BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Councilors heard from Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office Manager Mike Weis during its Tuesday evening meeting about how NNSA operates at LANL and the dollar amount for work planned for this year.
Weis said he knows Council hears a lot about the Los Alamos National Laboratory but perhaps not as much about what the particular NNSA offices focus on and how the team work together to make sure the Laboratory is running the way they would hope. He noted that NNSA has 80-90 dedicated federal staff depending on how things are going in terms of staffing, with many of them living in Los Alamos as part of the community. Those staff members, Weis said, work in governance, oversight, mission assurance, infrastructure, quality assurance, safeguards and security, business and contract management, field operations and safety systems as well as nuclear safety, engineering and readiness.
“This team is really built to do the job that I’m going to talk about,” Weis said. “Our vision is really about managing the contract that’s in place to run the Laboratory. We only exist and we only are there – and we understand that this is our reason for being – because there’s a Laboratory that’s at Los Alamos,” Weis said. “Every day we realize when we come to work or we call into work as the case may be right now, our goal in life is to make sure that Laboratory is a success and we do our job, and to enable the Lab and find ways to make the mission a success and that no one else can find. We want to make sure that it’s absolutely safe, it’s protective of the environment and that it’s responsible and we work to enable the mission by finding those different ways.”
He noted that working in the government is complex and it’s something that needs to have some real experts to help the Laboratory to be successful so that’s what this team of 80-90 people work on on a daily basis.
“One of the ways we do that is we create a work environment that is safe for our workers, for the public, is protective of the environment and it’s also and I think this is important, to always be respectful of the taxpayers. That’s always in the back of our minds,” Weis said. “We partner with the Laboratory to achieve this mission accomplishment. We always advocate for the mission but we never do that by abdicating our inherent federal responsibilities. We never abdicate or forget that it’s our inherent duty as federal employees and we take an oath as federal employees before we start our jobs that is making sure that we understand that we’re federal employees first and that’s our job to make sure that we protect and we understand that we work for the American public and the American taxpayer. So that’s important to us. We do this through a positive relationship with the Lab management team. We find ways for the Lab to deliver on the national security mission and we use sound, risk- based judgment and best management practices and we’re always looking for ways to improve.”
Weis said NNSA is responsible for managing the contract with Triad principally.
“This contract this year will execute new work – about $3.7 billion worth of work and if you carry over the dollars that were on the contract from last year that still have yet to be executed, we’re going to be executing on the order of $5 billion of outlay work this year,” he said.
NNSA has about 80 or 90 folks that are working to make sure that they have an understanding and that work is being done consistent with the contract requirements. Weis said NNSA also serves as the local representative and landlord since the Laboratory and the contractor cannot serve in that function as they are not the owner. NNSA serves as co-permittee and makes sure the Lab is managing the nearly 900 facilities properly and all that real property is to be maintained in a manner that reflects the long long-term needs of the site, not just the term of the contract that’s currently in place, Weis said.
“We have to work with the program at headquarters to maintain that awareness of what their long-term scientific and research thrust because we have to make sure that is aligned with the long-term mission and that the facilities and equipment and scientific expertise that’s being arranged and garnered by the current management team is consistent with the needs for the long-term. Obviously it’s very important to us that we work with the affected stakeholders in the local community. That includes other federal agencies. It includes the Accord Pueblos and other pueblos. It includes obviously this pristine group of folks that are representing the closest one of our public representatives, so these are the things that we take to heart and that we make sure that we look at on a daily basis,” Weis said.
The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to the NNSA Field Office Thursday morning to ask about the $5 billion number cited by Weis for LANL work this year but as of close of business Friday had not received a response. It is unknown what work uncompleted and carried over from the contract last year or what is planned for this year. For FY2020 LANL received an appropriation of $2.58 billion in DOE funds. That amount increased to $3.43 billion for FY2021. Although Weis mentioned in passing increased housing needs due to planned increased activity at LANL, the Los Alamos County Council has yet to receive a site plan from NNSA or Triad, LLC for future LANL work.