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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Battelle intrigued by NNSA possibilties

Interesting comments by Battelle - which is part of LLNS but not LANS, the key difference between the two LLCs. 

If LANS looses the LANL rebid in a few years, would Battelle team with someone new like Lockeed Martin or Grumman to form an LLC to bid on LANL. 

Or if LANS goes down, would UC see little value in continuing to team with Bechtel (and the other industrial partners) in LLNS and create a solely UC-Battelle owned LLC to bid and run LLNL. 

Knox News

Ron Townsend, Battelle’s executive vice president for global laboratory operations, was in Washington, D.C., last week for the 7th annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit, and it was very much a business trip. Townsend was there to better understand the challenges facing the NNSA and evaluate what roles Battelle might play in the nuclear weapons complex and what it might be able to contribute.

“We’re intrigued,” Townsend said in an interview. “We have a very strong science and energy portfolio. We manage three Science labs (Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Brookhaven) and both Energy labs — Idaho and NREL. We don’t have a significant presence in the weapons area, the national nuclear security arena. But we’re intrigued by that.”

Currently, Battelle’s only work in the weapons complex is a subcontracting role at LLNL. “We’re responsible for work for others in the nonproliferation, counter-terrorism area. It’s a small role, but it’s an active role,” he said.

Townsend said it’s premature to say Battelle aspires to a greater role. “We’re assessing whether or not we ought to aspire,” he said.

But he said he thought that skills developed in managing five Department of Energy laboratories could prove valuable in the nuclear security enterprise.

“They translate directly,” Townsend said. “We believe that the best-practices principles that we’ve developed at the other laboratories translate directly, and it’s a question of is it something we really want to do.”

There’s a lot of talk swirling these days about changes in contractor governance and the introduction or re-introduction of in-the-public-interest contracting in the weapons complex. Townsend said that’s very much a Battelle thing.

“We love it,” he said. “Battelle embraced the public-service model before the public-serve model was even known. That’s who we are. I think it’s a great idea.”...

...Townsend didn’t specify any upcoming NNSA contracts of interest to Battelle, but he also didn’t seem to place any limits on possible roles.

“There’s a lot of churn in the NNSA complex in terms of potential management opportunities, whether it be the laboratory or (other)...I’m just curious.”


Anonymous said...

And thus begins the circling of the Vultures waiting for the death knell to be rung.

Anonymous said...

Battelle operates laboratories, science laboratories to be sure. It is not surprising that they might be interested in LLNL; however, they do not operate production plants. Since this is where LANL is headed fast, wouldn't look for them to show any interest in it.

Anonymous said...

LANS will strike back, this is not the end. There is still good money to be made and it will be fought for at the expense of the workers, the mission and the nation.

Anonymous said...

If the contract comes up for a competitive rebid, it it likely that the operator for LLNL will still have UC as one player, even if in a reduced role. Face the facts that the location doesn't lead to any other university having interest in the place and DoE likes to see some academic play for its laboratories. On the other hand, LANL will probably wind up being run by Boeing or Lockheed or one of the other large weapons systems contractors. The future paths have been defined and Los Alamos will become a sister location to Y-12, it is only a question of when this point is reached.

Anonymous said...

"LANS will strike back, this is not the end. There is still good money to be made and it will be fought for at the expense of the workers, the mission and the nation.
February 26, 2015 at 9:57 PM"

Actually, the money the BOD gets from LANS is a pittance compared to their day jobs. The BOD may well decide that it's not worth the trouble!

Anonymous said...

You know, after enough screw-ups, perhaps it is time to consider that UC's absentee landlord approach may be the root of the problem.

Anonymous said...

February 28, 2015 at 6:23 AM

You may be on to something here. If an animal is permitted from birth to wander around anywhere it desires, with no fences to define boundaries, it becomes very hard to contain in old age. The overnight introduction of a fence is an alien experience, and the animal quickly learns that it has little to fear from disregarding the fence to wander back to old familiar lands. Unless the consequences of disregarding the fence become significant enough, the decades of ingrained habits are going to still rule behavior until the animal dies of old age.

