Sandia LabNews

Sandia Core Values define culture and mission

Image of values_800
TIME FOR CHANGE — Sandia’s Core Values have evolved since they were initially drafted in 1989.

Sandia’s core purpose for the past 72 years has been to render exceptional service in the national interest, but what does that look like each day?

Values through time

In 1989, members of the Small Staff – what is now called the Senior Leadership Team – participated in a facilitated strategic planning process that defined the Core Values. Former Vice President Dennis Roth proposed five corporate values for Sandia: Quality, Safety, Stewardship, Integrity, and Citizenship.

“The Sandia Values are important because they define us as a laboratory and govern everything that we do. The culture that we build around these values is very important. It distinguishes us and it makes us successful.”


The Core Values were further refined to Teamwork, Integrity, Quality, Leadership, and Respect for the Individual. These were first published in the 1990 Sandia Strategic Plan and did not change until 2001. The Sandia Institutional Plan for 2001-2006 states, “Sandia’s corporate values, first identified in Strategic Plan 1990, remain valid today. In fact, experience continues to confirm their relevance and utility.”

Image of values2_600

Following 9/11, former Sandia President Paul Robinson and the leadership team introduced a new core purpose statement: helping our nation secure a peaceful and free world through technology. Paul explained the reasoning behind this shift in the 2002 Sandia Institutional Plan’s introductory letter, which identified the Core Values as integrity, excellence, service to the nation, our people, and teamwork:

“This statement highlights that 1) we work for the United States in providing our assistance to achieve a peaceful and free world—not only for our citizens but for all citizens of the world; 2) we are increasingly taking a global view as we carry out our work; and 3) Sandia’s advanced technologies are the primary tools we bring to the table.

Image of values3_600

“The goal of our core purpose and the hopes and dreams for a better world suffered a major setback in the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For the first time since Pearl Harbor, our nation suffered a deadly attack with thousands of deaths. There is no doubt that we will rise up as a people and as a nation to avenge these cowardly acts.

“Many parts of our government have called on Sandia to provide help in waging the war against the terrorists now under way and to help keep future destructive acts from succeeding. We take pride in adding these missions to our other national security responsibilities.

“Our fledgling and newly articulated core purpose has been bloodied, but the importance of achieving success in this important task has never been clearer.”

Image of values4_600

Former Sandia President Tom Hunter affirmed previous Sandia leaders’ work identifying the Core Values in 2008. “Sandia’s mission and its people are bound together by the Labs core values — integrity, excellence, service to the nation, each other, and teamwork,” Tom said to the Lab News. “If Sandia remains true to those values, [we] can continue to provide exceptional service to the nation regardless of the challenges [we face].”

When the Labs’ leadership unveiled a new strategic plan in 2015, they revisited the Core Values to ensure they continued to reflect Sandia’s culture. SLT aligned the value of “teaming for great results” with the value “delivering with excellence” to recognize that these two concepts must both be present to achieve greatest success. Notably, SLT added a new value to reflect Sandia’s ongoing commitment to safety and health: We live safe and healthy lives.

Image of values5_600

Sandia’s Management and Operations contract transition to NTESS in 2017 did not change the Sandia Core Values. In 2020, they were revised to their current state:

  • We serve the nation
  • We respect each other
  • We act with integrity
  • We deliver with excellence
  • We team for great results

Embracing values in everyday life

Sandia Labs’ purpose is enabled through the Core Values, which are used to inform daily decisions, shape performance and enable staff to achieve success as one Lab with one national security mission. The Core Values are an integral part of Sandia culture.

Image of values6_600

The new Sandia Values Video series features Sandia leaders sharing how the Core Values help inform their decisions and experiences. As teams watch the videos together, they are encouraged to use the Sandia Values Videos Discussion Guide as a tool to help define the Core Values and related behaviors that are important to each organization. Managers are also encouraged to share their own leadership stories demonstrating the Values.

As the year-end performance management cycle approaches for non-represented employees, it’s important to understand how the Sandia Core Values inform decisions, as well as how they define Sandia culture. This fall, Sandia managers will use the Core Values to evaluate year-end performance for regular, non-represented employees. By using Core Values and companion behaviors as standards for employee evaluations, Sandia seeks to align individual success with Labs-wide performance goals. For more information about performance management, resources, and associated key dates, see