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Lockheed Wants To Keep Sandia

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Making a pitch for stability, Lockheed Martin plans to announce today that it will make a bid to continue as manager of Sandia National Laboratories.

Paul Hommert, Sandia’s current president, would continue in the top job as part of the company’s management team for the nuclear weapons laboratory, according to a company statement obtained by the Journal that was prepared for public distribution this morning.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced in December that it would put the contract to manage Sandia, a federal nuclear weapons and national security research center, out to bid. Lockheed Martin and its predecessor, Martin Marietta, have managed Sandia since 1993.

With its $2.4 billion budget, Sandia employs nearly 10,000 people in New Mexico, making it one of the state’s largest employers. It also operates a smaller laboratory site in Livermore, Calif.

The pitch being introduced today highlights Lockheed Martin’s expansion of Sandia’s work beyond its core nuclear weapons mission into nonproliferation work, energy and infrastructure security and computer security technology.

“Given increasingly constrained budgets, our team’s demonstrated performance and leadership will ensure affordable stewardship for this premier lab for years to come,” Marillyn Hewson, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Electronic Systems business area, said in the statement.

Possible competition

No other contractors have publicly expressed interest, although it is widely expected that there will be a number of other defense contractors joining the competition once the National Nuclear Security Administration issues the formal request for proposals.

One other potential Sandia manager, a team of Boeing and Fluor, announced in January 2011 that it would pursue a bid for the contract, but Boeing announced last month that it was pulling out.

Headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base on the southern edge of Albuquerque, Sandia is one of three U.S. nuclear weapons design and maintenance laboratories. It was founded during World War II as a division of the Los Alamos lab that built the first atom bombs. The government spun it off in 1949 as a separate lab.

It is run as a government-owned, contractor-operated laboratory, a common management structure for federal labs.

AT&T managed Sandia for the federal government for a dollar a year as a service to the government, from the lab’s founding until the early 1990s, when aerospace giant Martin Marietta won the first-ever competition for Sandia’s management contract. Martin Marietta merged in 1995 with Lockheed. The newly formed company, Lockheed Martin, has managed Sandia ever since.

The federal government’s decision last year to open Sandia’s contract to competitive bidding follows a trend. After half a century of University of California management, the contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory was put out to bid in 2005, and a team led by Bechtel and the University of California won.

Lockheed Martin was part of a team that bid unsuccessfully for the Los Alamos contract. That was followed by a bidding competition for management of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the third of the nation’s nuclear weapons labs.

The government paid the Bechtel-University of California team $84 million last year to manage Los Alamos. Lockheed Martin, by comparison, received $27 million to manage Sandia.

Lockheed Martin’s current contract to manage Sandia expires at the end of September, but the NNSA granted the company a one-year extension to allow time for the bidding competition.

The agency announced that move in December but has not taken the next step of issuing a formal request for proposals, which would formally set off the bidding competition.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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