NNSA Administrator Gordon-Hagerty thanks Sandia during B61-12 recognition event

By Michael J. Baker

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Event was part of administrator’s Labs tour July 15

Gordon-Hagerty, Peery and Harrell
KEEPING THE DISTANCE — NNSA Sandia Field Office manager Jeff Harrell, left, NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, center, and Labs Director James S. Peery practice their social distancing in front of the Innovation Parkway Office Center before touring Sandia on July 15. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, DOE under secretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator, touted the work of Sandia and the entire Nuclear Security Enterprise during a B61-12 team recognition event, part of a tour of Sandia on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

“I want you to know that your work did not go unnoticed — what we have done throughout, and in spite of, COVID,” she said during the July 15 live-streamed event at the Steve Schiff Auditorium. “That is amazing, because remember, the nuclear weapons stockpile does not wait for COVID to pass.”

Gordon-Hagerty and Labs leaders were all quick to point out that the success of the B61-12 team is only possible because the entire nuclear weapons enterprise has risen to the challenge presented by the new coronavirus.

“The B61-12 project alone is a momentous task, but now we’ve thrown a lot of obstacles in their way with the pandemic, but that has not slowed them down, and they continue to stay on schedule,” said Labs Director James S. Peery. “What they’ve done is nothing short of truly amazing.”

During the recognition event — mostly watched via online streaming as social-distancing measures prevented all but a small group from attending — James and Gordon-Hagerty noted the appropriateness of celebrating the nuclear deterrence mission accomplishments on the eve of the world’s first atomic blast.

“Look at where we are 75 years later,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “Can you just imagine the scientific discoveries that will continue to take place over the next 75 years as a result of what happened 75 years ago tomorrow?

“Probably the greatest scientific experiment ever known to man” unleashed an era of scientific discovery that continues now as the nuclear weapons enterprise pushes forward in trying times, she said. “We’re allowing you to unleash your mind, and you’re doing it for the love of your country and the love of your families and the love of keeping peace around the world. The B61-12 team is indicative of that.”

B61-12 team successes

Before the NNSA administrator spoke, Jim Handrock, New Mexico weapon systems engineering director, presented specific ways that the B61-12 team had excelled while confronting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the highlights Jim presented was a critical B61-12 flight test on the F-35A jet fighter at Edwards Air Force Base made possible because the Sandia team completed virtual training of personnel at the California base.

“In the COVID-19 environment, travel and getting people to the facilities is much more difficult,” Jim said. “(The virtual training) allowed us to get the flight test done on time, minimize the risk to employees both at Edwards Air Force Base and at the different organizations, and get the test completed successfully.”

Jim also pointed to the success of the weapon modernization lab responsible for assembly and disassembly operations, saying it led the way for developing and implementing COVID-19 safe practices for Sandia laboratory work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the process of the Weapons Modernization Lab figuring out how we can do work with technologists in the lab safely and securely, a lot of those lessons learned were used throughout the rest of the laboratories,” he said. “So, they really blazed a path.”

Also, part of the success was a normal and abnormal environments testing team that completed all baseline system-level ground testing under COVID-19 restrictions, keeping the B61-12 testing program moving forward.

In addition, the success of the First Production Capability Unit in completing critical work with the Kansas City National Security Campus, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pantex and NNSA was also highlighted, along with the B61-12 systems team coordinating important reviews with Sandia/California, LANL, NNSA and the Air Force in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.

“All of our weapons programs are faced with COVID-19 challenges. What Sandia and the entire nuclear security enterprise has done is work through those challenges,” Jim said. “This is not just a Sandia, but a complex-wide recognition and accomplishment.”

A day full of accomplishments

After a morning tour of the construction site for NNSA’s new Albuquerque complex and before the B61-12 recognition event, Gordon-Hagerty began her day at Sandia in the parking lot of the Innovation Parkway Office Center getting her temperature taken and answering COVID-19 screening questions.

Gordon-Hagerty at poster session
POSTER DISCUSSION — NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty reviews some of Sandia’s COVID-19 work during a walkthrough of a poster session in the lobby of Steve Schiff Auditorium. The session was part of her tour of Sandia on July 15. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

From there, the NNSA administrator’s Sandia tour included updates on several national security programs, speaking at the B61-12 event, a walkthrough of a poster session on the Labs’ COVID-19 research work and then an NNSA 20th anniversary event, also at the Schiff Auditorium.

At the 20th anniversary event, Gordon-Hagerty had a message for those who would bet against NNSA and Sandia accomplishing their critical national security mission.

“I believe that the people who are betting against us are challenging the ingenuity and commitment of the Sandia workforce, and that’s a bet I will gladly accept,” she said. “On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you. Thank you for your service and your commitment to our wonderful country; helping keep our freedoms every single day by maintaining our nuclear deterrent and those of our friends and allies.”