Sandia plays crucial role in W76-1 LEP

PRODUCTION MILESTONE — NNSA announced last month the production phase of the W76-1 Life Extension Program has reached the halfway mark. The Navy's Ohio-class submarine carries the W76-1 warhead, which would be launched on the Trident II D5 missile such as this one depicted here in a test launch. (Photo courtesy of the US Navy Strategic Systems Programs)

by Sue Major Holmes

With its work on the refurbished W76-1, Sandia has played a crucial support role in the Life Extension Program (LEP) to replace the W76-0 warhead.

Nick DeReu, manager of Sandia’s W76-1 LEP Dept. 2222, says the Labs management and staff are integrated closely with a team from across the nuclear security enterprise (NSE) and with NNSA’s Navy customer.

NNSA announced last month that it had reached the halfway point in the production phase of the W76-1 LEP. An event Oct. 23 at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, underscored NNSA’s commitment to meeting the Navy’s requirements for the W76-1.

Gen. Frank G. Klotz, NNSA administrator, was on hand to thank the NSE team that  helped achieve the production milestone. “The W76-1 Life Extension Program is one of several steps we must take as a nation to ensure that America’s smaller nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure, and effective,” he said.

“This is indeed a significant milestone for our nation and our Navy,” said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Strategic Systems Programs. “Through the Navy’s continued partnership with NNSA, the team has achieved this important milestone, and I look forward to completion of W76-1 production before the decade is out.”

Sandia is responsible for numerous critical components, as well as system integration for the W76-1 warhead.

The W76-1 program remains a significant effort at Sandia, supported by organization 400 and numerous centers in divisions 1000, 2000, and 5000, Nick says. Sandia’s release of updated weapon response information in July 2013 marked another significant milestone for the program.

The W76-1 LEP involves engineers and technicians from NNSA’s Pantex Plant, the Y-12 National Security Complex, Savannah River Site, National Security Campus in Kansas City, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia. The first production unit of the W76-1 LEP was completed in September 2008. The program remains on track to produce and deliver warheads to the Navy in keeping with its commitment to complete production no later than the end of FY2019.


-- Sue Major Holmes

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Cooperative Monitoring Center bridges technology, policy to address security issues for 20 years

THE GOVERNOR TOURS — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, accompanied by Sandia President and Laboratories Director Paul Hommert, left, and others, visits the Cooperative Monitoring Center to get a first-hand look at Sandia-developed national security technologies.

by Heather Clark

As the Cooperative Monitoring Center celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the principles of cooperation and the value of technology for the success of international agreements embodied by the center endure at Sandia and in minds around the globe, say those who’ve worked to reduce global security threats since the CMC was established in 1994.

The CMC was instituted to address critical security issues by bringing together policy and technical experts from different nations; showing participants how to use technology and confidence-building measures to solve regional and global security concerns; and creating institutions to promote security in regions around the world.

 “The whole principle is that these problems can’t be solved by one country alone; they require cooperation, and technical cooperation is part of that,” says Arian Pregenzer (6800), a CMC founder and Sandia consultant.

Rodney Wilson, director of Global Security & Cooperation Center 6800, recently hosted a celebration for the CMC in Washington, D.C. “We’re celebrating 20 years and I hope there’s 20 years more to come,” he said after the event. “There are a lot of people who really believe in the CMC and they want to contribute to the idea.”

CMC created to encourage technical understanding, cooperation

After the Cold War ended, Arian became aware at chemical weapons talks in Geneva that those negotiating the treaties overpromised technology and did not fully understand its capabilities and limitations. At the same time, she observed renewed optimism, particularly in the Middle East, about resolving long-standing issues and instituting confidence-building measures. She recognized that policymakers needed to understand how technology could help.

 “There were all these regions where there seemed to be political will to move toward agreements, and those agreements would be nothing if they weren’t implemented — and that meant technology,” Arian says.

Sandia also recognized that many of the technologies developed to address security and arms control issues during the Cold War could be applied to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, says Kent Biringer, manager of International Nuclear Threat Reduction Dept. 6821.

NNSA’s predecessor provided seed money for a half dozen researchers in a portable building to get CMC started. Later, CMC moved to what is now the Sandia Science & Technology Park. Its current home is in the Center for Global Security and Cooperation in the research park.

