Sandia continues to boost NM economy through business programs

To download a PDF version of the 2014 Sandia National Laboratories Economic Impact report, go here.

by Nancy Salem

Sandia spent nearly a billion dollars on goods and services in fiscal year 2014 and New Mexico businesses received more than 38 percent of the total, according to the Labs’ latest economic impact report.

Of the total of $961.8 million Sandia spent last year, New Mexico businesses received $362.4 million. US small businesses were awarded more than 47 percent, or $455.7 million in Sandia contracts, and New Mexico small businesses received $240.6 million, or 53 percent of the small business total.

While total spending and spending with small businesses and New Mexico businesses all declined compared to FY13 — by $12.8 million, $58.6 million, and $46.5 million, respectively — “Sandia remains a driving force in New Mexico’s economy,” says Don Devoti, manager of Small Business Utilization Dept. 10222. “We continue to set aggressive small business and supplier diversity goals and work diligently to meet or exceed those goals.”

Small businesses, diverse suppliers wanted

Sandia reaches out to local businesses through a variety of programs. It holds public forums with suppliers and civic leaders to discuss contracting opportunities and lists contracts on its Business Opportunities website. It supplies small and diverse business owners with information on doing business with Sandia and seeks qualified suppliers.

The 2014 Sandia National Laboratories Economic Impact report breaks down Sandia’s spending and spotlights its role in the economy. The 2014 data, reflecting actual payments made, are based on the fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014. The report demonstrates Sandia’s continued commitment to small business.

Sandia’s overall economic impact in 2014:

  • $1.6 billion was spent on labor and non-contract-related payments.
  • $961.8 million went to contract-related payments.
  • $61.5 million went to the state of New Mexico for gross receipts taxes.
  • $71.9 million was spent through procurement card purchases.

The Small Business Act mandates that federal contractors use small businesses, including those that are small disadvantaged, owned by women or veterans and service-disabled veterans, and small businesses in impoverished areas — called Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zones. The Small Business Utilization Department oversees those mandates and negotiates small business subcontracting goals with NNSA.

“Looking ahead to FY15, Sandia procurement and our small business team are driven to exceed all our negotiated small business and supplier diversity goals, the standard by which our program is measured,” Don says. “We will continue to build upon our successes with HUBZone, veteran, service-disabled, and small disadvantaged businesses, where we exceeded our goals last year, to drive future success.”

Sandia President and Laboratories Director Paul Hommert echoed the Labs’ full support of the Small Business Act. “Sandia has a long and distinguished record of encouraging and partnering with highly qualified, diverse small business suppliers who assist us in achieving our national security mission,” he says. “We are fully committed to continuing this track record.”

Sandia also helps the state’s economy through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program, established by the state Legislature in 2000 to help companies receive technical support from the Labs. In 2013, the Sandia NMSBA provided $2.4 million in technical assistance to 194 New Mexico small businesses in 29 counties. Since 2000, it has provided more than $26 million in assistance.

Sandia employees gave more than $6.2 million in 2014-2015 to the United Way of Central New Mexico, making Sandia the largest corporate contributor to the agency. That will be reflected in the 2015 economic impact report.

Sandia employees also contribute their time as volunteers, supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education through a variety of community programs, such as family science and math nights and engineering challenges, that reached thousands of students.

-- Nancy Salem

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Sandia welcomes service dog to New Mexico campus

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE — Rob Mitchell, an ES&H Coordinator, will begin bringing his service dog Hunni to Sandia at the end of January. (Photo by Steve Miller)

by Valerie Larkin

On Dec. 27, 2004, Rob Mitchell (4021) was driving through Sadr City, Iraq, with the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, headed toward a nearby base exchange where he and his team planned to buy snacks and CDs. He was behind the wheel of the third Humvee in a three-vehicle convoy when everything suddenly turned brown.

“It was like I’d driven into a sandstorm. I didn’t hear anything, see anything, or feel anything. Everything was just brown,” he recalls. The dust settled, and he realized his convoy had been hit by an improvised explosive device, an IED.