Anonymous said...

perhaps it is time to consider that UC's absentee landlord approach may be the root of the problem.

February 28, 2015 at 6:23 AM

Huh?? UC has been gone since LANS/LLNS took over years ago. LANS/LLNS certainly hasn't been "absentee." The parent companies of the LLCs we're never intended to, nor are they legally allowed to, have a direct operational presence at LANL/LLNL

Anonymous said...

February 28, 2015 at 10:09 AM

Put down the crack pipe.

Anonymous said...

Look at the history of Battelle and what they have / have not bid to operate. Did not bid to operate Y-12, Pantex, KCP, NTS, or any other production plants. Did bid to operate half dozen Office of Science Laboratories. Considering this background, it is doubtful that they would be interested in Los Alamos.

Anonymous said...

it is doubtful that they would be interested in Los Alamos.

February 28, 2015 at 1:15 PM

The whole point of the article, and Townsend's statements, is that their "interests" may be changing.

Anonymous said...

The only institution capable of leading and running our Labs is Russia. They have extensive experience and recently designed and built new nuclear weapons. They don't need no stinking Life Extension Programs (LEPs). Russia has real technical leadership at the helm, not a bunch of Armani suits and wing-tipped shoes from California motivated by "following the money".

Anonymous said...

A UC-Battelle LLC to run LLNL (not LANL) might have some merit based on the Oak Ridge Lab precedent as described on


UT-Battelle, LLC, was established in 2000 as a private not-for-profit company for the sole purpose of managing and operating the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy. Formed as a 50-50 limited liability partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, UT-Battelle is the legal entity responsible delivering the Department of Energy’s research mission at ORNL.

UT-Battelle Contract

Both UT and Battelle are committed to serving the U.S. Department of Energy by enhancing ORNL's leadership in scientific research, laboratory operations and community service.


- A 7,500-person R&D organization, founded in 1929 in Columbus, Ohio, as a non-profit charitable trust with annual revenues of more than $3 billion.

- Manages or co-manages several other major research facilities, including DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (since 1965), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (since 1998), Brookhaven National Laboratory (since 1998) and Idaho National Laboratory (since 2005); corporate laboratories in Columbus, Ohio, and other U.S. and European locations.

- Conducts more than 5,000 current projects for 1,100 government and industrial clients.

- Winner, including those received by its affiliate laboratories, of 191 prestigious “R&D 100” awards given annually by R&D Magazine for the world’s top innovations.

- Winner of 41 Federal Laboratory Consortium Awards for outstanding accomplishments in science and technology.


LLNL - unlike LANL - doesn't have any nuclear component production work or large high hazard Cat 1 or 2 nuclear facilities. As such it now doesn't gain anything from the LLC industrial partners as it did on paper in the original 2007 LLNS bid when there was a Cat 2 facility at LLNL.

A UC-Battelle LLC (50/50 ownership) and URS, BWXT, Bechtel in specific subcontracting roles would make sense at LLNL. A Board of Governors Executive Committee with 3 from UC and 3 from Battelle controlling the LLC, and other members from the subcontracting firms on the various subcommittees (just like it is today). UC picks the Lab Director and Battelle (instead of Bechtel) picks the Deputy Director.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the next lab partner should be Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

They run for-profit federal prisons so they would be a perfect choice for running NNSA weapon labs. They are very good at handling situations were the people they "manage" step out of line. They are also well experienced in running complex industrial operations like license plate stamping and such.

Anonymous said...

"They are also well experienced in running complex industrial operations like license plate stamping and such."

We could us high average power solid state lasers to punch out license plates, but then the DMV would have to quadruple the renewal fee. At least some laser guys at LLNL would stay employed. Hell, I might have to come out of retirement !

Anonymous said...

Battelle running LLNL could make sense for several reasons. Recall that Wadsworth spent most of his career at LLNL and now he is the President of Battelle. Also remember that Albright was a Battelle hire before he became Director, so it might just be the next step for them to run the operation.

Anonymous said...

Battelle Institute has far more integrity and good history behind it running research labs than the Frankenstein LLC creations of LLNS or LANS.

