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Media Roundtable on the Future of Science at NNSA Laboratories and the Test Site (transcript)

July 16, 2008

BRYAN WILKES:  (In progress) – and the operator on the call will give instructions to callers on what to do.  We are going to go back and forth from the reporters in the room to the reporters on the phone during the question-and-answer period.  So with that, I’d like to turn it over to Administrator D’Agostino.

ADMINISTRATOR THOMAS D’AGOSTINO:  Great.  Thank you very much, Bryan (Wilkes), I appreciate it.  And thanks to all of you for coming in or calling in.  Tomorrow, as Bryan mentioned, this group, plus the plant managers in the NNSA will be testifying before the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee.  And the main topic is Complex Transformation.  And that’s a very broad topic for us, one we’ve been pursuing over the last number of years.  And I think what we want to convey are a couple of points, and we have an important message in essence.

There are potentially two possible futures for the NNSA.  The first is a future that I believe keeps U.S. national security strong, where the labs are not only working to maintain the nuclear deterrence by doing the annual assessment on safety security and reliability, but are also aggressively working in many other areas that were tightly linked to the work that we’ve done in the past on the nuclear deterrent, specifically in areas of non-proliferation, in areas of nuclear counterterrorism, in areas of support to the intelligence community.

These are areas that we work in already, but the shift here is an emphasis to focus more on that area because in fact the work that we’ve done in the nuclear weapons program is very complimentary to these other areas.  And in fact, I think it’s important to the country.  And no matter how you feel about the size of the nuclear deterrent, whether or not it will be bigger or smaller, the fact remains that we have one.  We’re going to continue to need it for the next few decades.  But more importantly, the people that work on that deterrent are the very same people that work in these other areas that are so important to us: non-proliferation, counterterrorism, nuclear forensics, and all of those areas that require special expertise.

And so in recognition of that reality, the Secretary signed out a lab vision paper.  I think many of you have a copy of it in front of you.  And for those on the call, we will be sure to get those out to you.  But in essence, that lab vision paper sets into reality the overall vision that we have, which is to shift our infrastructure from a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century national security enterprise, with a focus on nuclear, but not solely limited to nuclear.

This lab vision document really sets out the strategic missions for the three labs and the Nevada Test Site, and really talks about committing our science, engineering, and technical expertise to engage in all of the other areas that the other security agencies feel are so important.  It provides for the first – (inaudible) – at our sites, capitalized on the skill sets that we’ve already developed, and continues to focus work on those three areas that I told you are so important.

We all recognize the environment that we’re in.  Quite frankly, for the last seven years, the Bush administration has made significant changes in working with President Putin in changing the size of our actual stockpile itself.  And in 2004, the president actually unilaterally decided this is in addition to the Moscow Treaty reduction, that he wanted to reduce not just the operationally deployed size of the stockpile, but focus on the overall size of the stockpile, and he made that 50-percent reduction since 2001.

That target was hit early.  Originally it was planned to be done by 2012.  We hit that target last year in 2007, and as a result of that, the president further reduced the size of the stockpile by an additional 15 percent by 2012.  But what we have to do is as the stockpile size comes down; we have to recognize that those warheads are incredibly important to our deterrent because we’re now relying on fewer numbers.  And not only that, that if the size of the stockpile comes down, then the infrastructure that supports it has to change in some fashion.  It isn’t just a linear reduction, but it has to change in some fashion.

And so what we want to do is make sure that you have the opportunity to hear from us, to ask us questions about what we mean about the lab vision for the future, what exactly we mean by shifting from a Cold War nuclear weapons complex to a 21st century national security enterprise, and how we move forward.

The other future is one where we don’t do this, one where we continue on what I say incremental changes and not make any significant shifts for our program, and it continues on having us to pour resources into an ever-aging Cold War infrastructure that costs more and more every year when our budgets are likely to face increasing pressures.

So the choice is clear in my view.  It’s to move forward to the future, to recognize the reality that these institutions contribute dramatically already to the national security enterprise, and to make that more obvious, and to deal with that in a more obvious way.

Now, before me I have the three lab directors, as well as Dr. Younger, who is the director of the Nevada Test Site.  I’m going to ask them to just give some quick examples of how we make that vision – how we are currently making that vision a reality and where it might go.  And I’ll start with Dr. Miller, from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

GEORGE H. MILLER:  Great.  Thanks, Tom.  As Tom said, we have maintained an ever-shrinking stockpile through substantial investments in science and technology.  And that science and technology really gives us the ability to take part in what I call the defining issues of the century in terms of proliferation and terrorism, the need for energy and environmental security through human health and industrial competitiveness.  And I’ll just give you a couple of examples very simply.

On the one hand, on the terrorism and homeland security end, these laboratories are incredible resources in terms of detection of different kinds of materials – radioactive materials obviously.  And we have been a partner with homeland security in developing cargo-screening capabilities and testing them in a variety of airports around the country.  On the other end of the spectrum, we are also, and have been for more than 20 years, a part of the international community that looks at the impacts of human activities on the climate.

So we have a substantial program in global climate modeling.  The connection of course is the computers that we need for stockpile stewardship, and the underlying science and mathematics are actually very, very similar.  You’re taking those very large computers and these global-scale models and beginning to look at the impacts on small regions like the region I come from, from California, which has a substantial economic issue with changes in the environment because of the agriculture.

So we’ve gotten this as a broad-spectrum of capability that allows us to help with many, many different kinds of problems that the country would be facing.

ADMINISTRATOR THOMAS D’AGOSTINO:  Thank you.  Dr. Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

MICHAEL R. ANASTASIO:  Well, thank you, Tom.  And I’ll reiterate what George said, it’s that the challenging mission of our stockpile stewardship role really demands the best science and technology we can have at the laboratories.  And I’ve been to a lot of test sites to carry out that mission.  And because of that science-and-technology base that is funded through the weapons program, we’re able to contribute to lots of other national security on even broader issues.  That’s very important.