Rob’s best friend, a gunner in the second vehicle, was killed in the attack and several others in the convoy were severely wounded. The Humvee’s ballistic glass windshield saved Rob’s life when it prevented an airborne ball bearing from hitting him. This was the third IED Rob had survived during his year in Iraq.

A life changed by anxiety

Upon returning to the base after the explosion, a debriefing was about to begin when Rob found himself on the floor. “My whole body was shaking, and I couldn’t stop. That was the first time I had experienced what I live with today, which are panic attacks,” he says. Rob hadn’t sustained any physical injuries, but he had walked away with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that has affected every day of his life from that point forward.

Although the frequency of the panic attacks has lessened over time, the father of two still lives with constant anxiety. Keeping that anxiety from building into a panic attack is a daily struggle, especially when any number of everyday experiences, from driving under an overpass to seeing trash on the side of the road, can trigger debilitating fear, shaking, numbness, or dizziness, among other symptoms.

“Nothing seemed to cure it necessarily, but a lot has helped. I’ve come a long way in 10 years of dealing with it. Support has been the biggest help — from friends, family, and battle buddies who have been through the same things I’ve been through. Playing my guitar has been one of them. Nothing is a be-all, end-all, cure-all. There are battles every single day. I win some, and I don’t win others. You just hope you win more than you lose,” Rob says.

In the decade since he returned to the States from Iraq, Rob has tried various therapies, from individual and group counseling to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. When Machelle Karler, manager of Diversity, Inclusion, Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Dept. 3011, suggested a service dog to Rob, he decided to give it a chance.

In 2014 he called Paws and Stripes, an Albuquerque nonprofit that matches shelter dogs with veterans living with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The organization teaches the veterans to train the dogs to become service animals in an eight-to-12-month process.

A new tool in the toolbox

“I went to Paws and Stripes because I decided I needed another tool to help deal with the PTSD. You can’t build a house with just a hammer. You have to try everything at your disposal to get through it,” Rob says.

Paws and Stripes provides the dog and the training to the veteran at no cost, but the program has a lengthy waiting list. Rob moved up the waiting list by raising nearly $6,000 to help pay for his dog’s training. The majority of the contributions Rob received came from Sandians. “It makes me feel really good knowing the type of support I have here. The support of Sandia is unsurpassed,” he says.

Paws and Stripes also can teach the veteran to train his or her pet dog if it meets certain criteria. Rob’s dog Hunni, a 4-year-old, 60-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was evaluated against the criteria, and she was determined to be a good candidate. Rob and his family had rescued Hunni from Animal Humane New Mexico three years ago, and in the last year Hunni has taken on a new role as Rob’s service dog.

“She made the transition pretty smoothly. At first it was a little difficult for her to understand that she was no longer the pet. When we’re training, and when she’s working, no one else can interact with her except me, unless they ask permission first. Hunni needs to get used to not interacting with people everywhere she goes; she basically needs to be a ghost,” Rob says.

Rob and Hunni attend three weekly training sessions, which include group and individual skill-building activities with the dogs, as well as classes that educate the veterans about how a service dog can help allay their symptoms.

Service dogs can help their human companions through PTSD symptoms in many ways, such as retrieving medications at the onset of a panic attack, calling their attention to an elevated stress level, waking them from nightmares, or providing mobility assistance.

“Hunni’s job is to help alert me when my stress and anxiety levels start reaching a point that I need to pay attention to them,” Rob says. Hunni can read Rob’s subtle physical signals, and if she fusses with her nose harness or acts excited, that is her cue to Rob that he needs to mitigate his anxiety.

Petting Hunni helps too. “The tactile response alone can be calming enough to help turn it around if I start freaking out, to get that affection, that unconditional love.”

Through further training, Hunni will be able to help Rob identify and avoid his anxiety triggers, and also to get help if Rob needs it during a panic attack.

Bringing Hunni to Sandia

At the end of January, Hunni will take a test to demonstrate she has the basic skills necessary for operating in a public environment, such as sitting, staying, and obeying commands. After she passes the public access test, Rob can bring Hunni to work.