Visitors to the CMC can use conference rooms for training, offices for research, and the CMC’s Technology, Training, and Display area for a hands-on look at technologies, Rodney says.

In the early 1990s, the CMC established trust between researchers in the US  and the former Soviet Union to facilitate lab-to-lab efforts on arms control verification, defense conversion, and the protection of nuclear and hazardous materials formerly controlled by a centralized Soviet Union.

During that same period, the CMC also worked with the Chinese on arms control and nonproliferation. Today, a specialized academy, the China Center of Excellence, is being established to train Chinese working in the civilian nuclear sector to promote nuclear security across the Asia-Pacific region. The center is a joint effort of the Chinese Atomic Energy Authority and DOE/NNSA.

CMC succeeds in idea exchanges between scholars

Over the years, ideas exchanged between visiting scholars, particularly those from countries where tensions exist, enabled them to develop proposals for their governments together, Arian says.

Scholars visiting Sandia from opposing countries might never have had contact with citizens from the other side, Kent says. “They’d come together and they might start discussing battles they had been in between the countries and realized that they might have been shooting at each other previously,” he says. “And now, they are here collaborating.” From those strained beginnings, long-term friendships and collaboration formed, he says.

Those program participants and Sandia’s early work in certain parts of the world provided entre for other Sandians to build on those connections. Rodney says members of his organization traveled to about 90 countries in FY14, visits he thinks came about as a direct result of the CMC’s work.

An early example of CMC’s success was the cooperation it fostered between Jordan and Israel in 2004 that led to explosives detection portals at the Allenby Bridge on the border with Jordan, Kent says. The technology allowed people and goods to move more rapidly across the border with fewer invasive searches, reducing tensions along the border, he and Rodney say.

The CMC also helped start a companion facility, the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS), in Amman, Jordan. The institute focuses on the technical aspects of regional security and provides a training facility that has been used by a number of US agencies, Kent says.

Sometimes CMC’s cooperative efforts, while valuable in their own right, serve as precursors to national security agreements. An example was a project that encouraged Israel and Pakistan to share meteorological data in 1998-99, Arian says. The objectives were to teach the process of exchanging data, meeting to discuss it, and the importance of transparency, which are important principles for arms control or other political agreements, she says.

Unfortunately, the progress made by the meteorological exchange was interrupted by renewed Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2000.

“That whole habit of cooperation might translate into other things, but you have to have an ongoing political process for that capability to flow into,” she says.

In the future, organizers hope the CMC principles will multiply the effectiveness of Sandia’s programs to reduce nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological threats worldwide.

“As I look to the future, I can’t imagine that we can sustain an agreement in Ukraine, Iran, or even Gaza unless there’s some cooperative technical engagement, allowing us to share information, collect data, and build trust between those countries,” Rodney says. “Simply having a diplomatic agreement might not be enough.”


-- Heather Clark

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A bond for life: Sandian earns prestigious public service award for bringing science to Native American kids

Nelson Capitan (2712-2) started his Sandia career in environmental restoration and moved to the active ceramic trades in Neutron Tube Manufacturing. “I like the lab work,” he says. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

by Nancy Salem

Nelson Capitan grew up strong on the Navajo Reservation. As a teenager he explored the forests and rivers of the Chuska Mountains where his ancestors farmed, hunted, fished, and found building materials for generations. “During the summer I would be out there the whole day with my friends and come back all brown, dirty, sandblasted,” he says.

After school he worked in the town of Tohatchi painting, pulling weeds, fixing roads, and doing odd jobs. “I always felt attached to the land and to the community. It made me strong in many ways,” Nelson (2712-2) says. “I have a connection to the reservation.”

Nelson kept that bond when he left Tohatchi for college and later a job at Sandia. As a member of the Labs’ American Indian Outreach Committee (AIOC) he has worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to support science education on reservations and pueblos and encourage fathers to be more involved in their children’s lives.

  “I’ve been doing it so long I really didn’t think anyone noticed,” Nelson says. But the work made a difference, and Nelson was named a winner of the 2014 Governor’s New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award. He will be honored at a gala banquet Dec. 2 at the Marriott Pyramid in Albuquerque. The program developed by Albert Rosenthal, director emeritus in public administration at the University of New Mexico, has recognized exceptional service by individuals for more than 44 years.

