong deterrence factor.”

The research was done in the area of national security that focuses on arms control and treaty verification. “In nonproliferation treaties, a weapon system is dismantled and the component parts are stored in different containers,” Todd says. “How do you know without continuous visual surveillance that no one has gone into the containers? This tool can remotely monitor treaty compliance with assurance.”

But the device, which could be manufactured with custom parts or with less expensive commercial off-the-shelf components, has a variety of potential uses including protecting pharmaceuticals, cargo, crime scene evidence containers, consumer goods against warranty fraud, and ballot boxes.

“The market is quite broad for this technology,” Todd says. “There are many ways to seal and protect assets, starting with padlocks. Our goal is to raise the bar. This helps keep everyone a little more honest.”

-- Nancy Salem

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Always/Never documentary tells story of nuclear weapon safety, security

CREWS CLEAN UP DEBRIS from the crash of a B-52 near Thule, Greenland, in 1968.

by Sue Major Holmes

Sandia has released its documentary, Always/Never: The Quest for Safety, Control, and Survivability, which showcases rare historical footage and interviews with a wide range of experts to describe how national security laboratories improved the safety and security of nuclear weapons from the dawn of the nuclear age to the end of the Cold War.

US policymakers decided after World War II that the nation would rely heavily on nuclear weapons as an essential strategic deterrent. At the same time, they wanted assurances that weapons in the stockpile would always work if called upon but could never detonate as the result of accident, equipment failure, human mistake, or malicious intent — hence the title of the film.

Nuclear weapons must work in extremely complex and often harsh environments. While they could remain dormant for decades, they must be available immediately at the president’s command.

Always/Never by Sandia filmmaker Dan Curry documents Sandia’s crucial role with wide-ranging interviews that tell the story from many viewpoints, including the military, academics, other laboratories, and those who oppose nuclear weapons. Among those interviewed are the late former Defense secretaries Robert McNamara and James Schlesinger; Bruce Blair, co-founder of Global Zero, which seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons; and Stanford University senior fellow Scott Sagan, author of The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons. In addition, more than a dozen active and retired Sandia designers and engineers told their stories for the camera, many for the first time publicly.

“We decided to place Sandia’s achievements alongside those of Los Alamos and Livermore national laboratories. Additionally, those achievements had to be placed in the context of a much larger historical framework, one shaped by NATO and US policy and military operations, international politics, and world events,” says Dan, who spent years gathering interviews with dozens of the key players in the nuclear policy of the era.

Video can be viewed on YouTube

The video is available on YouTube at

The nuclear weapons history told in the film spans 1945-1991 and examines the geopolitical events of the Cold War and how those events drove the history of nuclear weapon design and engineering.

Always/Never tells the story of the push and pull between nuclear policy, technology, and operations. While the Eisenhower administration shared nuclear weapons with NATO allies, for example, the Kennedy administration wanted greater assurance weapons could be employed only with presidential consent. Sandia developed Permissive Action Links (PALs) as a practical way to improve presidential control. PALs, as an engineered barrier to prevent an unauthorized person who obtained access to a nuclear weapon from being able to use it, made a major contribution to global security.

“It’s important to preserve this history for generations without the experience of living through WWII or the Cold War,” says Deputy Laboratories Director and Executive VP for National Security Programs Steve Rottler. “Exploring key aspects of the past interaction between technology, military requirements, and national policy may contribute to a better understanding of what it will take to sustain the nation’s nuclear deterrent in an uncertain future. This film captures the history that drove the development of a science-based philosophy, set of principles, and structured engineering approach for assuring the safety, security, and reliability of US nuclear weapons. Our commitment to the Always/Never paradigm still pervades Sandia today.”

-- Sue Major Holmes

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