Rob works as the Environment, Safety, and Health coordinator for centers 400 and 700, having joined Sandia in 2013 as a member of the Wounded Warrior Career Development Program, which makes certain Sandia jobs available to combat-wounded veterans on a one-to-three-year term.

When she comes to Sandia, Hunni will shadow Rob throughout the day, attending meetings, visiting customers around the campus, and working in Rob’s office in Bldg. 802. She will lie in a crate in Rob’s office, and when nature calls, she will avail herself of the lawn outside Bldg. 800.

This is the first time in recent memory that a service dog has been on Sandia’s New Mexico campus, so Rob worked closely with Machelle to ensure all laws and regulations were being followed and to facilitate the process of introducing Hunni to Sandia. Machelle coordinated with Sandia’s legal and medical departments, the Bldg. 802 manager, the building evacuation team, and others to ensure all facets of Hunni’s presence on campus were considered.

“I’ve put my heart and soul into this for him, and I am so excited to see this come to fruition for him and for his family,” Machelle says.

“We wanted to make sure we could pave the way in a process for other veterans or Sandians who are considering having service dogs. We wanted to help lay the groundwork for other people who want to have service dogs, and I think we’ve done that,” Rob adds.

-- Valerie Larkin

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Harold’s story: After 65 years at Sandia, Harold Rarrick turns in his badge

ONE LAST LOOK — As Harold Rarrick prepares to turn in his clearance badge after 65 years, he reflects on two lifetimes’ worth of service to Sandia and the nation. Although Harold, who started at Sandia in October 1949, retired from the Labs in 1993, he remained involved with Sandia as a consultant and senior mentor in the Weapon Intern Program until last October.    (Photo by Randy Montoya)

by Bill Murphy

When Harold Rarrick receives the Order of the Nucleus award from the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center later this month, it will be the capstone to a career that began at Sandia in 1949 and ended just last October when he turned in his badge after almost 65 years.

The award, which will be presented in a ceremony on Jan. 27 at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, recognizes a lifetime of contributions Harold made to the US Air Force in nuclear weapon-related work.

Like many of his contemporaries, Harold didn’t set out to work in the nuclear weapons enterprise. Rather, he ended up in weapons work almost by chance. He’d heard there was work in New Mexico. It wasn’t clear exactly what the work entailed but the employer was apparently looking for people with his skills. Hey, it was a job, and with a wife and baby to support and with a freshly minted degree in math and physics from Pepperdine University, a job sounded like just the ticket.

Harold got in his car and drove from California to the Land of Enchantment. He aced the interview with Bob Krohn, who was in charge of early nuclear tests at what was then called Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Krohn offered Harold a job at Los Alamos doing . . . well, he couldn’t tell him that, not until Harold got his clearance. But the job paid almost $300 a month, which sounded pretty good. That was in August 1949. After a spell, his clearance came through, launching a career that spanned 12 presidential administrations.

Harold trained for three months at the Los Alamos Ice House, learning the processes involved in the surveillance and assembly of the plutonium and enriched uranium capsules for nuclear weapons, the core of the weapon package. It struck Harold that here he was, a green staff member getting $285 a month holding a king’s ransom’s worth of plutonium in his hands. At the dawn of the Cold War, this was probably the most precious material in the nation and he was handling it as a matter of routine.

Not in Kansas anymore

“We knew we were doing something important,” Harold says. “We talked about that a lot. We knew there was no margin for error in what we were doing.”

With that specialized training under his belt, Harold, now assigned to Sandia, was tasked to open a weapon storage site at a base in Texas. It didn’t take him long to figure out he wasn’t in Kansas anymore: To access the site, which had already been prepped for its weapons mission, Harold remembers walking through a maze of fences and doors guarded by “18-year-olds with machine guns.” And even after negotiating this gantlet, there were other protocols for entering the vault, all designed to make the site as secure as possible.

Over the next several years, Harold’s career might be summarized as “On the Road Again.” He traveled around the country training personnel and inspecting the components at weapon storage areas, serving in something like an inspector general role.

“I loved the work and the travel,” Harold says, noting that his job was exposing him to places he’d never been and experiences he’d never had before. The downside: He knows the travel and his frequent absences were hard on his family.