“I feel fortunate getting the award,” Nelson says. “I hope I can set an example. Volunteer work is out there and needed. It has been very rewarding to me. I hope more people can be involved in the schools and communities.”

A mother who taught values and culture

Nelson’s family is from Naschitti on the Navajo Reservation, but he grew up in nearby Tohatchi. His father left home when Nelson and his brother were little. “We were raised by my mom,” he says. “A lot of who I am came from her. She gave us a sense of hard work and connection to our native ways. She taught us family and belief in our cultural heritage. She taught us respect for our grandparents.”

Nelson attended Tohatchi schools through high school. He played football and basketball, ran track, and was vice president of his senior high class. He considered joining the Navy after graduating but a teacher suggested he first do a year of college. In the fall of 1986, Nelson enrolled in environmental studies at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas and never looked back.

“In college I saw the big picture of what my future could be,” he says. He transferred to the Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute, now Central New Mexico Community College, and later the University of New Mexico, earning an associate’s degree in environmental technologies and a Bachelor of Arts in biology with a minor in geology.

Sandia had a summer employment program for Native Americans, and Nelson joined in 1992. “I’ve stayed with Sandia ever since in more ways than one,” he says.

Nelson did work-study, internships, and onsite contracting in Sandia’s Environmental Restoration project. He became a full-time employee in December 2001 working in active ceramics. He transferred four years ago to the Neutron Tube Manufacturing group. “I like the lab work,” he says. “I’m with great people.”

Science and fatherhood

Nelson lives in Laguna Pueblo with his wife and children. He joined the AIOC in the early ‘90s as a

Sandia intern and became more involved over the years. One focus has been science fairs. Nelson recruits Sandia researchers to go to pueblos and reservations to help students with science projects. “We want more kids to interact with professionals from Sandia,” he says. “It’s good for them. The scientists are great role models. They spend quality time with the students.” Hundreds of students participate every year.

Nelson also cofounded the Laguna Fathership Program, which encourages mostly young dads to be more involved with their kids. “We give them tools,” Nelson says. “When a father and mother split up, hopefully there is common ground where they can come together for the sake of their children and be there for them in the best way.”

Nelson speaks from the experience of his father leaving the family. As an adult he crossed paths with his dad on the reservation and brought him back into the lives of his children. “It wasn’t just for me. I wanted my kids to know their grandfather,” he says. “It was a struggle for me at times to resolve those feelings, but we are supposed to forgive, and I had to learn that, too.”

 Nelson also is the Laguna-Acoma co-chair of the Indian Parent Advisory Committee in the Cibola County School District, and works with young people through his church.

His message to Native American youth is to be diligent in school, take time to read, study the scientific method, and think higher education. “I tell them not to stop, to keep going, and don’t get off track,” he says. “I encourage them to think about careers early because that’s what young people off the reservation are doing.”

It’s a message his own kids took to heart. Nelson has a UNM-graduate daughter doing a fellowship in public health in Washington, D.C., a son studying mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University, and a son in high school. “I pass on to my kids the values, faith, perseverance, and the lessons of past generations,” he says.

He says those lessons keep him connected to his home and people. “I think back to my childhood in the mountains, and those are the days I miss, growing up in Tohatchi,” he says. “I learned to love nature and the land and to accept what life gives me.”


-- Nancy Salem

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FFRDCs take on America’s biggest challenges

FFRDC locations across the nation. (Image by ArcGIS.)

by Admin

Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) trace their origins to World War II, when new institutions were needed to address new challenges. The extraordinary science and engineering problems posed by the war called for a sustained R&D effort that combined independent and highly technical capabilities with the kind of long-term funding commitment that only the government could make.

Early precursors to today’s FFRDCs included the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, and the Radiation Lab at MIT. These facilities offered first-rate R&D capabilities from the private sector underpinned by federal funding, the very essence of the FFRDCs.

As Sandia President and Labs Director Paul Hommert notes, the iconic predecessor and model for FFRDCs was Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where the nation invested substantial resources to develop the atomic weapons that ended World War II.