What we’re worried about in the future is if we get caught between the demands to recapitalize the infrastructure and transform, and the ever-increasing demands of the stockpile as we continue to do the life expansion.  There is the potential that we’ll squeeze out of that science in a fixed budget or a challenged budget for the future.  And it’s that same challenge, that same science that enables us to do these other exciting things.

And at Los Alamos, I’ll give a couple of examples as well.  We’re working to help, on the one end, the real-time war fighters that are going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.  An example there is something called Angel Fire, where we’re able to bring our detection capability and a persistent surveillance activity that can watch what is going on in particular regions, and help the war-fighter get real-time situational awareness.  This is working with the Air Force and the Marine Corps.

On the other end of the spectrum, George mentioned global climate, so I won’t touch that.  But as we think about the challenges of energy, we’ve recently developed some technology using nanoscale semiconductors that really enhances the effects of carrier multiplication, which holds the promise to have much more efficient solar detectors that could be useful for alternate energy sources.  And we’re very focused on storage technology because if you have alternate energy that comes not always when you need it, whether it’s solar or wind, how do you store it so that it’s useful for you when you actually need it.

So those are a few examples of the science and technology that grows out of our nuclear weapons expertise that we can apply to these other things.

ADMINISTRATOR THOMAS D’AGOSTINO:  Thank you, Mike.  Dr. Hunter.  Tom Hunter from Sandia National Laboratories.

THOMAS HUNTER:  Thanks, Tom.  I’ll try not to say exactly the same things as Michael and George, but I think of this as in integration of three terms: the nuclear weapons mission and its role and transformation, and secondly the capabilities that have been used in our need to support that.  And finally then, of those capabilities to work in other national security arenas.

As Tom said, the first part, the stockpile, it’s transforming and it’s requiring a transformation of the laboratories and industry and complex.  We’re very engaged in that and supporting of that.  It’s requiring some changes in roles and in people that we are managing.  But it allows us to take these capabilities and apply them in other areas.  The capabilities at Sandia that we focus on are using computers to do modeling and simulation, the ability to put together large complex systems and understand how they work.

And finally to build what we call small smart things; that is, really tiny devices that are made at the chip level that allow you to detect and see and feel and act.  Those allow us to work in many areas.  I’ll give you a couple of examples.  One example is our work in energy.  We have just – working in conjunction with George’s laboratory and others in the California area, we’re working on a joint bio energy institute to try to figure out ways to convert effectively things like cellulose into usable transportation fuels.  We’ve also been involved in big systems arenas.  We have led a laboratory team in support of the department and putting together license applications for the Yucca Mountain repository.

Today we have people actively engaged in trying to work on detection of nuclear materials and other kinds of materials.  We developed a chemical laboratory on a chip that can be used to look at agents, gases, and liquids that people are concerned about.  And we have people across the world today helping other countries to – (inaudible) – materials.  So all of those blend very nicely with that kind of three-part harmony of the changing nuclear weapons policy in the United States, a need for – (inaudible) – to support that, and then the application of that to the other national security missions.

ADMINISTRATOR THOMAS D’AGOSTINO:  Thank you, Tom.  And Dr. Stephen Younger, director of the Nevada Test Site.

STEPHEN YOUNGER:  Well, thanks, Tom.  The Nevada Test Site has been and continues to be the laboratories’ outdoor experimental area.  We are very large, with 1375 square miles.  So you can do things there that would be difficult to do elsewhere, particularly things that involve large quantities of special nuclear material and high explosives.

Just yesterday, we did a significant experiment looking at basic properties of plutonium.  We’re doing two experiments supporting Lawrence Livermore involving high explosives by the end of the year, and several experiments that Los Alamos will do at the test site involving plutonium.  So we’re quite busy toward the stockpile stewardship program.  But we have also transformed into a broader national security role.  And we see ourselves very much as a national security test site.

We’ve got a good bit of work on detecting IEDs, improvised explosive devices, which we are told by field commanders in Iraq have saved quite a few lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We’ve trained 60,000 first responders on how to deal with a radiological environment and how to find nuclear material in a complex environment.  We do security training in a very large land area and the detectors at the Department of Homeland Security will feel that the nation’s borders are being tested at the Nevada test site.

But finally, let me say that we’re transforming on how we do business as well by bringing best corporate business practices to the Nevada Test Site so that we can do more with available resources.  And we view that as an important part of our mission as well.  Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR THOMAS D’AGOSTINO:  Okay, thanks very much Steve.  Turn it over to Bryan?

BRYAN WILKES:  Now we’re going to questions and as I said, we’re going to go back and forth from reporters in the room to reporters on the phone.  When you ask your question, please remember to state your publication or organization.  I will now give time for the operator to give the instructions to the callers on how to do this.

OPERATOR:  If you would like to ask a question at this time, please press star, then one, on your telephone keypad.  We will pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster.

BRYAN WILKES:  Great.  While we’re doing that, we’re going to go to a question in the room, so first question, Jeff.

Q:  Excellent.  Jeff Johnson with Chemical Engineering News.  I did a story and I’m trying to figure out how – I did a story on dealing with various labs and I thought that with Sandia – about half of their work, a little less than half was non-defense related or was – I’m trying to figure out, in this plan, how much of the various labs are we doing sort of civilian work but would still all be inside the government – trying to kind of figure that out a little a bit at the different labs.  If you could help me with that

MR. HUNTER:  I can answer in broad terms.  First of all, over a third of our work is outside the Department of Energy.  It’s for other parts of the country.  Almost all of the work we do is for the federal government at some point.  We do a little bit of work in support of industry.  It amounts probably to no more than a couple of percent of our total work.  Over 98 percent is all federal.  About a third of that is not within the Department of Energy but the civilian applications – much of the DOE work in civilian application on energy and some of the other third outside – is energy – I couldn’t give you civilian – we deal with all of the national security because it all lends towards the efforts.  The real point is – very low outside the federal government – and but outside the Department of Energy by a third for us. 