Decades from now, Battelle Institute will probably still exist. LLNS and LANS... not so much.

Anonymous said...

"Face the facts that the location doesn't lead to any other university having interest in the place..."

How about Colorado? A professor I know up there tells me that their School of Mines put together a bid with Lockheed (I believe) to run LANL back when the lab privatization started.

Or, why couldn't UNM take over?

Anonymous said...

School of Mines might work, although the thrust is heavily towards engineering. The rest of the universities in CO are way too liberal to want to run a weapons lab. UNM ain't much for science.

Anonymous said...

UT could conceivably bid. They've cherry-picked a lot of the NNSA and DOE labs over the last few years, and they clearly know how to work with Battelle at ORNL.

Anonymous said...

UT and NNSA labs? Where?

Anonymous said...

The University of Texas teamed with Lockheed-Martin on a failed bid for LANL, losing to LANS.

For the original bid on the LLNL contract only LLNS expressed any interest. NNSA had to increase the annual management fee for LLNL to get a second creditable bidder, This was the weak Northup-Grumman lead LLC, which didn't even have an academic or research institutional partner. This was a deal killer for a contract that had science and research as over half of the selection criteria.

I can't express an opinion on who should run LANL, but a UC-Battelle LLC would be a preferred option over the current LLNS LLC. IMHO the LLNS industrial partners have provided little actually value to LLNL compared to the more than $100 million they're shared as part of the management fee.

Its almost criminal what LLNS gets away with when it comes to parent company involvement in LLNL. For example, Bechtel sends a "review" team to LLNL to spend a week looking over a management of a Lab function. However. LLNL ends up paying all their bills and salary while at the Lab, plus the cost of Lab employees getting ready for the review and participating in briefings during it. Then Bechtel takes credit at the end of the year for said review - which cost them nothing since the Lab reimbursed Bechtel - and gets its half of the $40 million management fee.


Anonymous said...

March 4, 2015 at 7:26 AM

You are under the mistaken impression that LLNL (or "the Lab) exists as an official entity. It doesn't. LLNL is simply a place, a collection of buildings and facilities owned by the federal government and operated by LLNS. LLNL cannot "pay for" anything since buildings and facilities don't control funds. It seems to me that parent-company oversight of LLNS operations is perfectly reasonable and even to be praised. The LLC makes money for Bechtel and the rest; it thus represents an investment by the parent companies. Who doesn't oversee their investments? This is not the same as parent-company members sitting on the LLNS Board, which directs day-to-day operations at the LLNL facilities.

Anonymous said...

it thus represents an investment by the parent companies.

Please name one investment by Bechtel, just one , where they put money or their own resources in.

What is their stake in it besides skimming off money?

Anonymous said...

What is their stake in it besides skimming off money?

March 4, 2015 at 6:14 PM

It is called "profit." They are lending the expertise of the parent corporation to provide direction to the LLC though membership on the Board. You are incapable of understanding the topic of discussion. Your lack of basic knowledge of the current situation is embarrassing to everyone but you.

Anonymous said...

Your lack of basic knowledge of the current situation is embarrassing to everyone but you.

Strong words. And you seem easily embarrassed. Just because I have a different opinion should not make you embarrassed. In my world that happens all the time, and I respect the others person view and just disagree with it.

So I apologize for you current feeling of embarrassment. I hope you will get over it.

Now to your arguments:

hey are lending the expertise of the parent corporation to provide direction to the LLC though membership on the Board.

A big statement again. could you please give an example of this? As far as I am aware, the board hires the upper management, however the direction is pretty much defined by NNSA. Since both LANS and LLNL are science labs (or used to be at least) I am wondering how much expertise an engineering company can bring into the equation.

Remember, the original selling point for the LLC was that UC would look after the science side of the house and Bechtel after the business, with the implied result of greater efficiency.
However if I look at the overhead rates since the take over, they have gone up dramatically. In terms of salary the multiplier is now around 3.2 instead of 2.2 for the overhead.
That does not seem to me a reflection of improved efficiency.

Again I apologize, if I make you feel embarrassed again.

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