Paul recounts that Gen. Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project, initially envisioned Los Alamos as a pure government operation. Robert Oppenheimer, tapped by Groves to lead the Los Alamos lab for the project, convinced Groves that a more effective approach — and one more likely to succeed in drawing the top scientists and engineers that project demanded — would be to have an outside entity manage the lab, backed by government investment. Groves agreed and the results validated the approach.

The successes of Los Alamos and the other wartime labs offered a compelling model for FFRDCs, a structure that was formalized in the post-war era with the establishment of the RAND Corporation and several Atomic Energy Commission laboratories, including Sandia. Today there are 41 FFRDCs sponsored by agencies from across the government.

Shared characteristics

From the very beginning, FFRDCs shared several characteristics. The official FFRDC regulation states that FFRDCs:

  • Meet special long-term national R&D needs of considerable complexity that cannot be met as effectively by in-house government or contractor resources;
  • Have access to information beyond what is common to the normal contractual relationship;
  • Cannot use special access to compete with the private sector;
  • Are operated as autonomous organizations or by an identifiable separate operating unit of a parent organization;
  • Are required to operate in the public interest, free from organizational conflict of interest;
  • Anticipate a long-term relationships with the government;
  • Provide the continuity that will attract high- quality personnel;
  • Maintain currency in field(s) of expertise;
  • Maintain objectivity and independence;
  • Preserve familiarity with the needs of its sponsor(s);
  • Provide a quick response capability.

Paul notes another key characteristic of FFRDCs: “I think it’s important to address the issue of independence. The government in effect says, ‘We’ve set you up and you’re supposed to be a technical, honest broker. We want you to give us your independent technical view, not colored by commercial or political considerations.’”

The issue of independence, Paul adds, is well-served by a model associated with the Department of Energy’s FFRDCs: They all operate under the government-owned/contractor operated (GOCO) model; the government owns the facility but it is managed by an outside entity from industry and/or academia. Sandia National Laboratories, for example, is an FFRDC. It is also a GOCO facility managed by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, for DOE/NNSA, the sponsoring federal agency. Sandians are not federal employees or employees of Lockheed Martin; all Sandians, including executive leadership, are employees of Sandia Corporation.

Div. 6000 VP Jill Hruby, who heads Sandia’s International, Homeland, and Nuclear Security Program Management Unit, and acting HR and Communications Div. 3000 VP Becky Krauss recently co-championed a key FY14 milestone related to Sandia Strategic Objective No. 3: “Lead the Complex as a model 21st century government-owned- contractor-operated national laboratory.” Specifically, the milestone was: “Develop specific recommendations to advance the FFRDC governance model with NNSA.”

While DOE operates all its FFRDCs as GOCOs, some other federal agencies operate FFRDCs as COCOs (contractor owned/contractor operated) and there are also government owned and operated research entities.

Becky sees value in having several management models among the nation’s research facilities. “I think the government needs that blend of government owned/government operated, contractor owned/contractor operated, and government owned/contractor operated laboratories. We bring different expertise and different cultures to the challenges that face the nation. As a result, the government gets the benefit of diverse perspectives. It’s a blending that benefits the government and national security as a whole.”

A brilliant construction

Regarding the GOCO/FFRDC model, Jill says, “The construct is actually in my opinion rather brilliant, in that you can have institutions that do government work with the best practices of the private sector.”

The FFRDC model is about more than just efficiency, Jill says. She sees in that model an expression of the very nature of our society.

“It says something fundamental about our country,” Jill adds. “It says something about democracy, about freedom, that the nation wants this vital work done outside the government with objectivity and independence.”

Beyond all the legal and definitional issues that describe FFRDCs, it is the importance and urgency of the mission and the service to the nation that resonates deeply at Sandia, Paul says.

“I think it’s a great privilege to be part of an FFRDC,” Paul says, “to be contributing in a laboratory that the government has said with some formalism is important to the nation, not just today, but tomorrow as well. The government has said ‘We’re not asking you to do something trivial; we’re asking you to do something challenging, something that maybe has never been done before, and we need your talent to take on that challenge.’”

“Not everybody’s going to spend their career working at an FFRDC,” Paul says, “but I really can’t think of a more rewarding place to be. The country’s going to throw problems our way — they’re going to be hard, and that’s exciting, it’s important. And it’s all done with a backdrop of public service.”

-- Admin

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