Q:  Los Alamos?

MR. ANASTASIO:  Roughly a quarter for Los Alamos.  We also have just a small fraction of our money comes from non-governmental sources, you know, a few percent at most.  But if you look at the non-nuclear weapons active reserve – now, Los Alamos, it’s about $700 million of funding.  It’s about a third of the laboratory and that’s the number I remember offhand.

Q:  What about 15 to 20 percent non-DOE?

MR. MILLER:  Livermore is also about 30 percent non-nuclear weapons – a very small amount that’s non-federal.

Q:  Do you have an idea of how this is going to grow by this plan in percentages?  How do you think it’s going to grow in the future?

MR. MILLER:  There’s lots of opportunities for us to grow in other national security areas and other, let me call it, energy security areas of global climate and alternate energy and et cetera that all the labs are pursuing it with their – in the test site.  We feel there are lots of opportunities there and in fact, this part of the laboratory has already grown, even in the last few years.  And I’m honored, Mike, just to comment on that quick. 

While our funded work by industry is picking up in small, and I mean, it probably will remain small even into the future, there’s a strong partnership out on the – in all of the – much of the work that we do with industrial partners as they take them to the market applications, even though we’re talking about the federal government.  But in terms of partnerships, one example I would view as a strong partnership we have had with Goodyear Tire Company, where we worked over the years with them to work on computer-modeling techniques that allows them to better realize products – and enormously strong product with partnership with American effort and very special and really, one that’s really made a big difference in how they develop and manufacture a tire.

Q:  Todd Jacobson, Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor.  Do you guys envision that number growing to 50 percent in terms of the non-nuclear weapons work?  Probably the 30 percent number or, you know, what are the targets that you see?

MR. MILLER:  Again, I think that 50 percent is not an unreasonable expectation.  Again, I don’t believe that’s going to involve that large an increase in the size of the laboratory, so I think there will be shifts.  Again, if you look at the history of these laboratories over the last 15 years, programs come and go as priorities of the country change.  You know, back in the ’70s, when there were huge concerns about energy, there was a very large portfolio of energy technologies at the laboratories – again, I could imagine that that will take place.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  What I could say is that, looking at mega-trends if you will, the intelligence community, which is obviously multiple agencies out there, has recognized that they need to be – and they are concerned about fissile material, what’s going on with fissile material around the world, improvised nuclear devices, nuclear counterterrorism, all these topics. 

But they’ve also recognized is that in order to make sure they understand the analysis and be able to do proper analysis, they need to go to these institutions that I have around me here for that expertise because these are the folks that really understand what we’re talking about when we’re talking about nuclear weapons, materials, how to build better detectors, how to test them at the test site, make sure all of these things work.  And so this is what we’re doing, wanting to make sure that, along with the growth in the intelligence community work, the laboratories have increased.

But the reason why these institutions can do that is because they had – they have a foundational piece in all things dealing with nuclear, nuclear security issues as developed as a result of investments over multiple decades during the Cold War and have deficit pay off.  In fact, the good news here is that the country’s getting huge benefit from that investment, not just in the deterrent that it had during the Cold War and continues to have from the fact that now, we have developed fantastic set of scientists and engineers that really understand these topics and we’re jumping off from that.

So I think that is a good message.  What we’re doing is we’re recognizing this reality in a very overt way and wanting to make sure that the country knows that, that Congress knows that, that other federal agencies know that and we’re going to work on changing out business practices to make sure that these other agencies can access this capability.  So that’s kind of – that’s the big message right there.  I’ll turn it back over to Bryan.

BRYAN WILKES:  Great, thank you, sir.  Moving over to the phone lines now, so we have a question from a caller?

OPERATOR:  Your first question comes from the line of David Perlman with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Q:  Just a question of the nuclear test site.  You mentioned some experiments with plutonium and I’m wondering, A, if you can say what those experiments are and, B, what’s the – whether any of that comes from Livermore.  And then I might as well ask you just one other question and I’ll get off the line – do you play any role in supporting the DOE at the Yucca Mountain site?

MR. YOUNGER:  This is Steve Younger.  I know we do not play a role in Yucca Mountain aside from providing some logistic support that’s done by a separate contractor.  The plutonium experiment that we did looked at the basic properties of plutonium; that is, how it responds to shockwaves.  Plutonium is an exceptionally complex material.  It’s arguably the most complex metal we know about and we know that we don’t know enough about plutonium to validate the computer codes that are used to model nuclear weapons. 

This experiment was done by Lawrence Livermore on a facility at the test site so this was a Livermore experiment.  The material was from Livermore and it was assembled in Nevada so it was very much a joint project.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. WILKES:  Great, thanks.  We’re going to go to the room.

Q:  Hi, Eric Hand with Nature Magazine.  So this shift has been going on for a long time.  I guess I’m trying to understand what is specifically being referred to as this vision statement.  Can you describe some specific stops and starts, programmatic stops and starts, or specific shifts in the budget and where we might be able to see the shifts in the current or next budget cycle?

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Okay, let me start with that and then I’ll ask the lab directors and the Nevada Test Site director talk about that. 

First of all, a vision is nothing without something very specific to go off and implement it.  For the near term, it’s the things, the activities that I am planning on doing.  In fact, we – we’re not ready to announce this yet, so I won’t mention the other agency that we’re working with but there’s a recognition – we have this activity known as Work for Others, which may not be a term that’s widely understood but it’s essentially when another federal agency has a specific problem that it wants solved, we’ll come to one of these four NNSA institutions or another DOE laboratory and say, please solve this problem for me.  I’m going to give you money and it’s a six-month problem, it’s a one-year problem, it’s a three-month problem, whatever that case may be.  That’s called Work for Others.

