Sandia LabNews

For such a time as this

Answering the rally cry to protect our nation and the world

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EVERYONE’S PRIORITY — Associate Labs Director Andy McIlroy leads Sandia’s Integrated Security Solutions division, which has the responsibility to execute significant elements of the W80-4 program. (Photo by Matt O’Neill)

Sandia has helped make the world a safer place for more than seven decades; it’s what we do and who we are. Ever since the Cold War, we’ve designed and certified America’s nuclear stockpile — a deterrence to others who would use nuclear power to enforce their will upon the world. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Sandia stepped forward again, creating the Combustion Research Facility and launching countless avenues of research into renewable energy and energy efficiency.

And following the tragic events of 9/11, Sandia helped stand up the Department of Homeland Security, accelerating innovations to protect our nation.

I believe Sandia can once more light the way to help our nation address foreign nuclear threats. But as Labs Director James Perry stressed in his rally cry, we need everyone’s contributions to answer the call.

A global nuclear deterrent

External threats to national security are at a level of criticality not seen since the height of the Cold War. Today, we face two nuclear-capable near peers at the same time: Russia has recently threatened to employ nuclear weapons, and China is quickly developing global nuclear capabilities. This is an unprecedented global situation, and U.S. nuclear weapons are needed more than ever for world peace. Sandia’s success in our core mission of assuring a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent has never been more important.

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MEETING THE NATIONAL NEED — Teams at Sandia are developing advanced concepts, technology and materials to make the W80-4 one of the safest and most secure systems in the stockpile. (Photo by Randy Wong)

Sandia serves as both the systems integrator and a design agency for U.S. nuclear weapons, and we create their nonnuclear components. The W80-4 Life Extension Program is the Labs’ highest priority and will provide U.S. Strategic Command with a vital military capability. The W80-4 LEP is an estimated $11 billion effort across the nuclear weapons complex. Responsibility for executing Sandia’s portion (estimated to cost $3.8 billion) is distributed throughout the Labs. Beginning in fiscal year 2023, primary responsibility for systems engineering, integration and several nonnuclear components will lie within the Integrated Security Solutions division, which I first joined in 1991 as a postdoctoral researcher and now have the immense honor to lead.

Everyone at Sandia contributes to our mission

Everyone at Sandia can answer Labs Director Peery’s rally cry to step up in this time of need. Some may work directly in nuclear deterrence, while others may contribute to non-ND projects that solidify our reputation for assuring the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Still others provide the infrastructure needed to carry out our mission, attract talented staff to Sandia, work as project managers … the list goes on. In short, meeting this national need is a collective effort.

Our reputation as a national lab is built on the public achievements in our energy and open-science programs. For example, when Sandia transfers technology to the commercial sector or is acknowledged for our contributions to grid modernization or preparing for future pandemics, we demonstrate our cutting-edge engineering capabilities and our ability to deliver on our commitments.

Sandia’s success depends not only on what we do but on our identity as a lab and as individuals. I can tell you from personal experience that our duty as Sandians must be equaled by our humanity. The Labs’ core values — integrity and respect for one another — are vital to how we do what we do.

We must continue to exhibit compassion for one another and bridge divides by doing in life what we already do scientifically: seek understanding. That’s what makes Sandia a special place. Our exceptional service is shown not just through our technical products but in how we live out each and every day.

I urge every Sandian to remember these principles and see what we will achieve together with both our minds and our hearts committed to excellence.