Sandia LabNews

Little-known Sandia site center of national, international collaboration

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SANDIA SERVES — Sandia’s Washington, D.C., offices are just steps from the DOE headquarters and serve as a home base for those deployed to or visiting the nation’s capital. (Photo by Meagan Brace)

Cathy Branda needed to host a workshop in Washington, D.C., on managing climate-driven zoonotic disease. She needed to ensure 11 different federal agencies and six national labs could all attend and collaborate. She needed to hold the workshop in a place that could accommodate everyone. She needed help.

Fortunately for Cathy — and every other Sandian — there is a small but mighty team waiting for her in the nation’s capital.

“I didn’t even know we had a D.C. office,” Cathy admitted, before adding how grateful she was for everything they did to assist her conference on this vital topic.

Capital of collaboration

There are many reasons for Sandians to visit the nation’s capital, including visiting lawmakers, collaborating with DOE partners or serving as a detailee to an agency. For Jeanetta Grover, Teresa Miller, Jessica Baxter and Jackie Kirby-Hardy, the office is home.

Sandia’s office, next to DOE’s headquarters in the Forrestal Building, is a long-standing hub of activity for the Labs — but it might be the least known of all the Labs’ facilities.

“We do support many of the agencies that are here in Washington, D.C., but we are a touchdown space for all Sandia travelers who come to D.C. for other business,” said Jeanetta, government relations manager and head of the office.

The space is equipped with unclassified offices, a vault-type room, a large classified conference room and a small unclassified conference room.

“With the mix of local agencies that use our space and Sandians, it can get quite busy,” Jeanetta explained.

But it is the people, not the capabilities, who get the most praise.

“Jessica Baxter was fantastic,” Cathy said excitedly about the office’s protocol officer. “After I described the kind of workshop we wanted to organize, the first thing she did was to research for me the various facilities that might serve as an appropriate venue — including looking into the costs, what their requirements were. Everything from the number of chairs to catering requirements to audiovisual support — she helped me. She also gave me a tour of the various sites so we could pick the best one.”

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CAPITAL CREW — The four-person staff of Sandia’s Washington, D.C., office — from left, Jeanetta Grover, Jessica Baxter, Teresa Miller and Jackie Kirby-Hardy — not only help traveling Sandians feel right at home, but also facilitate high-level national and international efforts in the nation’s capital. (Photo by Keith Yehle)

Jessica explained how the office is organized to support all Sandians, no matter their need.

“We have reservations on the calendar that were set 18 months in advance and then others that were requested the same day,” she explained. “We do our best to accommodate both those who are able to plan ahead and those who don’t have that luxury. We’re a landing space for people when they need it most.”

Teresa, the office’s deployed security professional, said Sandia’s D.C. office has many features not found in the D.C. offices of other national labs. People can access the secure servers of other agencies, including DOD, and hold classified meetings. That’s why the space is in high demand by Sandia’s sister labs as well as some DOE personnel.

“I worked for years and years to get that capability, and it’s finally here,” Teresa said. “We do our best to help our colleagues at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos because their site offices do not have access to classified meeting rooms. We’ve tried to be very helpful as a resource, and we get a lot of folks running up the street to use our space because there’s just not a lot of classified touchdown spaces in this vicinity.”

Jeanetta and her team also help expedite many last-minute requests, which they facilitate so that Labs leaders and researchers can seamlessly do what they need to do to serve the nation.

“There might be changes to meeting schedules or something else that creates last-minute changes, but because we know the (Capitol) Hill environment and local agency contacts, we make sure that people are equipped with the right paperwork and meeting space — and that we’ve made the right accommodations ahead of them.”

Passport to D.C.

The staff doesn’t stop at facilitating work and meetings.

“Jessica has created a program called ‘Passport to D.C.,’” Cathy said. “She has organized this opportunity for people new or unfamiliar with D.C. to visit the FBI or go to the CIA museum and so on — see things around D.C. that they might not otherwise see and build community. That’s really cool.”

Jessica said with hundreds of Sandians visiting or stationed there, it just made sense.

“It’s in service of enriching the assignee experience with visits to key agencies and institutions across the region,” Jessica said. “Places like the Supreme Court and the Pentagon are on the list. We want to orient Sandians in this new environment that they’re in.”

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HEART OF D.C. — Sandia’s Washington, D.C., office serves high-level Labs, federal agency, congressional and international guests with a suite of resources no other national lab enjoys in the nation’s capital. (Photo by Meagan Brace)

Jeanetta said it is part of the family atmosphere she and her small team have worked hard to create.

“When travelers come to the office, we like to get to know them better. How was the flight? Who are you meeting with while you’re here? How can we help?” she said. “I think the connection for me is getting to hear about the programs and missions that Sandians are working on back in New Mexico. That to me helps the staff feel connected to the Labs. Sandia’s mission is just so wide-reaching that you get that breadth from each division and each mission space.”

She also sees employees and leadership meet in the D.C. office to reconnect on work items or just simply chat about their day because it is “this little hub that brings people together.”

It certainly worked for Cathy. Her workshop included everyone she needed from federal agencies and national labs and was a big success. So much so that she and Jessica are planning the next one right now.

“The workshop led to lots of further engagements for Sandia with various interagency partners,” Cathy said. “It also enabled us to develop strong connections with people throughout the U.S. government and other national labs interested in this particular topic area. Those relationships are vital to Sandia’s continued relevance in this space and growth overall.”

Jeanetta, Jessica, Teresa and Jackie are the tip of the needle for Sandia, helping people stationed in the nation’s capital, visitors from New Mexico and California, agency partners and even international collaborators. The office may be small, but they work hard to make sure the impact they have on Sandia’s mission and people is large.

“Whether we’re supporting the Laboratories director or an intern,” Jessica said, “we make an impact by being a resource but also adding that personal touch to make Sandians feel at home while they’re visiting us here in Washington.”