Our recognition is that that model is a good model to solve specific problems.  It’s not a very good model to provide what we call a sustainable infrastructure.  And by infrastructure, I mean people, I mean capabilities that need to be developed, whether it’s computing capabilities or experimental capabilities – it’s not a good model to make sure that there’s a sustainable infrastructure there so we’re looking at changing and in fact, what I loosely termed as strategic partnership agreements with other federal agencies where there’ll be a commitment of resources in a specific area to do work over a five-year period – a period of time by which the lab directors can say, the government cares about this topic – if the topic is global warming, whatever the topic might be, the government cares enough about this topic, that it’s going to invest over a period of time and for clearly, not just an investment, but clearly to get output. 

So that’s a specific shift.  I expect, by the end of summer, very early fall, we’ll be announcing these, what I loosely term, strategic partnership agreements with other federal agencies with our institutions and you know, that’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart as the actual implementation piece of this.  I would ask, any comments, George?

MR. MILLER:  Just as an example, we have such a partnership that has existed since, I believe, about 1985, it actually came out of a presidential study that Judge Clark led.  It’s called Office of Missions Memorandum –   It establishes a relationship between the laboratories and a lot of test sites outside the Department of Defense for the purpose of advancing conventional missions with the use of high-explosives by the military so it’s been going on for more than 20 years.  It’s a very stable, very substantial relationship that has been very productive for both sides.  So it’s an example of the kind of thing that Tom is talking about.

MR. WILKES:  Okay, we have people on the lines but they’re being very quiet right now so since we don’t have a question on the phone, we’ll go to the room again. 

Q:  Eli Kintish – with Science Magazine.  Sorry to go over this.  I just want to get to the numbers that are put down because each of the labs is giving this other different number.  You mentioned, you know, one-third non-nuclear.  This agreement talks about – when you say one-third non-nuclear, do you mean one-third not developing and maintaining nuclear weapons?  And what about, I mean, you know, and Sandia mentions, that day you mentioned the fraction of work outside DOE.  And I guess for each lab, I’d like to know what fraction of your work is not related to stockpile devolvement/maintenance, and what fraction of work is outside the DOE – (inaudible).

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter from Sandia, and I agree that – (inaudible) – really better.  The work that we do for a nuclear weapon in the laboratory, if you include in that the security program for Sandia is about 40 percent of the laboratory – so that would mean nuclear weapons is about 40 percent.  The work we for DOE is about – not quite – let’s say – two-thirds.  The other third then is outside DOE.  I think it may have been different, but that’s the framework.  So less than half is nuclear-weapons related – 40 percent – two-thirds DOE, one-third is outside DOE.

Q: Okay.

MR. ANASTASIO:  This is Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos.  I don’t have the numbers in my head in the same terms that Tom has.  For us, we have – if you take nuclear weapons activity plus security, that’s about 60 percent, a little over 60 percent of the laboratory and then the rest is to support other activities.  I don’t remember what is in DOE, what’s outside DOE so we can follow up with you and get you those numbers if you would like.

MR. YOUNGER:  This is Steve Younger.  We’re about 15 to 20 percent outside the DOE and more than two-thirds of our work is for stockpile stewardship and – (inaudible) – with a very minor amount of work that we do for private industry.

MR. MILLER:  This is George Miller. For us – I have to get you the exact numbers but roughly 70 percent – 65 or 70 percent is nuclear weapons so the other 30 percent is non-nuclear weapons of which 20 percent is roughly outside the DOE and 10 percent is inside DOE.

Q:  Just to follow up, you know, you said, well, 50 percent is a realistic idea for non-nuclear weapons work.  Just by shutting down some of your weapon studies, you can get to that 50 percent just by making the pie smaller.  Are you talking about helping to make the amount of work you do in these non-nuclear weapons areas larger?

MR. MILLER:  Yes, yes.  We’re talking about making the amount of work in the non-nuclear weapons areas larger.
MR. ANASTASIO:  And we have been doing that all – this is Mike Anastasio – we’ve been doing that already in the last years.  Significant growth in the –

Q:  How much?

MR. ANASTASIO:  Oh, I would say with just this year, we’ve grown our other national security activities by over 10 percent in just this current year.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  I think the important thing is – go ahead.

MR. ANASTASIO:  This is Mike again.  There’s just a lot of interest, as Tom said, in, let’s say, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense in other national security venues for the kinds of capabilities that reside in useful institutions and we’ve been working hard, all of us, to find ways to use our capabilities to help solve their problems.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  And that is something I would like Tom to add one –

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter, again, just to clarify.  Of course, we’re already at 40 percent of that region, but I think we should add that it’s still the largest program as the laboratory and the one that requires the most constant – (inaudible) – capabilities and attention for the laboratories on board even though the other work for us had already expanded, and is continuing to expand.

MR. MILLER:  This is George Miller.  I’d like to make one other point.  I think there is another way of looking at these laboratories that I think is instructive and that is if you separate out the science-and-technology base that supports everybody and then say how much of the actual work delivery do you do for the different agencies, that should get a very different picture of the laboratory because today the majority of the science and technology – and we use the word “infrastructure” – is paid for by the NNSA by investors and – (inaudible).

That infrastructure – so our computing infrastructure, for instance, the computers are all paid for by NNSA.  You use them for lots of different organizations.  So if you can subtract out the infrastructure and then look at where we apply it, you’ll get a very different picture of what the laboratories look like.

MR. WILKES:  Great, thanks.  We’re going to go to the phones now for questions.  Please remember to identify yourself and your organization.

OPERATOR:  Your next question comes from the line of Sue Vorenberg of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Q:  Hi, this is Sue Vorenberg from the Sante Fe New Mexican.  You were talking about those long-term relationships with other government agencies.  I was just wondering if you could maybe give me some details of what areas those might fall into, specifically for Los Alamos and Sandia.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  This is Tom D’Agostino.  George Miller gave an example – you may not have heard it – this is joint munitions work which is actually work in high explosives there is which, of course, you recognize is not just important for a nuclear deterrent because we use high explosives in our warheads and we worry about how they age over time.  And – but it is also important to other national security agencies like the Department of Defense and so we have a many-year relationship with the Department of Defense whereby there is a commitment on the part of the NNSA and the Department of Defense to do joint work in this area.