As the Cold War ramped up, and with it the scale of weapon testing, it became clear that there were risks that needed to be addressed more effectively. In 1957, Harold was asked to set up a health physics organization. Health physics is the physics of radiation protection. It was the job of Harold and his team to ensure that workers at the Labs and in the field at weapon test sites in Nevada and other locales, including Enewetak Atoll (the atoll name was spelled Eniwetok until 1974) in the Pacific, were not exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. This work kept Harold in the field for long stretches.

‘We knew what to do’

The pace could be relentless. During a six-week period at Enewetak, for example, there were more than 20 test shots.  As Harold recalls it, “Sandia would put experiments on a bomb shot. After the test, we’d evaluate the rad fields, determine the risks, and then take guys in to recover the experiments.”

Harold recalls one test that had his team scrambling. They deployed some 4,000 fallout traps and air samplers in one weapons- related experiment.

“We learned that you could get contaminated real easy,” Harold says. The hard-won knowledge gained in field tests paid dividends when real-world events took center stage. “When Palomares happened,” he says, “we knew what to do.” [Note: Palomares refers to an accident in Spain in 1966 in which four nuclear weapons fell from a B-52 involved in a crash. Three of the weapons were recovered on the ground and one was recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.]

Harold describes his work during this time as “real stressful, but addictive.”

It seems that in his career Harold was destined to be a road warrior, operating away from the Mother Ship in Albuquerque. In 1970, he was named Division Supervisor of Range Operations at the Tonopah Test Range. During his stint at TTR, Harold created the position of test director, a role that still exists to this day and has proved invaluable to Sandia’s weapons mission.

After Tonopah, Harold spent more than 15 years in various roles related to weapon testing. Among his other functions, for most of the 1970s Harold was the program manager for reimbursable test programs, providing technical and financial management for non-Sandia customers, including the Defense Nuclear Agency, the US Air Force, US Army, US Navy, NASA, and other DOE laboratories using Sandia test facilities in Albuquerque and Tonopah. He also spent more than a decade in the Nuclear Safeguards organization and the Development Test Directorate, making important contributions to the Labs’ nuclear weapon mission. A highlight of this period was his involvement in the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action program, during which he planned, arranged, and managed two international conferences on the subject.

As the Cold War wound down, Harold became more deeply involved in environmental assessments and restoration. His personal, often first-hand knowledge of Sandia’s weapon test history made his insights invaluable during this period, keeping him engaged and occupied right up until his retirement in 1993.

Staying involved

But retirement didn’t mean the end of his involvement. After working as a consultant to DOE on environmental issues for several years in the 1990s and consulting with Sandia’s corporate archivist, Harold was asked to become a senior mentor for the then-new Weapon Intern Program. That role re-energized him as he relished sharing stories about Sandia’s weapons heritage with the next generation of weaponeers from the national laboratories, the military, and federal agencies. The mentor role was a perfect fit for Harold. He was so proud to be a part of the program that his wife sewed on patches of each intern class and embroidered “Harold - Senior Mentor” on every one of the shirts he wore for each intern class.

In recognition of his role in the Weapon Intern Program, Harold was one of several senior mentors honored in 2003 with the US Air Force Award for Exemplary Civilian Service.

Sandia was more than a job for Harold; it was a place to grow, to learn, to test his own limits.

“Everything was new. We were doing things nobody had ever done before,” he says. “We had to get smart fast and one way we got smart was that we worked with smart people. There weren’t many dummies at Sandia.

“I was just a kid when I started,” he reflects. “I’d do a few things different but not a lot. I spent 50 years not knowing what I was going to do the next day, what the next new challenge would be. That was a big part of the appeal and that part I wouldn’t change at all.”

Finally, almost exactly 65 years after getting his clearance to work in the weapons complex back when Harry Truman was president, Harold gave up his badge, dropping it in the receptacle box outside Sandia’s badge office at the IPOC building. It was a bittersweet moment, but one he was ready for.

“It got to where I was pushing myself to go in,” he says. “I was worn out, but I loved the work. I loved Sandia.”




-- Bill Murphy

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