Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Many experts say it is no longer clear what kind of nuclear deterrent the United States should have, if any, and thus what kind of nuclear complex is needed.
The Defense Science Board, a body of outside experts that advises the Pentagon, wrote in a report in December that throughout the Cold War there was a basic understanding within the government about the kind of nuclear stockpile the country needed to deter any attacks by the Soviet Union.
"Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, this consensus no longer exists," the report concluded.
Paul Robinson, the retired head of the Sandia National Laboratories, another weapons facility, said that the real issue was not boxes on an organizational chart, but a sense of mission, which is now lacking because there is no agreement on the purpose and size of the nuclear stockpile.
"There is a sense of drift, and that hurts," he said.
Commented Phil Coyle, a former top weapons scientist at Livermore and the Pentagon and now a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information: "Little wonder it's become such an ineffective complex, because of all the uncertainties over what it's doing."
For this next fiscal year, Congress wants to again modify the tax code so that 19 million additional taxpayers are not thrown in to the dreaded AMT category. Doing just this one thing will cost the budget $50 billion in this next fiscal year. The Iraq War costs are also being bundled into the regular budget, rather than into some "off budget" fantasy land. Costs for the Iraq War fiasco are increasing, not decreasing. Lots of expensive tanks and guns have worn out due to overuse in Iraq and now need to be replaced. Budgeting for the Iraq War will add at least another $100 billion to be covered through cuts in discretionary programs in the FY08 budget. Finally, add in the effects of increased spending for Medicare and Social Security as more Boomer's exit the work force next year. Funding requirements for the Grey Boom will begin to drastically increase over the next 10 years and eat up a large portion of the Federal budget.
The reality is that budgets for NNSA labs are likely to be severely squeezed for a long time. The "gravy train" days are over. Regardless of what LANS or our local Congressmen may tell us, you are going to see some nasty reductions in the size of the laboratory workforce. St. Pete has been hinting about this for the last few months, but many of the staff at LANL have been snoozing and haven't yet let the facts sink in. It looks like a nasty fiscal storm is approaching. If your work depends on Federal government funding, watch out!
Shut LANL down? Seems unlikely. Ship some stuff elsewhere? Seems very likely.
From/MS: Terry C. Wallace, PADSTE, A127
Memorandum Date: January 29, 2007
Principal Associate Director for
Science, Technology, and Engineering
SUBJECT: CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR A SIGNATURE FACILITY AT LANL
As Director Anastasio described in his presentation on the future of the Laboratory, there is a strong possibility that the Laboratory may in the near future have an opportunity to attract investments of significant scale (~$1B) in new scientific facilities - which we are calling Signature Facilities. Such opportunities are rare. We will respond to this one in a vigorous and timely manner with proposals of the highest caliber. This memo addresses the initial steps in this process - the generation of a pool of thoughtful ideas for preliminary review by our scientific community. The purpose of a signature facility is to provide tools that allow the Laboratory to address the critical scientific questions relevant to current and future Laboratory missions. Some key characteristics of a Signature Facility are to:
1. Support the investigation of a broad range of scientific questions relevant to the Laboratory's core missions.
2. Deliver significant science and push the limits of science.
3. Serve as a magnet to attract students, post-docs, collaborators and visitors.
4. Be flexible enough to accommodate future scientific needs.
5. Build upon the Lab's experience in experimental science, theory and modeling.
6. Be a symbol of LANLÕs commitment to developing and applying the best science to our national security needs.
A Signature Facility might be a large single item, a group of smaller facilities and capabilities with a highly coordinated purpose, or another type of facility with these characteristics. The Facilities must have a significant experimental component, but at the same time, integrate theory and computation. An example of an existing successful Signature Facility at this Laboratory is the LANSCE complex. A signature facility concept that is already being seriously analyzed is one being called the Center for Predictive Design of Materials. This facility focuses on advancing our ability create functional materials by design for applications such as NW, energy, and threat reduction missions. It would bring together existing capabilities as well as adding key new capabilities in the areas of materials synthesis and materials characterization. Although we are planning to add detail to this proposal through a set of focused workshops, we also want to look more broadly for alternate concepts.
The Science Grand Challenges provide a foundation for the future of science and technology at the Laboratory. The output of the Grand Challenges Workshops is a good source of ideas for Signature Facilities that could help make the Grand Challenges a reality. At the same time, by no means do I want to exclude good ideas from other sources. Any individual or group at the Laboratory is welcome to prepare suggestions, and I would like to recommend additionally that the Grand Challenges Workshops teams form inclusive working groups to develop proposals. I would like to receive preliminary ideas for Signature Facilities by March 10 in the form of a short memo of 1 to 5 pages. These idea papers should describe a Signature Facility and an idea of its cost, how this Facility would allow the Laboratory to address important scientific questions that are likely to arise in the coming years, and how it would have the key characteristics listed above. You are encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams to develop these ideas and to consult with David Sharp, Chief Scientist on your preliminary thoughts. You are also encouraged to join with the appropriate Grand Challenges working groups to develop and present ideas. The next steps will include a series of mini-workshops in early March, where preliminary proposals can be presented and discussed by a broad cross-section of the Laboratory scientific community. I would like the Chief Scientist and the Science Council to coordinate this effort to develop ideas for a Signature Facility, and to ask the Laboratory Leadership team, the Laboratory Fellows, Grand Challenges Topical Area Leaders, and the internal and external scientific community to provide me with quick and coherent feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. I will then select a number of proposals to go forward to the formal proposal stage. Formal proposals will be due May 1, 2007. A final selection of proposals to be presented to potential external sponsors will be made by the senior management team.
I look forward to working with all of you to generate Signature Facility proposals of the highest caliber.
With the average TSM now costing about $400 K per year, I would say this is definitly going to be signature quality work. Should be no problem rounding up outside sponsors to pay for it, I would think. We'll have to beat them away from our doors with a stick.
Sign me up, Terry. Have you got a program code to hand out for this grand new effort? Nah, I didn't think so.