So that’s one example.  We know that there are areas that are important to other agencies.  The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, for example, which has missions in nuclear counterterrorism of which they have traditionally all come back to these institutions to get their expertise.  That expertise just didn’t develop out of thin air and it didn’t happen on a six-month project; it happened over decades of investment, so there are opportunities there.  Tom.

Q:  But what sort of long-term –

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter, just briefly.  Also there are existing and extending agreements within DOE that are very important to this future for the laboratory.  For example, with the Office of Science, we have at our California site and working closely with Lawrence Livermore, the combustion research facility, and we have a, you know – in New Mexico we have a center for innovative nanotechnology, which is also with the Office of Science, which – to give an example of Los Alamos – which is an example of areas that will continue to be a model for this cooperation.

MR. ANASTASIO:  Sue, this Mike Anastasio.  Again, I’d echo what Tom said.  We have other relationships with the Office of Science whether it be the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology that we do jointly or our neutron center LANSCE – there is an Office of Science user facility, but we also have some long-term relationships with some intelligence agencies that have investments in the laboratory, which I can’t say too much more about in this forum, and we’re also doing that with some elements with the Department of Defense.

Q:  Great. Thanks.

MR. WILKES:  Great, thank you.  We’ll go back to the room now

Q:  Carlo Munoz with Inside the Pentagon.  I just wanted to come back to the counter-IED topic that you were discussing earlier and also this Angel Fire program that is going on with the Air Force.  On the counter-IED munitions, what has the feedback been from DOD as far as your participation, the sort of outputs you’ve been giving the department on that.  And has the department come back to you with other sorts of mission requirements that they would like the labs to look at and I can –

MR. YOUNGER:  Well, I’ll give you feedback.  This is Steve Younger from the Nevada Test Site.  I’ll give you feedback from a field commander in Iraq who said that if we could tell the families of service people what you did, you could get a dozen roses every day for lives that you have saved.  I can’t tell you about the technology for obvious reasons because that would give away the detection, but we have done a good bit to find and once found to mitigate the effects of IEDs in the battle theaters.

Q:  Okay.

MR. ANASTASIO:  Yeah for us – I think all of us, we have a number of opportunities with IEDs where it’s hard to talk about these issues in public sometimes because, as Steve said, the technology you use…, you don’t want the other side to understand about, but I did mention the – (inaudible) – that you ask about – Angle Fire is a capability that we worked on with the Marines and the Air Force for specific requirements.  They have additional requirements; we’re continuing to upgrade the technology to add more sensors and more capability for their use to do real-time feedback on the situational awareness.

Q:  And as far the other mission sets that either combatant commanders or those that do, do you come to the labs to say we would like help in developing, you know, “X” capability, “Y” capability – can you comment on that?

MR. YOUNGER:  Well – Steve Younger from the Nevada test site – we are very much an applied technology organization so we do a good number of things for the Department of Defense where they will come and with a very short response time – sometimes next week – we will provide hardware for them to accomplish a specific mission.  And again I can’t go into any of the details.

Q:  And one last question – sorry, I’ll keep it short – as far as –

MR. WILKES:  We should have done a Rumsfield Rule, you know?  No follow-up – one question and that’s it, but no, I’m kidding.  Go on.

Q:  As far as the strategic partnerships that you’re talking about, Mr. D’Agostino, the Defense Department, obviously, since they’re going to be – since those already exist with them, those are going to be, sort of, follow ons, there are going to be other agreements along that similar vein, correct?

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Yeah, it would be different topic areas –

Q:  Right.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  – but similar type of agreements.  And I think within the next two months we will be, probably myself or Deputy Administrator Smolen, who runs the Defense Program’s area, will be out in front publicly with the director of this other organization to talk about the kind of relationship that we want to establish over the long term, similar to what Dr. Miller talked about with the Joint Munitions Agreements.  So that will be good.  You could get into it a little bit more specifically at that time.  We’re still negotiating it and we want to make sure that everything is right before we roll that out.  It’ll be at little bit different model, hopefully a better model.

MR. WILKES:  Okay, great. Thanks.

Q:  Elane Grossman with Global Security Newswire.  I’m wondering what is coming down the pike as far as new technologies for countering bio-terror agents.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  I’ll ask Dr. Miller to answer that.

MR. MILLER:  This is George Miller from Livermore.  I think that is a very good question.  It’s not very well understood but the laboratories have a very long history of engagement of physical, computational, and biological sciences starting with trying to understand the impact of radiation on living systems.  Technology developed at the laboratories basically started the genome program, a lot of the basic cell-sorting ideas.  We’ve followed that on with taking that technology and applying it to the problems of terrorism – everything from zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can transfer from animals to humans, animal health issues – again, these laboratories have developed and deployed biological detectors in all varieties of forms to provide early warning.  One of the major accomplishments that we – again, jointly we all have programs in these areas – have done is basically shrinking biological detectors from something the size of a laboratory to something that will fit in a handheld device.  Again, Tom mentioned some examples.  I’ve heard many, many different kinds of examples.  And he won a number of awards for these kinds of things.

So I think the basic things coming down the pike are evermore specificity of being able to have detectors that – (inaudible) – parallel process.  And they almost instantaneously identify many, many different kinds of potential pathogens.  So it’s a very, very fruitful area for, again, this integration of multiple disciplines that exist at the laboratories.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  I’ll ask Tom and then Mike, maybe comment briefly on that as well.  Thank you, George.

MR. HUNTER:  And on one thing George said, he said we – (inaudible) – focus on the technical – (inaudible).  He also mentioned something really I think important and readily – (inaudible) – finding understanding of large-scale computations to the interaction of things like cellular wall and movement – (inaudible) – in and out.  All of those things could lend themselves to understanding and computations today, which could not have happened without the investments these laboratories have made to have the funds that have been able to revolutionize science across the nation.

