UT Regents authorize offer of bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory

AUSTIN—The University of Texas System Board of Regents today authorized submission of a formal bid on a federal contract to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos is the nation’s preeminent national laboratory in the areas of nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security, environmental management, energy and other programs, one among the U.S. Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories. Los Alamos, located about 30 miles outside of Santa Fe, N.M., operates under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy.

The Board’s action authorizes Chancellor William H. McRaven and Deputy Chancellor David E. Daniel, Ph.D., with the support of others as the Chancellor may determine, to respond to the Department of Energy’s final request for proposals (RFP) to manage and operate the Lab.

The Department of Energy’s RFP was published Oct. 25. Formal responses are due on Dec. 11, and the award of the contract is anticipated to be announced mid-spring 2018.

While the Regents’ vote was not unanimous, Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker expressed appreciation for the Board’s deliberation and views.

“It is understandable that there may be differing perspectives on a matter as complex as this, but this rare opportunity is too important for the University of Texas System to not actively seek,” Tucker said. “Healthy discussion in an atmosphere of transparency demands that we get all points of view among Board members out on the table. I appreciate the diversity of perspectives in this discussion and am grateful to the Regents for their thoughtfulness, commentary and diligence in reviewing the comprehensive materials presented to them.

“Los Alamos requires exceptional leadership and management. Our nation deserves no less. Therefore, we are directing Chancellor McRaven and the UT System to prepare the strongest possible case to assume this role,” Tucker added.  “We want to put the System’s best foot forward and pursue the opportunity vigorously.”

Tucker also recognized McRaven for his efforts to identify appropriate opportunities to advance multiple UT institutions’ scientific and service missions, including an opportunity to generate additional resources for them.

McRaven thanked Chairman Tucker and the Regents for their vote and added that UT institutions’ vast expertise in national security is grounded in a commitment to national service.

Deputy Chancellor Daniel, appointed by McRaven to lead preparations aimed at readiness for a response, added, “While the scale and the scientific assets of UT’s 14 academic and health institutions strongly position us to manage and operate the Lab, the Lab management role also creates an extraordinary opportunity for students and faculty to advance research and discovery. Moreover, UT institutions have the know-how to safely and securely advance the broader scientific mission of the Lab and serve as a good steward of the Los Alamos community.”

This will be the second time the UT System has participated in competition for the Los Alamos contract. In 2005, the UT System was part of a larger team led by Lockheed Martin. The contract ultimately was awarded to the University of California System and its industry partners. The UC System has been involved in the management of the Lab for more than 70 years.

In the current bid effort, the UT System is leading the process on behalf of UT institutions, assembling potential industry partners—those with significant experience in operating national labs with national security responsibilities—to participate with it in the bid. The System would hold primary responsibility for managing the Lab, and engage in substantive collaboration not only with industry but also other research organizations and higher education institutions. The contract as currently described in the request for proposals offers a basic service term of five years with additional discretionary terms possible. 

UT institutions currently have more than 40 centers and institutes focusing on cybersecurity, bioterrorism, policy and statecraft and other national security issues, all of which are elements of the Los Alamos mission. Speaking recently at a Washington, D.C., conference that brought together higher ed, government and industry leaders from the intelligence, health and biosecurity sectors, McRaven described University of Texas institutions as “committed to a national conversation to give greater insight into how academic partnerships can be better leveraged to protect our nation.”

About The University of Texas System
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and a projected enrollment of more than 234,000 students, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates approximately two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System’s operating budget for FY 2018 is $18.3 billion, funded in part by $3.6 billion in sponsored programs from federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and many members of the National Academies – and nearly 80,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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