Sandia LabNews

Sandia is 'very sound,' Paul Robinson tells audience of community leaders at annual State of the Labs talk Executive VP John Crawford highlights partnerships, community involvement

The state of the Labs? Healthy, financially stable, and advancing the technology for national security. That was the gist of the message delivered by Labs President C. Paul Robinson and Executive VP John Crawford during the annual community "State of the Labs" address on Feb. 19.

Healthy: After two years of voluntary reductions, the Labs’ staffing levels have stabilized at about 7,500 employees, and the Labs is involved in a recruitment program that will bring in some 250 new staff per year – mostly on the technical side of the house – to replace positions lost through attrition.

A YEAR OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Labs President C. Paul Robinson encourages reporters to pick up a copy of the just-published Labs Accomplishments 1997 special section of the Lab News, which, he said, could serve as a good source of story ideas. Paul and Executive VP John Crawford (left) met with reporters before the annual State of the Labs address. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

(Photo by Randy Montoya)

Financially stable: The Labs budget, which went deep south in the immediate post-Cold War timeframe, has been incrementally increased in more recent years, largely to accommodate new science-based stockpile stewardship programs and associated costs. The total (capital, operational, and construction) budget numbers for FY99 will be in the neighborhood of $1.46 billion, increasing to approximately $1.5 billion in FY2000.

Advancing national security technology: For the Labs, Paul said, 1997 was "an extraordinary year" for technical achievements. These achievements, most directly related to Sandia’s primary stockpile stewardship mission, will find broad application in national security and economic competitiveness.

Status, prospects, and vision

Paul and John shared the stage to speak about the state of the Labs, its prospects for the immediate future, and its vision for its role in the 21st century. About 200 community, civic, and business leaders, including Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca and representatives from the offices of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, gathered at the Technology Transfer Center Bldg. 825 to hear Paul declare that "the Labs are very sound."

In his remarks, Paul focused largely on technical achievements and the direction of Sandia’s technical research and development, while John focused on the Labs’ strategic partnerships and involvement in the community.

Paul opened his comments by repeating remarks made by President Clinton in early February congratulating Sandians Chris Cherry and Rod Owenby for their work helping defuse a letter bomb at the Unabomber’s Montana cabin (Lab News, Feb. 13). Their courageous work, Paul said, helped the federal government develop the airtight case against Theodore Kaczynski that led to his guilty plea.

"We’re very proud of Chris and Rod," Paul said, "but there are thousands more just like them working here every day" to develop means of countering threats to the safety and security of all Americans.

"The secret ingredient here at Sandia is the people," Paul said. "They are the strength; they render ‘exceptional service.’ "

Paul offered a broad-brush review of the Labs’ technical achievements over the past year. As he discussed such subjects as Sandia’s work in robotics, in sensor technology, in critical infrastructure surety, and other areas, a steady stream of slides and photos projected on the large TTC video screen reinforced his remarks.

Paul noted that the National Academy of Sciences and the US Environmental Protection Agency have ratified Sandia’s work on the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, which he said may be the most heavily studied site in history.

"It is my belief that in about May the government will declare [WIPP] open and ready to receive wastes," Paul said.

Paul placed special emphasis on Sandia’s growing use of computer modeling and simulation, noting that Sandia’s teraflops machine and next-generation computers slated to come on line at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories give scientists and engineers a tool that "stretches mankind’s horizons."

With new computer tools, "we can model a warhead crashing into a slab or an airplane wing crashing into a post and spilling its fuel."

Supercomputer capabilities coupled with results from Sandia’s Z machine, Paul said, are providing the nation with valuable tools for maintaining the surety of the nation’s nuclear weapons in a no-nuclear-test environment.

Speaking of the Z machine, Paul noted that its latest breakthrough achievements (see story beginning on page 1) point toward a "very promising new approach to achieving thermonuclear fusion with high energy gain in the laboratory."

Paul also singled out for special mention Sandia’s work in micromachines, microcircuitry, climate change studies, and synthetic aperture radar.

CRADAs and consortia

John focused his remarks on Sandia’s partnerships with industry, universities, and other government agencies, making special note of the largest-ever cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) signed among Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national labs and an industry consortium including Intel, Motorola, and AMD. The $250 million CRADA – all the money coming from industry – will be used to perfect extreme ultraviolet lithography techniques that are vital to manufacturing high-circuit-density microchips.

John noted Sandia’s close work with NASA on the Pathfinder mission to Mars; with the National Institute of Justice on a high-tech evidence detector; with the National Transportation Safety Board on TWA Flight 800 issues; with the National Park Service on photovoltaic systems for remote sites; and with the University of New Mexico on a film-like coating useful in sensor applications.

John also noted the close association between Sandia and the Lockheed Martin-founded Technology Ventures Corporation, which has helped establish 20 companies based on Sandia-derived technologies.

Making our communities better

Sandia and Sandians, John said, continue to play a vital role in making Albuquerque a better community for all its citizens, contributing $1.6 million to United Way in New Mexico and an additional $192,000 to the Livermore Employees Assistance Plan.

The Labs’ employees continued to embrace the Shoes for Kids initiative, providing donations that purchased new shoes for 425 students. Sandia employees donated an estimated 45,000 hours of volunteer time to worthy causes throughout the community in 1997, John said.

"There are four things I’d like you to remember," John told the audience. "The Labs is healthy and is looking forward. It is advancing technology for national security. It is sharing information and partnering in ways we could not imagine just a few years ago. And it is working hard to make Albuquerque and Livermore better communities."