Q:  Can you add anything about the challenges you’re facing now?

MR. ANASTASIO:  I can think of – this is Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos.  In particular, I agree with everything my predecessor said.  Again, that same computational capability – we can look at macroscopic things like predicting how an epidemic might unfold and how very different intervention strategies might or might not be able to mitigate the spread of the epidemic from contagious disease.  So we are understanding the – I think the laboratory has the world’s database on HIV, and, again, it’s a resource available to all of the researchers in the world to be used in their science.  And so it’s another aspect of the computational capability we have.  Let’s not only look at the small things, but look at the large-scale system-level issues as well.

MR. YOUNGER:  And we support it from another direction and that is the experimental direction – this is Steve Younger from the Nevada Test Site.  Because we are very large and we are a chemically clean environment, we support the testing of detectors, a very minute quantity of molecules in the air. 

ADMINISTRATOR TOM D’AGOSTINO:  Can you tell us about the challenges, Tom?

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter.  I’ll just respond to Elaine’s question on challenges.  I think the record is clear that these endeavors have led the country in the development of this foundation.  And working with industry led to development of the foundations of modern computing.  And as we move forward – and Tom acknowledged that there will be pressures on weapons programs going forward.

That has enabled those investments.  If we go into the future and we think about trying to transform the weapons complex and deal with the investment – that’s how we made it – we’ll have to deal with the question of where we’ll go with things like the future – (inaudible) – beyond the generations that we’ve gotten started today.

MR. WILKES:  Great, thanks.  We’ll go to George.

Q:  Yes, George Lobsenz with the Energy Daily.  I wanted to ask how this vision you had kind of dovetailed with the other things going on in the weapons complex, which is consolidation and the effort to get smaller and address the security issues.  And I know all of the labs have undergone pretty painful cuts recently – well, really pretty big ones. 

So I guess I have two questions, one of which is, it looks like this plan is really about getting more non-weapons work as kind of a lifeline for labs or at least to prevent further erosion in terms of your workforce.  And I wondered if you would agree with that.  In other words, do you see this as vital to the continued existence of the labs or to prevent, you know – I mean there’s a lot of pressures, again, to consolidate the labs?  People think there are, again, pressures to reduce money.  So is this partly seen as a way to kind of maintain your base there?

And the second thing is, are there any restructuring things that – I mean, again, you talk to people on the Hill.  I think Senator Dorgan recently had a hearing where he kind of said that the consolidation plan that the NNSA had didn’t consolidate enough because he was referring more to the production facilities.  But can you talk a little bit about how whether this helps with consolidation and whether you see it as sort of vital to their lab futures?

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Sure.  Let me start off with that.  I want to clear up a few things.  First, thanks for the question. When we started off on – this is three years ago, we asked – what is going on?  Do we have the right strategic vision?  We said we needed to work with four main strategies: work with the Department of Defense to transform our actual stockpile; based on that and in parallel with that, transform our infrastructure because we recognize – and these are the people that are living in the Cold War infrastructures, where their offices are – we recognize that that Cold War infrastructure is not sustainable over the long term. 

We know that the capabilities of these institutions have contributed significantly in a wide variety of areas.  We know that.  I see that every day in this job.  But, you know, the third strategy was to change the way we do business.  And the fourth strategy is to drive the science-and-technology base.  The reality is that that science-and-technology base has enabled us to not only maintain a deterrent, but to be able to address all of these other national security issues, some of which – a portion of which, unfortunately, we can’t tell you about.  Our sponsors wouldn’t want us to tell you about them.

Some of the things we can tell you about: Human Genome Project, for example, that George was describing.  So this is not a lifeline.  This is a recognition that there is an incredible synergy and in fact that we can show between the intelligence work that this country absolutely needs and the weapons program that allowed this intelligence analysis to happen.  The Director of National Intelligence knows that when he needs problems solved in the nuclear areas, there’s a limited set of expertise.  He knows where he’s got to go for that.  And the reason why he can’t is because there was a weapons program to begin with.

The reality is; I’m thinking strategically.  I’m not thinking about next week.  I’m thinking this country is going to continue to need experts to develop the best nuclear detectors in the world, develop the best chemical detectors in the world, and develop the best biodetectors in the world.  They need a place to test them at the Nevada Test Site.

No matter what you think about the size of the stockpile, the reality is that the country is going to need that.  This is not a Democrat or Republican thing at all.  This is not pro-national security, anti-national security.  This is reality.  So, recognizing that reality, I felt that the model that we had – I’m calling it a business model worked for others, whereby you take problems as they pop up kind of randomly and go to the federal infrastructure and go solve them, which we have been doing for years.  And we’ve seen growth in that area.  And we say, isn’t that the right model to continue out into the future? 

I don’t think it is.  I think there’s a recognition that managing the transition and how we shift – you know, what do we count on first?  The weapons program or other programs?  Maybe that transition is vitally important to the country.  This is not about jobs; this is not about lifelines; this is about what’s right for the country.

One final point and then I’ll – I’m going to open this up.  I mean, I think it’s a great question because I want to crystallize this point.  It’s that the reality is that these institutions – you brought up a point on lab consolidation.  There’s a recognition, particularly now that the size of our stockpile gets smaller, that you absolutely need independent, technical peer review to make sure that we have, we can push each other internally on what’s right and what’s wrong, particularly now I’m back to the nuclear weapons stockpile.

As the stockpile size gets smaller, we are relying – we as a nation – are relying on a smaller deterrent.  And, therefore, those are incredibly vital.  And I absolutely need to have independence, technical independence to push each other on that.  Great question and I’m glad you asked it.  George?

MR. MILLER:  I likewise, think that’s a great question.  I think of it as sort of in the opposite direction.  I think that was in a proactive fashion.  These three laboratories all probably have the largest concentration of Ph.D.’s in the world, about 2,000 Ph.D.’s.  This country has a huge number of issues facing it – again, what I call the defining issues of the 21st century, each of which has huge science and technology components.  For me, this is about applying the resources this country has for the most important problems.

And as Tom has said very eloquently, these problems at the science and technology level are intimately related.  The science and technology that supports the nuclear weapons program also support understanding global climate change.  That’s a fact.  And so, if done properly, this could be done in a very proactive fashion, very synergistic fashion.  This country will look for it.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Great question though, George

MR. WILKES:  Okay, we’re going to grab another question here.

Q:  Yes, my name is Shogo Kawakita with Kyodo News, Japanese Newswire Service.  Regarding deploying photo-detector technology, United States and Japan have agreed to deploy a photo-detector at the Port of Yokohama, Minami Honmoku Pier.  Could anybody tell us what the human involvement in this programs are, because the United States would deploy a photo-detector at the port of Yokohama; but I’m not sure about the human involvement of this program.  I mean, there should be some sort of training for the deploying, and using that kind of a detector and education.  Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Great question.  You are referring to NNSA’s Megaports Program run in the non-proliferation area.  You’re absolutely right.  It’s not jut enough to deploy a detector out there and say, well, my job is done.  The reality is that’s where the work begins, quite honestly. You have to train the operators to know how to use it.  It’s got to be integral with the operation of the port.  And if a detector ends up slowing down commerce, there will be the temptation on the part of the users to figure out ways to increase their efficiency.  When you increase efficiency, this could get bypassed.  And we recognized that.  The port operators recognized that.  And in fact, it worked very well with our non-proliferation program making this happen.

But it’s the data collection that comes off of these detectors; it gets reported back to us.  We have a very active program of having feedback from all of the detectors we have around the world in our 12 ports, and the additional 17 ports that we’re implementing right now, in order to get feedback on detector performance.  And non-proliferation folks as well go out and check and say, how are things going?

Maybe one final point is that training is a big part of this.  And what you have in both the laboratories here, the Nevada test site, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is a very aggressive program to train customs and border control folks, to train the operators of these detectors as well as the first responders here domestically that would have to go through this.  So you’re absolutely right.

It’s not just the R&D to make the best detector.  Now, you have to operationalize it, put it out there, make sure it works, and sustain it.  And then, while that’s happening, continue to push the technology to build better and better detectors, because a big part of this is detecting whether or not we have a problem.  I mean, if you don’t want to find out about your problem after a problem has happened.  You want to find out before.  Mike?  Mike Anastasio.

MR. ANASTASIO:  Yeah, this is Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos.  And another aspect of the training is to give opportunities with people who might encounter nuclear material to actually get experience seeing what that looks like.  So we’re able to bring inspectors or other kinds of people into our nuclear facilities and let them train with real nuclear material to see how the vectors respond, et cetera.  And whether it’s the Megaports or the IAEA inspectors that go around the world, they get trained at Los Alamos on how to handle the responses they may get when they’re out in the field.

MR. HUNTER: Tom Hunter.  I just want to comment, I think it’s an example of the kind of full spectrum of support that the labs can provide is that, as George said, high concentration of research scientists in the laboratory.  But also, a high concentration of technicians and engineers who actually work in the field to make sure the systems not just work theoretically but they work actually.

MR. WILKES:  Thanks.  We only have time for about two questions and we want to make sure everyone has a chance to ask.  So if everyone has, we can do seconds.

Q:  Todd Jacobson, Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, I just wanted to follow-up on something you had said about the work for others program.  Just to clarify is this not a shift away from that?  Or how is work for others going to be represented at the labs?  Is it a small percentage in these precedent over that?

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Absolutely not, this does not represent a shift away from work for others.  This is a shift to recognize – because the reality is that work for others has proved wildly successful based on the amount of resources that are coming into NNSA, broadly across DOE and all the laboratories.  I think there’s a broad recognition that the department’s laboratories have solved problems, and in fact, are the science-and-technology solutions people for the federal government across a broad spectrum.  And so, that’s the good news.

There will always be specific and unique problems that have to be addressed.  And those will continue to be addressed.  What this recognizes is that there is an opportunity to actually do more here in this area and change the way we do business in the right way.  Mike?

MR. ANASTASIO:  Yeah, this is Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos.  I would say another thing that characterizes these institutions is – that’s I think rather unique now that the Bell Labs, et cetera, of the world are gone is that we span the spectrum of science and technology from fundamental scientific discovery through applied science all the way to developing a demonstration project – product that we can transfer to industry to go deploy.

So at these institutions, we were engaged across that full spectrum, which is something that very few other institutions are able to do.  And that’s a unique resource that we represent for the country.  And hence, the previous comments from Administrator D’Agostino and George Miller that we are a resource to the country for all the challenges the country faces that have a scientific component.  And that’s why we’re called the national laboratory so that we can contribute across that full spectrum.

MR. WILKES:  Great, do we have one more?

Q:  Thanks, Derek Sands from Platt’s Inside Energy.  You talked a lot about expanding your cooperation with Homeland Security and the military.  Are you also looking to expand energy research?

ADMINISTRATOR TOM D’AGOSTINO:  I’ll have to ask one of the lab directors.

MR. ANASTASIO:  Absolutely, Dereck.  We have significant programs in the nuclear energy field to look at the challenges of the growth in nuclear energy around the world.  And how can you do that in a way that gets cost-effective energy that also meets the challenge of the waste problem that meets the challenge of proliferation risks.  Is there an approach that we can come up with that will help solve all of those problems simultaneously?

So nuclear energy is an example.  I mentioned one about solar energy.  Clearly, we are also working in the near term.  We have programs in carbon sequestration.  We have programs in fuel cells – hydrogen fuel cells.  We have programs in energy storage.  We have programs with – in fact some of our biggest work with non-government agencies is a partnership with – let’s say, as an example – Chevron Corporation to do work with them to help them be more effective.  We’re looking at oil shale production, again, deepwater drilling – so it’s just across this full spectrum of the very near-term issues of energy all the way to the long term, whether it be new kinds of nuclear energy or certainly even more so at Lawrence Livermore – I think – like fusion energy.

George, you want to talk about that?

MR. MILLER:  Yeah, this is George Miller.  Mike mentioned fusion energy.  That’s one of the multiple applications of the National Ignition Facility, which is nearing completion.  I think another point that I’d like to make is that the labs bring to Stockpile Stewardship an approach that really is potentially revolutionary.  And Tom talked a little bit about it in terms of the way in which Sandia worked with Goodyear.  But that’s the use of large-scale simulations to really change the way in which products are developed, particularly large systems.

And this applies a lot to some of the things Mike talked about in terms of nuclear power, really developing a next-generation capability through the use of better science and simulation, which can truly speed up and greatly improve the capability of some of these very large, complex systems.  And so it’s that sense of using the big simulation tools, along with science and a system approach to things that, again, I think the laboratories have a very important contribution to make with.

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter from Sandia.  I would just add a couple points.  Energy, of course, is important.  Obviously, a big issue for the country – we looked, in a sense, George and I, we’re looking at things like the security of our energy infrastructure.  How well is our nation – how well can it say that it can support a crisis or natural disasters or other kinds of things, regarding infrastructure.  We support the Homeland Security agency with Los Alamos in a special center looking at analyzing in a systems way, the nation’s infrastructure.  We do detailed scientific studies of advanced combustion, allowing engine manufactures to achieve emission goals, and economy goals.  And we are working on ways of just conserving energy.  We have a commitment to nanotechnology, of course, with Los Alamos and, in many ways with Livermore.  And we’re doing things like looking at new frontiers inside a state like Nevada.

MR. YOUNGER:  Steve Younger from the Nevada test site.  One of the natural resources we have in Nevada is sunshine.  And NNSA is considering a 60-megawatt concentrator solar plant at the test site, which would provide power, not only for us but the surrounding area as well.

MR. WILKES:  Thanks.  If it’s a quick question, then we can do this as the last one.

Q:  Eric Hand with Nature.  I still don’t understand what the difference is between the short-term work for others contract and a long-term MOU relationship is and why you think it’s a better way of doing business.

MR. MILLER:  Well, again, this is George Miller.  I’ll just use the office of munitions relationship as an example.  You know, developing computational understanding of high explosives, for instance, is a multi-year research project.  It is not an activity that is necessarily easily projectized into year-by-year funding.  And so, for instance, we developed several advanced simulation capabilities to understand the basic energetics of high explosives that allowed us to develop new high explosives, safer high explosives, insensitive high explosives.  That is a project again that spans many, many years.

Then, on top of that, you have the work for others that says, oh, I need a particular explosive to do this job, a charge or whatever.  That’s a very projectized, very finite activity.  So if you will, it’s recognition of the differentiation between developing the underlying tools and science and technology expertise in a particular project.

MR. ANASTASIO:  This is Mike Anastasio from Los Alamos.  Another aspect of the same point George is making is if you think of the intelligence community, how there can be a task to respond to a particular issue.  But if there’s a long-term relationship, we can have people who not only look at a specific thing but they can watch technology.  They can watch nuclear issues.  They can watch people.  They can watch a variety of issues that are going on around the world and look for patterns and look for signs that there is something that maybe we as a country should be worried about that is very difficult to – that might be something that is happening over years if not decades.

So again, being able to follow broad questions and look for significant trends over a long period of time is something that is very hard to do when you’re just doing project-type work.  And so, that’s another example of why a long-term relationship can give you significantly more value than a sequence of projects.

MR. HUNTER:  Tom Hunter.  I would just say in simple terms, think of one as using a capability to achieve a result.  Think of the other as investing in a capability for the long term, between the people and underlying facility to go with it.

MR. WILKES:  Okay, well, thank you everybody.  We’re going to give Administrator D’Agostino the last word.

ADMINISTRATOR D’AGOSTINO:  Okay, so thanks Bryan.  I appreciate your questions.  I think your questions serve to help pull out what we’re trying to do here.  Manning the transition is a very difficult thing to do.  Ultimately, it’s about people at these institutions that make things happen.  You can have the best computer, the best whatever in the world.  But we have to have the people to operate them.  And these aren’t people that you go off and say, listen; I only need you for three months.  I want you to be the best in the world, but after that, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  These people have choices.  And in fact, we’ve got evidence that some people are making choices based on what they see the country investing in.

So we’ve got essentially a situation where the country has, for many decades, invested in a nuclear weapons program as something important to do for our country.  We still think it’s important out into the future.  But we see a shift.  And you’ve got examples of building better chemical detectors, bio detectors, nuclear detectors, training on first responders, supporting nuclear counterterrorism activities, the render safe function – which we didn’t talk about.

Render safe means if there is an improvised nuclear device out there, who would you rather have taking that thing apart and making it safe?  Personally, I would rather have the best people – the smartest person in the world working on that.  In fact, the smartest people in the world that know how to do that stuff since they were involved in design on many of the activities are actually resident at our laboratories.

So having that, the best render safe capability out decades out in the future is really what I think is important to the country.  In fact, other federal agencies, like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, recognize that.  And what we want to do is make sure we talk about it in a very overt way and look at mechanisms – the strategic partnership agreement, for example – as a way to implement that in real time and change that relationship and talk about sustainability over the long run.

And ultimately, the Secretary’s statement, which I believe you have in front of you, reflects that big shift, from a Cold War nuclear weapons complex to a 21st century national security enterprise.  And that’s the big change.  We’ve been evolving that way.  But now we want to make sure that everybody knows which way we’re going.

So thanks very much, Bryan.  And I appreciate all of your questions.

MR. WILKES:  Great thanks.  And just to note, if you would like a copy of the Lab Vision document referenced today or detail on tomorrow’s congressional hearing, please give us a call at NNSA Public Affairs, 202-586-7371.  Have a good afternoon.